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Australia has named its first woman to head its central bank.

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For the first time since it was established in 1960, Australia’s central bank reports that a woman will serve as its president.

Michelle Bullock will succeed Philip Lowe, who is coming to the end of a seven-year term as governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

His appointment comes as the country struggles with rising prices and the RBA faces a major overhaul.

It has raised interest rates to their highest levels in more than a decade to combat inflation. 

The Australian financial services industry is male-dominated and has the country’s highest gender pay gap.

Ms Bullock, currently the RBA’s deputy governor, is due to begin her seven-year term as governor on 18 September.

“It is a difficult time to come into this role, but I will have the support of a strong executive team and boards,” Ms Bullock said in a statement on Friday.

“I am committed to ensuring the Reserve Bank meets its policy and operational objectives for the benefit of the Australian public.”

 

Ms Bullock is described as an RBA insider, having joined the central bank as an analyst nearly four decades ago.

Before being appointed as the RBA’s Deputy Governor in April 2022, she held senior management positions including Assistant Governor and Head of Payments Policy.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albany said in a post on Twitter that Ms Bullock was “a brilliant economist with a long and distinguished career at the central bank.”

“We believe he has the experience, expertise and fresh perspective to lead the RBA in Australia and the world,” Mr Albany said in another tweet.

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Finance Minister Cathy Gallagher said: “This is a historic moment for Australia that with Michelle’s appointment, our RBA is led by a woman for the first time.”

Outgoing RBA governor Mr Lowe said the central bank was in good hands as it tackled the rising cost of living.

“The treasurer has made a first-class appointment. I wish Michelle well,” he said.

The RBA is under pressure to tackle inflation, which is stretching household budgets.

The central bank has raised interest rates 12 times since last May – to mixed reactions from economists. The RBA’s key interest rate is currently at an 11-year high of 4.1%.

In theory, rising interest rates make borrowing more expensive and encourage people to spend less, which can reduce inflation.

Mr Lowe faced criticism after suggesting Australians should work more and spend less to cope with higher borrowing costs.

“If people can cut costs, or in some cases find extra hours of work, that puts them in a positive cash flow position,” Mr Lowe said at a financial industry conference last month. “

He has defended the central bank’s decision to hike its key interest rate for the twelfth time, saying “home owners are doing well”.

Earlier this year, the Australian government released its first external review of the RBA in 40 years.

The review made 51 recommendations, including calls for a clearer monetary policy framework and greater accountability to the central bank.

Australia’s financial services industry continues to have the country’s largest gender pay gap, according to official figures.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency found a 28.6% pay gap between men and women across the sector last year.

This was higher than the national gender pay gap of 22.8%.

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