Business News Releases

NSW road workers to strike for the first time in decades

ROAD WORKERS, construction crews and other Transport for NSW workers will walk off the job for the first time in decades on Thursday, as frustrations over the NSW Government's "effective pay cut" boil over.

Workers are outraged their important contributions are being rewarded by the NSW Government with a pay offer that would represent a significant step backward in living standards, according to the Australian Workers Union.

Transport for NSW workers will down tools at 6am Thursday and not resume work again until 6am Friday. The workers, spread across 69 depots throughout the state, will gather outside the front gates of major depots at 9am, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge depot and Civic Park in Newcastle.

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU), which represents the striking workers, has committed to supporting ongoing industrial action until change is achieved.

"These men and women worked tirelessly to keep our state moving during recent bushfires and flood catastrophes," AWU NSW branch organiser Cameron Wright said.

"During the pandemic they put on their work gear and went out into an uncertain world while the rest of us were locked down.

"And now (NSW Premier)Dom Perrottet wants to tell them all to cop a pay cut. It's just not going to fly.

"The Premier likes to talk about his '3 percent' wage increase offer, but in reality it's 2.5, because he's counting the mandated increase in superannuation.

"So with inflation running at over 5 percent, the average road worker is being told to feed their family with significantly less.

"These workers don't take industrial action lightly – in fact they haven’t been on strike in a generation. But you can only be pushed so far and this state government has done that pushing.

"If Dom Perrottet and his government doesn't return to the negotiating table in a more reasonable state of mind there's going to be a lot more days like today."

Unions have given TfNSW management a commitment members will make themselves available to respond to genuine emergency situations to keep the general public safe given recent weather events.

www.awu.net.au

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Protecting Australian from asbestos and knowing your obligations

THE Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has launched a new information campaign informing residential property buyers, sellers, renters and landlords of their responsibilities and rights when it comes to asbestos when buying or renting a home.

If a home was built before 1990, it can contain asbestos both inside and outside. Asbestos is still found in one in three Australian homes.

Asbestos is known to cause cancer. Asbestos is dangerous when damaged, disturbed during renovation or repairs or deteriorating. But by knowing where asbestos can be in a residential property, we can all keep safe.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Justine Ross said it was vital buyers, sellers, renters and landlords are aware of their rights and obligations, when buying, selling or renting a home.

“The campaign will encourage sellers to disclose the presence of asbestos in their properties, to minimise the health risks for buyers. In some states and territories, they may be legally obligated to do this” Ms Ross said.

“Similarly, we want landlords to identify, disclose and manage the presence of asbestos in their properties, to minimise the health risks for renters. Landlords may also be eligible for tax deductions for asbestos testing and removal.”

“The outcome we are hoping to achieve is to educate buyers and renters about how to stay safe around asbestos, by understanding where it might be in a home and how to manage it appropriately.”

A pre-purchase building inspection is not required to include whether asbestos is present in the property. It is recommended that for homes built before 1990 an asbestos professional is engaged to conduct an assessment to identify whether asbestos-containing materials are present, their location and condition. Asbestos professionals can also provide guidance on how to manage asbestos risks.

There is also a simple Asbestos in residential property disclosure tool that includes this diagram and some warnings about when asbestos is dangerous. This tool can be downloaded and printed, so if you’re a seller, agent or landlord you can provide a copy to buyers and renters.

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Battered business to bear the brunt of wage hike says Employsure

EMPLOYERS still battling through chronic staff shortages, record inflation of 5.1 percent and rising costs will be soon hit with another financial blow with the standard minimum wage set to rise by 5.2 percent and the award minimum wage increasing by 4.6 percent.

From July 1, the standard minimum wage will rise to $21.38 per hour ($812.60 per week) with the award minimum wage subject to a minimum increase of $40 per week, depending on the award. This represents a large impact for all employers with small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) that make up over 95 percent of Australian businesses particularly exposed according to business advisory group Employsure.

Employment relations experts Employsure, representing more than 32,000 businesses within Australia, reacted to the announcement negatively.

“The impact of this change cannot be understated, businesses are already doing it tough and with this announcement from the Fair Work Commission, it feels like business owners just can’t catch a break,” Employsure CEO, David Price said.

“We are anticipating an influx of calls in the thousands from concerned employers seeking help around how they will implement and afford these changes. It is an unfortunate reality that some businesses who are already on the edge will simply no longer be able to operate.”

While the overall effect of this change has yet to be seen, there are concerns this may create a domino effect with increased staff expenses to be passed on to the consumer compounding already high cost of living pressures.

“We recommend any business seeking help around interpreting these changes to seek advice, get informed, and prepare to update their payroll systems to avoid underpayment when the increase comes into effect.” Mr. Price said.

www.employsure.com.au

 

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Qld Treasurer 'about to cook the golden goose' says QRC

QUEENSLAND’s resources sector has come out fighting in response to State Government plans to impose higher coal royalty taxes on the industry.

Queensland Resources Council CEO, Ian Macfarlane said it was disingenuous for Treasurer Cameron Dick to frame the tax increase as necessary to support the health budget.

“The resources sector is already paying more than double coal the royalty taxes it paid last year due to higher commodity prices, so every Queenslander benefits when our sector is doing well,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Queensland’s royalty taxes are already the highest in Australia. They’re almost double what NSW producers pay and are one of the highest amongst coal exporting countries.”

Mr Macfarlane said the coal royalty taxes paid by the industry this financial year were expected to reach more than $6 billion – at least $2 billion more than predicted by Treasury – which is a record and the highest amount of royalties ever paid to a Queensland Government.

“As commodity prices have risen in value, so too have the dollars collected by the Queensland Government from the resources sector through royalty tax, which benefits all Queenslanders,” he said.

“Our industry supports the jobs of more than 420,000 people and thousands of businesses involved with our supply chain, and is investing millions of dollars into new technologies to lower emissions and reduce our impact on the environment, but apparently this still isn’t enough for the State Government.

“Imposing higher taxes on our sector is a short-term, political decision to plug a hole in the state budget that will inflict an immediate, negative impact on foreign investment and confidence in our industry, and will have long-term consequences for regional jobs and businesses.

“I can’t imagine people and business operators in the regions are going to be too happy about that, particularly as regional communities are already the poor cousins when it comes to receiving government funding for roads, health and education spending.”

Mr Macfarlane said the resources sector had done the right thing all the way through the pandemic by going to extraordinary lengths to maintain full production and employment and support the state economy, while absorbing a huge amount of Covid-related costs along the way.

“The imposition of higher royalty taxes on the resources sector right now is poor economic policy and a bitter pill to swallow at a time producers are finally looking at a sustained period of growth and investment, which was set to benefit generations of Queenslanders,” he said.

“Resources companies are more than prepared to contribute substantially to the Queensland community. Last financial year, our sector contributed a total of $84.3 billion to the state economy, which set a new record.

“We pay our employees very well, which is why they earn the highest, average annual income out of any sector in Australia, and we contribute to the communities in which we operate all over Queensland in so many different ways.

“There’s been a lot of talk from state government ministers about Queensland being well positioned to be the new energy superpower of the world, but decisions like this will scare away investors and show just how shallow that talk is.”

www.qrc.org.au

 

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Research reveals shrinking incomes as NSW PS workers unite to smash pay cap

PUBLIC SECTOR workers will meet today to plan industrial and political action as a new report reveals they will be on average $6156 worse off over the next three years if wages are not increased.

The report, Wage norms and the link to public sector salary caps, examines the escalating cost of living and retention crisis for NSW public sector salary workers. Incomes will shrink between $1000 and $1800 per year if inflation continues as forecast and the 2.5 percent wage cap is maintained. 

The report’s key findings reveal the single largest pay-boosting measure the NSW Government can take, for both public and private sector workers, is abolishing the public sector pay cap. This is because higher public sector wages will have a domino effect lifting wages across the economy.

This financial year a registered nurse will lose $1986, a year 2 paramedic will lose $2,015, a qualified firefighter will lose $2,216, a teacher on a band-2 salary will be $2509 worse off and a NSW Police Senior Constable will lose $2624. 

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said it was "disgraceful some of our most important workers are being punished by the NSW Government".

“Our essential workers saved countless lives and kept the state running throughout the most difficult two years in recent memory. When the pandemic was worst they received a paltry 0.3 percent, despite working with limited protective equipment and before vaccines were rolled out,” Mr Morey said.

“Now as the cost of living surges 5.1 percent and higher they are being asked to accept a pay cut. That’s an odd way to thank people who have risked their lives for the rest of us.

“Any wage movement below inflation is a pay cut.” 

Today unions will call on the NSW Government to alleviate this crisis in its upcoming budget by:

  • Fixing staff shortages and excessive workloads across the public service;
  • Allowing the public service to negotiate pay rises in line with the cost of living;
  • Provide secure jobs, and workplace upskilling;
  • Guarantee ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ across all contracts awarded by the NSW Government; and
  • Rule out further privatisation of NSW essential services. 

“If Premier Perrottet refuses to adequately address these issues, unions will proceed with escalating industrial action across the NSW public sector,” Mr Morey said.

Essential Workers Deserve Better gathering will be held at 10am on Sunday, June 5, at NSW Trades Hall, 4/10 Goulburn St, Sydney.

 

Wage norms and the link to public sector salary caps (Link to report).

 

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Government must threaten UK-style gas profits tax or face factories closing says AWU

THE Australian Workers Union is advising the Federal Government to urgently put a UK-style windfall tax on the table to force multinational gas exporters to give Australian manufactures access to affordable Australia gas.

The AWU has long called for a domestic gas reservation scheme, warning for a decade that allowing multinational gas companies to export Australia’s gas without restriction would lead to a domestic price explosion that would force manufacturing operations to close and lead to thousands of job losses.

However, with the emergency now hitting and factory closures imminent, AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said the government needed to follow the UK’s example and prepare to implement a windfall tax on mega-profits unless affordable gas is made available to Australians.

"Right now multinational gas exporters are using the global situation to cream astronomical mega-profits from Australian gas while forcing Australian factories, smelters and plants to the wall," Mr Walton said.

"I’ve had manufacturers telling me they are seeing their gas costs rise by as much $100,000 a day. It’s insane and it’s unsustainable. Without drastic action we’re going to see thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs lost this year.

"The government should tell the gas exporters it’s fine for them to generate record profits, but they also have to ensure some of those mega-profits are used to help the nation that owns the gas. At every stage in discussions the government should be holding a big stick with ‘windfall tax’ written on it.

"I know the Federal Government is engaging with the gas exporters but history tells us that you just can’t trust them. They will always have some excuse for why they can’t make some of the gas they extract available to Australians at a fair price. And they will always find a way to wiggle out of handshake agreements.

"The government’s offer to exporters needs to be fair and simple: make affordable gas available to Australian manufacturers now or face a UK-style windfall tax and we will distribute the revenue ourselves.

"If the government refuse to pick up that stick now and get tough then gas exporters will bluster and delay and factories will close en masse."

Last month, Britain’s Conservative government announced a 25 percent windfall tax on the profits of gas firms to support low-income households struggling with a sharp spike in prices.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak observed the tax was fair and reasonable because the mega profits did not arise because of “changes to risk-taking, innovation or efficiency… for that reason, I am sympathetic to the argument to tax those profits fairly.”

 

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Former Chief of Defence Force urges ACT Government to allow medical use of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

EX-CHIEF of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie AC, has urged the ACT Government to allow the medical use of psilocybin and MDMA assisted psychotherapies for patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression and treatment resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Admiral Barrie said MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, in particular, offers hope to veterans and others who have been battling PTSD for years. He also noted the contradiction between the ACT moving to decriminalise the use of MDMA and psilocybin for recreational purposes but not allowing these substances to be used as part of psychotherapy in a medical setting.

Admiral Barrie said, "I have no comment on the pros and cons of the ACT's push for decriminalising the personal use of psilocybin and MDMA. However, if this happens, it would be ridiculous if a medical practitioner, properly trained in the application of psychedelic-assisted therapies, couldn’t prescribe MDMA or psilocybin to treat a patient suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD or treatment-resistant depression in a much safer clinical environment.

“Sufferers with treatment-resistant PTSD or treatment-resistant depression can be at severe risk because, by definition, they have exhausted conventional treatments. Allowing a medical practitioner in the ACT with Special Access Scheme approval from the TGA to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy gives the patient the opportunity of receiving a treatment that has been shown to be safe with high remission and response rates.”

Currently the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) can, under its Special Access Scheme, provide an approval to a medical practitioner to treat a treatment-resistant patient with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for depression. 

However a “Catch 22” exists between Federal and ACT legislation. A medical practitioner with approval from the TGA who prescribed one of these therapies for a patient in the ACT would be criminally liable under current ACT legislation because of the confusion in the legislation between medical and recreational use.

Mind Medicine Australia, which supports the clinical use of psychedelic-assisted therapy in medically controlled settings, said the ACT Health Minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, and the ACT Mental Health Minister, Emma Davidson, had both been briefed on this problem and are now considering changes to ACT legislation to allow psychedelic-assisted therapy to be utilised by a medical practitioner if they received an approval for this treatment from the TGA.

Mind Medicine Australia chairman, Peter Hunt AM, said, “The Special Access Scheme is a compassionate and sensible scheme that recognises that current mainstream treatments aren’t providing a solution to certain patients with PTSD or depression and that those patients are suffering because of this treatment failure.

"There are now ACT medical practitioners trained in the application of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy who would like to have this effective and safe treatment available as an option for treatment-resistant patients. It seems cruel to deny this when the medical practitioner has already received a TGA approval to use this treatment for that patient”.

Overseas trials have found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can be safely used to treat patients with PTSD and psilocybin-assisted therapy can be safely used to treat patients with depression. In both cases remission and response rates have been significantly higher than existing treatments. The treatments involve only 2-3 sessions with the medicines as part of psychotherapy and only occur in medically controlled environments. 

According to Canberra resident, Tony Shields, “The substances in clinical settings are unadulterated, the dosing levels are controlled, patients can’t take the substances home and patients are screened to ensure that they have no contraindications.”

Although not yet mainstream treatment, Canada, Switzerland, Israel and the United States enable these therapies to be available to medical practitioners and their patients on a case by case basis. The TGA’s Special Access Scheme replicates what these countries have done but the ‘Catch 22’ in the ACT legislation stops it from actually occurring. Given Australia's increasing mental illness epidemic, this legislation must now be changed to avoid further suffering and suicides, according to Mind Medicine Australia.

www.mindmedicineaustralia.org

 

About Mind Medicine Australia

Mind Medicine Australia is an Australian not-for-profit organisation working on the use of medicinal psilocybin and MDMA-assisted therapies to treat a range of mental illnesses. Mind Medicine Australia exists to help alleviate the suffering caused by the 'accelerating mental illness epidemic in Australia' through expanding the treatment options available to medical practitioners and their patients who are not getting well through existing treatment modalities. Mind Medicine Australia’s board includes ex Chief of the Defence Forces, Admiral Chris Barrie AC, retired Federal Minister, Andrew Robb AO, and one of Australia’s leading ethicists, Dr Simon Longstaff AO. MMA’s focus is wholly clinical.

 

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Further drop in building approvals amid more challenging backdrop - Master Builders

THERE WAS a further drop in the number of new homes approved for building across Australia during April 2022.

Latest ABS data indicate that there was a 2.4 percent drop in the total number of new homes receiving building approval during the month. Compared with a year earlier, the volume of approvals is down by 32.4 percent. 

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “The sharp decline in approvals over the past year is the result of a number of factors. These include the phasing out of the HomeBuilder scheme as well as emergence of challenges in the business environment. The cost of building materials is growing at its fastest rate in over 40 years while delays and shortages with respect to both labour and products continue to obstruct building activity.

“Even so, today’s figures do indicate that demand for new detached house building is holding up reasonably well. There was a 0.5 percent increase in approvals for detached houses during April and the level of activity is still a bit higher than it was immediately before the start of the pandemic.

“In contrast, approvals for medium and high-density homes are much lower than their pre-pandemic levels. April saw a 6.1 percent drop in approvals in this category. We do expect demand for higher density homes to recover once inward migration to Australia moves closer to where it was before the pandemic,” Ms Wawn said.

“For our industry, the most immediate challenge relates to the supply of building products and the people we need to carry out the work. We look to working with the new Federal Government to assist with finding and delivering solutions,” Ms Wawn said.

www.masterbuilders.org.au

 

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Now 82k-plus vacancies in hospitals and aged care

CATHOLIC Health Australia is calling on the new Health Minster post-election to introduce urgent and high-impact reforms to fill 82,156 hospital and aged care vacancies, after a new study revealed the startling detail of the national health staffing crisis for the first time.

The new research, conducted by Evaluate and the University of Notre Dame and commissioned by Catholic Health Australia, reveals some 23,089 vacancies in hospitals and 59,067 in aged care.

The research was conducted by drawing on survey data from Catholic health providers across Australia and extrapolating figures for the entire Australian health system. Among the findings:

  • 12,065 registered nurse vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 1454 midwife vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 3891 support staff vacancies in Australian hospitals
  • 45,561 qualified aged care worker vacancies in the aged care system
  • 1760 registered nurse vacancies in the aged care system

"I think Australians know there is a shortage of health workers in our system, but I don't think many understand just how enormous this problem has grown," said Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia.

"The researchers in this study were actually conservative in their modelling, so there's a chance the real numbers are even higher than these startling figures.

"Our hospitals and aged care providers just cannot go on with this acute understaffing. The situation right now is totally unsustainable.

"If these numbers don't shock the new Federal Health Minister, I don't know what will."

Mr Garcia called on the incoming Health Minister to urgently champion a range of reforms to help alleviate the crisis.

"We need to expedite the process for healthcare workers to get into Australia and get them to work. There's currently far too much red tape and it's putting people off," Mr Garcia said.

"In a competitive global market we also need to think about incentives like organising housing, school placements, and childcare for newly arrived health workers and their families – anything to make their lives easier and lessen the burden of moving here. We also need to remove visa and registration costs for both health workers and their families. And we must offer a solid and certain path to residency — the importance of this factor cannot be overstated.

"We also need the government to ensure and make affordable flexible, out of hours childcare options for healthcare workers. We have put a range of suggested childcare reforms on the table for the government, but what is clear is that reform is now urgent.

"We should also look at reforming nurse training practices to get nurses into hospitals and aged care facilities sooner. Obviously we also need to fund and incentivise more university and TAFE places, but this pipeline will take time and we need reform that will deliver results sooner as well."

Full data can be found here.

 

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Major rise in Australia’s charity sector revenue and expenses

THE LATEST Australian Charities Report shows a major rise in total sector revenue and expenses. 

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner, Gary Johns said the report, released today, illustrates Australian charities’ major contribution to the economy and to thousands of communities.

“Pleasingly, the eighth edition of the Australian Charities Report shows that we have a resilient charity sector. It is hugely important economically and employed more than 10 percent of Australia’s workforce in the 2020 reporting period. Enormous public support for charities is clear, with donations increasing to $12.7 billion. However, expenses also increased by $10.2 billion,” Dr Johns said.

“It was a landmark year for the sector, starting with devastating bushfires in many parts of Australia. Charities responded to help impacted communities with the generous support of the Australian public. There was unprecedented disruption with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing many charities to change, reduce or cease operations for varying periods. Nearly 2000 charities did not operate, with 650 citing COVID-19 as a reason.

“The disruption may have led to charities incurring additional costs as they tried to shift and change to meet changing needs and requirements. It meant the need for sustained support was never felt as keenly as it was in 2020. There may be some bruises and scars to show for it, but there is no doubt that charities are built on a strong foundation of resilience, innovation and, importantly, public support, trust and confidence.”

The report is mainly based on data 49,000 charities submitted in their 2020 Annual Information Statements — most reporting on the 2020 calendar year or the 2019–20 financial year. It also includes JobKeeper data supplied by the Australian Taxation Office.

JobKeeper payments to ACNC-registered charities supported an estimated 331,000 individuals between April and September 2020. This reduced to approximately 128,000 individuals between October and December 2020, and 86,000 between January and March 2021.

“JobKeeper helped relieve the financial stress brought about by the response to the pandemic for some charities. Total revenue in the sector rose to $176 billion, an increase of $10 billion on the previous year, which suggests many charities were able to navigate the challenges of 2020 with the support of government,” Dr Johns said.

This edition captures charity program data for the first time, giving an insight into the work of the sector across 75,000 programs. About 7 percent of charities reported that they operate overseas, in 217 countries or regions. The five most common countries were Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

         

Key statistics

In the 2020 reporting period:

  • Charities’ revenue rose to $176 billion — up by more than $10 billion on the previous period
  • Donations rose by 8% to $12.7 billion
  • Revenue from government rose to $88.8 billion — up $10.7 billion on the previous period, accounting for 50.4% of total revenue 
  • Other major revenue sources were goods and services (32.5%) and donations or bequests (7.2%) 
  • The 50 largest charities by revenue accounted for 33% of total sector revenue
  • Expenses increased by $10.2 billion
  • Charities employed 10.5% of all employees in Australia — 1.38 million people
  • There was a rise in the proportion of full-time and part-time staff
  • Education charities employed the most staff — more than 330,000
  • Volunteer contribution was high at 3.4 million volunteers, but decreased by 220,000 on the previous period
  • 51% of charities reported no paid staff
  • Environment charities reported the most volunteers — 810,000
  • Approximately half of the sector’s expenses were employee expenses

Explore the interactive data (including state by state figures) and download Annual Information Statement data by visiting the ACNC section on data.gov.au

 

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Stars back electrification to smash emissions and power bills.

TOP AUSSIE sports stars and entertainers have added their voice -- literally -- to the push to electrify our homes and vehicles to slash carbon emissions and demolish energy bills.

A group of nine high-profile Aussies have narrated a chapter each of The Big Switch, Saul Griffith’s blueprint for decarbonising our homes and vehicles. The audiobook is available through Spotify and on the Rewiring Australia website.

Those participating include cricket stars Rachael Haynes and Pat Cummins, AFL aces Tom Hickey and Nicola Barr, rugby champ Alicia Lucas, professional surfer Ace Buchan, actress Yael Stone, and former Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne.

The Big Switch shows how Australia can make the most of its abundance of solar energy to create zero emission towns and suburbs by swapping out fossil fuel devices like gas cooktops, gas hot water, gas heating and combustion engine cars with electrified versions such as induction stoves, electric space heating and electric vehicles.

Dr Griffith, who has advised the White House, partnered on projects with NASA and sold tech companies to Google, thanked everyone involved.

“Decarbonising our homes and suburbs is not rocket science. We have all the technology available. All it really requires is some practical Aussie knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get the job done," Dr Griffith said.

“By electrifying our homes and vehicles we can smash carbon emissions while we demolish household energy bills.

“We need to jump on this opportunity now. Whoever wins the election on Saturday night needs to start grappling with this challenge on Monday morning, but they need to see the upside as well.

“The future looks like cleaner air, healthier kids, more high viz, tradie jobs and much cheaper energy bills for Australian homes.

"These Australian sports stars, entertainers and leaders want Australia to lead on climate, to take the steps now that lower home energy bills for all Australians and create an abundant future for our communities. ”

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