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Transitioning to sustainable cities

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AUSTRALIA'S cities and regional centres are under increasing pressure to adapt to population growth, a changing climate and technological disruption.

The CSIRO is leading scientific research to inform government policies addressing these issues. The agency will outline its progress when it appears before the Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities tomorrow as part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.

Committee Chair, John Alexander OAM MP, said it’s very important that there is a strong evidence base informing government policies to increase the resilience and adaptability of Australian cities and regional centres.

“Our inquiry is examining the Commonwealth Government’s role in ensuring that the nation’s cities and regional areas are ready to sustainably accommodate much larger populations. It is critical that any recommendations we make are well grounded in science,” said Mr Alexander.

“CSIRO has done extensive research in this space, particularly in examining cities from a systems perspective. We’re looking forward to discussing the different components which make up cities and considering how they interact to influence the liveability and environmental sustainability of cities.

“We’d also like to hear CSIRO’s perspective on the potential for developing brand new state-of-the-art environmental cities.”

CSIRO said, “Australia is already highly urbanised with 89 per cent of our citizens living in cities or towns of more than 1 000 people”.

“This represents a significant opportunity for our nation to lead the world through showcases of international leading practice in urban development and creating commercial outcomes through the global export of sustainability knowledge and innovations.”

 

Public hearing details: 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm, Tuesday 5 September 2017, Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra

5.00 pm: Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

6.30 pm: Close

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

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

Interested members of the public may wish to track the inquiry via the Committee’s website.

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Access to finance a problem for small business - ASBFEO

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has welcomed government moves to reduce regulatory barriers to entry for new entrants to the banking system.

Treasury is consulting on proposed changes to the Banking Act, which would allow use of the word “bank” by authorised deposit-taking institutions.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said this should improve access to finance for small business.

“The power and control of the established banks remains a barrier for small businesses seeking capital to start or expand their operations,” Ms Carnell said.

“Another barrier is a general requirement by the major banks for bricks-and-mortar security.

“Unless a small business is able to meet this requirement, often by using a business owner’s home as security, they have few options to obtain finance.

“Many young people do not own a home or have limited equity in their home, and therefore struggle to borrow to start or expand a business.”

Ms Carnell said removing restrictions on use of the term “bank” should enable more industry participants to compete with established institutions and make it easier for small business operators to borrow funds.

She noted the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority’s guidelines currently require “banks” to hold at least $50 million in Tier 1 capital.

“APRA will need to review its guidelines for minimum capital requirements if new entrants are to compete equally with the major banks,” Ms Carnell said.

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ARA calls on the Productivity Commission to widen the net for GST

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has put forward a submission to the Productivity Commission (PC) inquiry into Collection Models for GST on Low Value Imported Goods.

The submission supports the preferred Vendor Collection Model along with additional measures which could become more effective collection models over time.

The PC is tasked with investigating the best model for collecting GST on tangible offshore purchases under $1000 AUD. The changes to GST are set to come into effect from 1 July 2018, ensuring fairness for Australian retailers.

Currently, the PC supports a Vendor Collection Model where the overseas retailer collects the GST at the time of purchase. The ARA supports this as a first step and is calling on the PC to also consider additional models to ensure greater efficiency.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the GST changes were important for levelling the playing field for Australian retailers.

“This is about fairness for Australian retailers who are facing tough trading conditions, especially with overseas competitors going untaxed up to now,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We support the Vendor Collection Model, but we also believe it is important to look at other models to increase the efficiency of GST collection.”

The submission calls on the PC to consider allowing GST to be collected by post and transport companies as international agreements become effective. This in combination with the Vendor Collection Model would achieve close to 100 per cent compliance over time.

“Retailers are looking forward to these changes being implemented from July 1 next year, but concerns remain about the effectiveness the amount of tax collected,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Changes in technology over the next few years will allow post and transport companies to also collect the GST from overseas purchases. These transporters should be responsible for tax and excise on the items they are transporting.”

“We see this as a very effective way to level the playing field for Australian retailers.”

To view the ARA’s submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry on Collection Models for GST on Low Value Imported Goods, please click here.

About the Australian Retailers Association:

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the retail industry’s peak representative body representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. The ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 

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Dodgy labour practices in Lockyer Valley targeted in multi‑agency operation

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THE Fair Work Ombudsman has joined forces with Queensland Workplace Health and Safety and the Queensland Police to lead a multi-agency compliance operation targeting worker exploitation in the Lockyer Valley.

The operation began following a tip-off from within the farming industry.

The allegations included potential underpayment of wages; workers being provided unsafe and very poor accommodation, unsafe drinking water and unregistered transport; and workers being charged job find fees. 

In response, a 12-person team of Fair Work inspectors, Work Health and Safety inspectors and police conducted unannounced visits to four vegetable farms over two days.

Fair Work inspectors are auditing the farms’ employment records for July and August 2017 to check compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 and Horticulture Award 2010.

As a result of the operation, the Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced a number of investigations into potential breaches by several contractors.

Issues outside the Fair Work Ombudsman’s jurisdiction are being dealt with by the relevant regulators.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it was encouraging to see businesses taking a proactive interest in ensuring compliance within the horticulture sector.

“The fact that the industry itself is willing to bring forward allegations of suspected non-compliance is a positive sign,” Ms James said.

“Over a number of years my agency has undertaken activities aimed at shining a light on the dodgy labour practices and it is pleasing to see the industry take steps to stamp out these insidious practices.

“It is blatantly unfair for workers and it is unfair for responsible operators that are doing the right thing to have to compete with those who base their business models on unlawful activities. 

“We are pleased to work alongside Queensland Workplace Health and Safety and the Queensland police in this operation to tackle the serious issues in this sector.

“It sends a strong message to crooked operators that we are on the case and will use our powers to enforce the law and disrupt their unlawful activities.”

Known as Queensland’s salad bowl, the Lockyer Valley is a principal horticulture growing area in Australia.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Harvest Trail Inquiry, due to report its findings this year, is focusing on the horticulture and viticulture sectors nationally in response to ongoing requests for assistance from employees in the sector, persistent underpayments and confusion among growers and labour hire contractors about their workplace obligations.

Ms James says while employers must comply with their workplace obligations, it was important for workers to understand their workplace rights and know where to go to seek help.

“I strongly encourage all workers engaged in the sector to check out the Fair Work Ombudsman’s top tips for backpackers, seasonal workers and growers online,” Ms James said.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s ‘Record My Hours’ smartphone app is aimed at tackling the persistent problem of underpayment of vulnerable young workers by using geofencing technology to provide workers with a record of the time they spend at their workplace. The app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

Overseas workers can now anonymously report workplace issues in their own language following the launch of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Anonymous Report function in 16 languages other than English.

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ASIC small business strategy welcomed: IPA

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THE Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) has welcomed the corporate regulator’s small business strategy 2017-20.

“It is very pleasing that ASIC is placing due attention on small business through its small business strategy with the focus on "assist, engage, protect," said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“In particular, we support and encourage the effort to engage by promoting and supporting greater financial capability of small business owners. 

“During our Small Business White Paper roadshow across Australia, the need for greater financial literacy by small business owners has emerged as a constant theme. 

“The IPA also encourages assisting small business by promoting an understanding of compliance obligations. 

“Small business cannot always do this alone and we encourage small business owners to consider using public accountants and other advisers to assist in meeting their compliance obligations. 

“We also support ASIC's actions as a regulator to protect small business through its activities to level the playing field by investigating and taking action against those who are not doing the right thing. 

“As a promoter and key advocate of small business, the IPA believes that we all have a part to play in building and strengthening the small business sector, said Mr Conway. 

The IPA is currently developing the second edition of the Small Business White Paper which puts forward recommendations to boost small business productivity and prosperity.

publicaccountants.org.au

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