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Walking away from traffic congestion in Melbourne

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MELBOURNE’s economy is only as strong as its transportation system is efficient. Businesses rely on the free movement of freight and people into the CBD and around the city for work, to access services and for tourism.

The House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities will consider the Australian Government’s role in delivering transport infrastructure critical to Melbourne’s global competitiveness at a public hearing in Melbourne on Tuesday. The hearing is part of a broader inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.  

The Committee would like to discuss strategies to boost the delivery of active and public transportation.

There is strong recognition amongst submitters to the inquiry that public and active modes of transport, like light rail, walking and cycling, can relieve traffic congesting major transit routes into the city.

However, some submitters have been critical of the cost benefit analysis process which informs Australia’s transport infrastructure investment decisions. They suggest that processes may not adequately factor in the congestion relief and health gains delivered by these modes.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation argued that the “provision of roads for motor vehicles is also extremely expensive given the low density of vehicles that use traffic lanes compared to other modes”.

It recommended that, “mode-agnostic cost benefit analysis is undertaken on all major transport projects to ensure decisions are made on an objective value for money basis”.

 

Public hearing details: 9.00 am – 2.30 pm, Tuesday, 21 November 2017, Meeting Room G3, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne

9.00 am:               City of BallaratRegional Capitals AustraliaLatrobe City Council

10.40 am:             Roads AustraliaInner Melbourne Planning AllianceHale Infra Strategy Pty LtdTown and Country Planning Association

12.50 pm:            Heart FoundationAustralian Cycling Promotion FoundationCentre for Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities, RMIT

2.30 pm: Close

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

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Fair Work Ombudsman targets businesses in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs

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THE Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest proactive compliance and education campaign is targeting at least 200 businesses in Melbourne’s inner east.

Fair Work Inspectors are checking wage and time records of a cross-section of businesses in Hawthorn, Kew, Camberwell, Doncaster and surrounding suburbs to ensure that they are complying with their workplace obligations.

The region is being targeted primarily due to the vulnerability of its workforce, with the large numbers of young workers and a significant culturally and linguistically diverse community. Thirty-one per cent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that young workers in particular are overrepresented in the disputes her agency deals with relating to the area.

“Around one-fifth of the workforce in Melbourne’s inner east is aged between 15-24, yet this cohort makes up almost 30 per cent of the disputes we receive from this area,” Ms James said.

This ranks the region ninth in the country in terms of the proportion of disputes received from young workers. Most of these disputes relate to the cafe, restaurant and takeaway foods sectors.

“Young workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace due to their lack of work experience and limited understanding of their workplace entitlements,” Ms James said.

With the region projected to experience strong growth over coming years, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s proactive compliance activities will also help to ensure that new businesses entering the labour market fully understand and comply with workplace laws.

Businesses across a range of industries will be audited, including those in the retail trade, accommodation and food services and education and training industries.

Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman received 244 disputes from Melbourne’s inner east region. The agency recovered more than $530,000 for 141 workers in the region during the same period.

“Our proactive compliance and education activities ensure that employers know how to access the advice and information they need,” Ms James said.

“With the wealth of information freely available about workplace rights and obligations, there are no excuses for businesses to not be providing their workers with their lawful pay and entitlements.”

Ms James said inspectors would be on the lookout for any instances of non-compliance and will take appropriate action in response to any identified breaches.

“We have a range of tools at our disposal, from letters of caution and on-the-spot fines to litigation in the courts for the most serious cases,” Ms James said.

“With maximum penalties for certain workplace contraventions recently increasing by up to ten times, employers must be aware that serious breaches of the law can expose them to big fines.

“Employers should be on notice that they cannot get away with deliberately flouting workplace laws.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman offers a range of free tools and resources for employers at www.fairwork.gov.au, including the Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) to assist business owners to calculate applicable pay rates and templates for pay slips and time-and-wages sheets.

www.fairwork.gov.au

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Racing Queensland welcomes Tribunal ruling on Tabcorp-Tatts

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RACING Queensland has welcomed a ruling from the Australian Competition Tribunal granting authority for the Tabcorp combination with Tatts Group.

The Full Federal Court had previously set aside an earlier determination from the Tribunal and sent the matter back to the Tribunal for reconsideration.

The ACCC had sought a review when the Tribunal granted authorisation for Tabcorp to acquire Tatts Group in June 2017.

In a statement this morning the Tribunal said "it has reconsidered the evidence, in relation to both anti-competitive detriment and public benefit, and concluded that the merger is likely to result in such benefit that it should be permitted to proceed".

RQ CEO Eliot Forbes had previously welcomed the proposed combination saying it would deliver greater certainty for the Queensland Racing Industry.

“I look forward to working with Tabcorp to grow and enhance the Queensland racing industry," dDr Forbes said. "We have a deed of understanding with Tabcorp that will bring meaningful benefits to racing in Queensland.

“That deed will result in an increase in capital investment in the Queensland wagering business (currently UBET) across retail and on-course wagering facilities, as well as increased investment in technology, sponsorships and marketing.”

The Tribunal expects to publish its reasons in full on Wednesday, November 22.

www.racingqueensland.com.au

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Boosting business in Geelong

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MELCBOURNE is not the only city grappling with urban sprawl. With stronger population growth than all other regional Victorian municipalities combined, Geelong is rapidly expanding into new greenfield, master-planned communities in Armstrong Creek, Batesford South and Lovely Banks.

The House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities will visit Victoria’s second city on Monday to discuss strategies to ensure these new communities have access to critical community infrastructure and employment opportunities in a timely manner.

The Committee is conducting a public hearing at City Hall as part of its inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.

It will discuss ways Australia’s regional cities can learn from capital cities’ experiences in accommodating much larger populations. It would like to see regional centres cultivate employment opportunities in new master-planned neighbourhoods, to minimise car dependency and avoid the congestion issues plaguing capital cities.

In its submission to the inquiry, the City of Greater Geelong said, “planning for population growth in the [region] has included planning for employment nodes and access to jobs”.

“It is critical to the Geelong region that as we grow in population that this is supported by growth in jobs.”

“Federal government support in investment attraction and funding for significant infrastructure can provide critical leverages to enable private investment in regional centres and assist in promoting the competitive advantage of regional locations for business.”

Further information on the inquiry, including the full terms of reference, is available on the Committee website.

 

Public hearing details: 9.00 am – 3.00 pm, Monday, 20 November 2017, Council Chamber Room, City Hall, 30 Gheringhap Street, Geelong

9.00 am: G21 – Geelong Region AllianceCommittee for GeelongCity of Greater Geelong, Geelong Chamber of Commerce

10.40 am: Wyndham City CouncilHorsham Rural City CouncilLeadWest

12.50 pm: Regional Development Australia – Barwon South West Committee, Barwon Regional Partnership, Urban Development Institute of Australia - Geelong Region Committee

2.10 pm: Professor Louise Johnson, Deakin University, Mr Todd Denham, UN Global Compact Cities Programme

3.00 pm: Close

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website

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Small business sector welcomes fair contracts law

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THE Australian small business sector has embraced and welcomed legislation that protects them from unfair contracts.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, said a recent survey showed high awareness among small business operators of the unfair contract terms (UCT) legislation, which has now been in force for one year.

The East & Partners SME survey* of 1280 businesses showed 49.6 per cent had relied on the UCT legislation to negotiate fairer terms in the previous six months and the awareness level was 78.2 per cent.

“There is no doubt this protection was badly needed,” Ms Carnell said.

“Protections for consumers were introduced as part of the broader Australian Consumer Law and fully implemented in 2011.

“From 12 November 2016, the unfair contract terms law was extended to cover standard form small business contracts.

“Regulators have been enforcing the law and small businesses have welcomed the protection.”

Ms Carnell said her office had handled more than 20 assistance cases involving unfair contracts.

One example involved a standard form commercial lease.

“With the assistance of my office, the small business was able to negotiate removal of potentially unfair contract terms in the agreement,” Ms Carnell said.

Earlier this year, the Ombudsman worked with ASIC and the big-four banks to ensure small business loan contracts were fair and easier to understand.

“This means that banks can no longer unilaterally vary a contract,” she said.

“They no longer have the power to terminate a loan for an unspecified negative change in the circumstances of the customer.”

Ms Carnell said she was encouraged that most big businesses understood their obligations and had acted to ensure compliance.

“I wrote to Amazon recently to ensure their Australian contracts conform with the legislation and received a positive response. I’ve also written to Ali Baba along similar lines,” she said.

“After a Federal Court ruling against the contracts used by JJ Richards I wrote to other waste management companies and received assurances of their compliance.

“If a court finds that a term in a standard form contract is unfair, the term is void. This means that the term is treated as if it never existed.

“The effect of this legislation has been to level the playing field for small business in dealings with large entities that have much greater financial power.”

Small business operators who believe that contract terms are unfair can contact the Ombudsman’s office for assistance, phone 1300 650 460.

 

* The question was asked as part of the East & Partners SME Transaction Banking survey, which examines and forecasts demand for transaction banking product lines and service offerings within Australia’s Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) segment (A$1-20 million turnover per annum).

 

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