Business News Releases

RMIT welcomes the addition of Auslan courses to Victoria’s Free TAFE list 

RMIT has welcomed news that the Victorian Government has added courses in Auslan to its Free TAFE list, helping more Victorians become Auslan interpreters and contributing to a more diverse and inclusive community.

Victorian Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney made the announcement at RMIT’s city campus on Monday, announcing an investment of more than $4 million to make several Auslan courses available fee-free from 2023.

The courses will be delivered by RMIT and Melbourne Polytechnic.

“This is an important investment that will have a ripple effect throughout our community by boosting the number of Auslan interpreters and making Victoria a more inclusive and diverse place,” Mr Tierney said.

RMIT vice chancellor and president, Alec Cameron said providing interpreting services and boosting the Auslan interpreter workforce in Victoria is critical to promoting inclusivity and accessibility in the Victorian community.

"RMIT is committed to improving inclusion and accessibility for all Victorians. We believe that accessibility in the modern workplace, places of education, at public events and within the community in general, must be a priority," Professor Cameron said.

"Today’s announcement will go a long way to satisfying the increasing demand for Auslan interpreters, directly help students train in meaningful careers, and provide a pathway to high-demand industries,” he said.

Free TAFE was introduced by the Labor Government in 2019 and has helped more than 100,000 Victorians gain access to training and rewarding career pathways, while saving them more than $240 million in course fees.

Since then, the initiative has grown to more than 60 courses, enabling more Victorians to gain access to training and helping to address the state’s skills and training needs for its future.

RMIT’s College of Vocational Education deputy vice-chancellor Mish Eastman said the addition of Auslan courses to the Free TAFE program would directly help students train in meaningful careers and help strengthen community participation and quality of life for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Victorians.

“This new funding is key to removing the financial barriers faced by many students and ensures even more students have access to qualifications that can support Victoria’s deaf and hard of hearing community.” Ms Eastman said.

RMIT has a long history of delivering interpreting qualifications, with Its translating and interpreting program established in 1975, For more than 45 years it has delivered interpreting and translating certificates, diplomas and degrees, which are intrinsic to an inclusive society.

RMIT offers the Advanced Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan stream) and the Diploma of Interpreting, as well a range of other certificates and postgraduate courses.



Westpac expands support for flood-affected SMEs and communities

WESTPAC Group has reiterated its support for consumer and small business customers hit hard by severe weather and flooding in Queensland.

Westpac Group offers tailored support for impacted customers including loan deferrals for up to three months and emergency credit card relief.

Small business customers who meet the eligibility criteria can also apply for $3,000 in cash grants per customer group to help with urgent expenses or repairs as part of Westpac’s $2 million flood support fund launched earlier this year. The Fund is still open and has already helped more than 550 small business customers.

Westpac chief customer engagement officer for consumer and small business, Ross Miller said as Australia continued to feel the impact of severe weather events the bank was "here to support customers in need".

“While this is still an evolving situation, we encourage any customer feeling the impact of the floods in Queensland to give us a call," Mr Miller said. "We have our bankers and phone support teams available to work through a tailored financial solution to help get our customers back on their feet.

“Our flood fund had already assisted hundreds of small business customers who have needed emergency funds to help with urgent repairs and clean up, to help pay staff or restock the shelves.  We now want to offer this support to Queensland businesses who have been impacted by the latest floods,” Mr Miller said..

Emergency support for Westpac and St George customers:

  • Affected customers with home loans may apply to defer repayments for up to three months.
  • Affected credit card customers may apply to defer repayments to their card for up to 90 days.
  • Affected customers wishing to purchase replacement goods may apply for a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee.
  • Waived interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits.
  • Affected customers experiencing hardship may also be offered a halt on all interest accrual on unsecured credit products for a period of up to three months.
  • Affected customers with business loans may apply to defer repayments for up to three months.
  • Affected businesses with existing loans can request loan restructuring without incurring the usual bank establishment fees.
  • Affected business customers with merchant facilities are eligible to receive assistance, including monthly terminal access fee refunds for up to three months

To access financial assistance:

  • Westpac consumer customers can apply online or call Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497. Business customers who need support can contact their Relationship Manager or call Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497.
  • St.George consumer customers can apply online or call St.George Assist on 1800 629 795. Business customers who need support can contact their Relationship Manager or call St.George Assist on 1800 629 795.

Flood grants eligibility criteria:

The flood grants are available for existing small business customers in NSW and Queensland in flood impacted postcodes who have experienced significant damage to, or destruction of, income-producing assets as a result of the floods.

This could include business premises, equipment and loss of stock or livestock. Additional eligibility criteria apply.

  • For emergency assistance in severe weather, contact the State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500, or call 000(triple zero) for life-threatening emergencies.


Rising interest rates bad news for vulnerable says Vinnies

RISING interest rates will put additional pressure on vulnerable Australians already struggling to survive as prices surge, wages stagnate and safe, secure housing slips further from reach.

St Vincent de Paul Society national president Claire Victory said, "Today’s rate rise will be another kick in the teeth for Australians living in poverty, who are already stretching every dollar to its limit.

"The surging cost-of-living, shortage of affordable housing, increasingly insecure work and stagnant wages are making it all-but impossible for a growing number of Australians to survive.

"Today’s interest rate hike will add to these pressures and disproportionately impact the most vulnerable people in the community, who are already struggling to get by, often with limited family or social support networks," Ms Victory said.

The St Vincent de Paul Society has released a suite of simple, compassionate and affordable polices in the lead up to the federal election and is urging parties and candidates to put Australians in need at the heart of their campaigns.

The cost of implementing these policies involves modest reforms to superannuation and taxation, asking only the most well-off and able to afford it, to pay a little more, according to the Society.

"Vinnies has stood by Australians in need for more than 170 years, providing emergency relief, housing, and other support services," Ms Victory said.

"Our election statement, A Fairer Australia, is informed by our members' experience meeting and helping Australians in need, and offers practical solutions to address widening inequality in households and communities, and lift many people out of poverty.

"We are calling on parties and candidates to take urgent action in the remaining weeks of the campaign to support Australians living in, or at risk of falling into, poverty," Ms Victory said.

More information on Vinnies' plans for A Fairer Australia and a fairer tax and welfare system:



Celebrating the achievements of inspirational Melburnians 

NOMINATIONS are now open for the prestigious Melbourne Awards, recognising the positive contributions of individuals and organisations to the local community. 

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said this year's Melbourne Awards would mark 20 years of celebrating locals shaping the city for the better. 

“The Melbourne Awards are our city’s highest accolade, recognising the talented Melburnians who make extraordinary contributions to our community," Cr Capp said.

“Over the past two decades, we’ve been shining a light on the incredible work of so many Victorians who have gone above and beyond to drive innovation, create inclusive communities, ignite our creative sector and share ideas about the future of our city. 

“Our people make our city the great place that it is, and we want to showcase their efforts. If you know an inspirational Melburnian, nominate their work for a Melbourne Award.” 

There are eight categories for the 2022 Melbourne Awards: 

  • Community – celebrating projects and activities that enhance the wellbeing of residents. 
  • Knowledge and Innovation – recognising bold ideas shaping the city’s bright future. 
  • Arts and Events – highlighting work to build Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s cultural capital. 
  • Urban Design – showcasing projects and organisations that are shaping the city’s skyline. 
  • Hospitality – acknowledging the restaurants, bars and hospitality venues creating unforgettable experiences. 
  • Sustainability – focusing on positive contributions to the environment and initiatives that educate, connect and inspire others. 
  • Aboriginal Melbourne - Ganbu Guljin – promoting work that improves cultural understanding and supports the Aboriginal community. 
  • LGBTIQ+ – shining a light on efforts to support and promote diversity, social connection and participation.

Previous Melbourne Award winners include the creators of compostable cling wrap, the developers of an app to support health care workers, and a program supporting Aboriginal art in prison. 

Applications for the 2022 Melbourne Awards are open from May 2 to June 30. For more information or to nominate someone, visit the Melbourne Awards website

Winners will be announced at the Melbourne Awards ceremony in November as part of a special televised broadcast on Channel 9. 



Sudden staff shortages mean Easter weekend not all it’s cracked up to be for frustrated employers

AS SMALL to medium businesses across Australia respond to sudden staff shortages because of the pandemic, the looming four-day Easter break is not what it’s cracked up to be when it comes to effectively understanding and managing correct holiday period entitlements for workers.

Employsure business partner, Emma Dawson,said thousands of workers continue to call in sick with short notice to employers because they have either tested positive to the Covid-19 virus or are forced to isolate because they are a close contact, putting SMEs employers further under the pump.

“As we head towards the Easter holiday period, we encourage employers to do all they can in this ever-changing environment to be as best prepared as possible for the break and understand the impact of employee entitlements on their business,” Ms Dawson said.

“While most people are looking forward to a four-day break and the beginning of school holidays, there are plenty of employers scratching their heads as they look to roster staff – particularly casual staff - and work out their different entitlements so they can do the right thing and still stay sustainable,” she said.

“This Easter break is shaping up to be one of the busiest we have seen for many years, as people take opportunity to visit family and friends and venture further afield in response to relaxed restrictions and border re-openings. That is a great opportunity for many businesses but creates an increased likelihood of an SME employer making an unintentional payment mistake because they are busy trying to cover for last minute gaps in staffing.”

Ms Dawson said the Employsure team was bracing for a spike in contacts over the holiday period from employers wanting help to navigate the complexity of worker entitlements, correctly remunerate staff and fulfil their many obligations under an array of Awards.

“Employsure has developed a comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide to support businesses and help them understand their obligations as an employer,” Ms Dawson said.

“Employers particularly need to understand the impact of the 11 minimum entitlements of the National Employment Standards (NES) on their business, which cover important issues such the maximum number of hours an employee can work in a week, obligations for parental, annual leave and other leave types, and responsibilities regarding flexible working arrangements.”

More information about NES entitlements can be found here, and 24/7 employment relations support offered by Employsure is available on 1300 651 415.  


$220m Boost for Aussie timber a win for builders, tradies and economic recovery - Master Builders

THEE $220 million announcement by the Federal Government to support Aussie timber production, manufacturing and research is good news for builders, according to Master Builders Australia.

“Master Builders has been calling for this type of action to address timber shortages in the future and boost local industry capability,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.

“The acute shortage of timber and reliance on imports to meet excess demand has contributed to massive spikes in the price of timber.

“We do not have enough planation timber to supply housing needs in the future,” Ms Wawn said.  

“It’s in Australia’s national interest to secure our local timber supply by ensuring our timber plantation stock can meet future housing demand.

“A joint report released last year by Master Builders Australia (MBA)  and the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) shows Australia is headed towards a major cliff in timber framing production, concluding we will be 250,000 house frames short by 2035 – the equivalent of the cities of Newcastle and Geelong combined,” she said.

“In Australia, there is one company in WA manufacturing laminated veneer lumber (LVL) timber. We should have the local capability here in Australia to do more manufacturing of structural engineered wood products.

“More also needs to be done to address shortages, cost increases and delays causing the current cost and cashflow crunch being experiencd by the industry,” Ms Wawn said.

In response to trades and materials pressures facing the construction sector, Master Builders is seeking the following from government:

  • · Incentives to improve sovereign capacity in product supply.
  • · Better coordination with industry, states, and territories to facilitate greater investment in softwood plantations to meet long-term structural timber needs.
  • · Government taking a more active role in enabling trade access arrangements for imported building products.
  • · Investment in and boosting Australian building product manufacturing and product appraisal/traceability capabilities.



TWU accuses Qantas of failing to reinstate 2000 workers 'illegally sacked'

THE Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has slammed Qantas's push to relax isolation rules for aviation workers, saying the airline would rather sacrifice workers' health than fill workforce gaps by reinstating the 2000 workers it 'illegally sacked'. 

“Public health is not about maximising Alan Joyce’s quarterly profit results," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said. "Workers need isolation rules to stay, even if that is inconvenient to Mr Joyce.

"What Mr Joyce misleadingly calls absenteeism is actually sick leave, and every Australian worker is entitled to that."

In 2020, aviation lost 12,500 highly trained workers through redundancies and illegal outsourcing by Qantas, according to the TWU. In July 2021, the Federal Court found Qantas illegally outsourced its ground crew to prevent them bargaining and taking industrial action, Mr Kaine said.

"There are 2000 Qantas ground crew sitting at home waiting to be reinstated, after being illegally sacked so Qantas could rehire them on cheaper pay and worse conditions," he said.

"Rather than risking the health of everyone by scrapping isolation rules, Qantas could reinstate these 2000 workers to fill the gaps in our airports. 

"Qantas pocketed $865 million in JobKeeper and at the same time illegally outsourced its entire ground operations.

“Now the airline doesn’t have enough customer service workers, baggage handlers or ground staff to respond to surging demand."


Industry body slams fuel security announcement as a 'drop in the refinery'

THE Smart Energy Council has slammed the Morrison Government’s announcement of $250 million to oil refineries as a “drop in the refinery in response to a fuel security crisis”.

“Providing $250 million to address a fuel security crisis is like putting $1 in the tank when you’re running out of petrol,” Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said.

“After nine years of inaction from the Federal Government, Australia is facing a genuine fuel security crisis. If Australia’s supply routes are blocked, we have at most three weeks of supply before we run out of petrol and diesel.”

“Australia’s fuel security is an absolute disgrace. We desperately need a national fuel security policy and a national energy policy," he said.

“Scott Morrison’s gift to the oil companies and a short term drop in fuel excise is no substitute for a comprehensive plan.

“Australia needs to be investing in electric vehicles and zero emissions transport, renewable energy and renewable hydrogen, creating the jobs and industries of the future.

“We cannot dither any longer. We need national leadership on this critical issue.”

Emergency Fuel Security Summit, Sydney, April 21

The Smart Energy Council will be hosting an emergency Fuel Security Summit at the Hilton Hotel, Sydney, on April 21, to call for a national fuel security strategy. Keynote speakers include:

  • Admiral Chris Barrie AC, Chief of Australian Defence Force 1998-2002;
  • Professor Ross Garnaut AC, chairman Sunshot Zero Carbon Futures and director ZEN Energy;
  • Zali Steggall MP, Member for Warringah;
  • Cheryl Durrant, executive member, Australian Security Leader's Climate Group;
  • Councillor, the Climate Council;
  • Behyad Jafari, CEO Electric Vehicle Council;
  • Richie Merzian, director Climate and Energy Program, The Australia Institute; and
  • Allegra Spender, Independent candidate for Wentworth.

The Smart Energy Council is an independent peak body for the solar, energy storage and renewable energy industry.



Spirit Super members to benefit from purchase of Intsaclustr

SPIRIT SUPER has welcomed the purchase of Intsaclustr by NetApp, a NASDAQ listed company. Intsaclustr is an industry-leading platform for deploying and managing open-source data and workflow applications as a service.

Intsaclustr was founded within the Australian National University and received capital from ANUConnect Ventures, a partnership between ANU and MTAA Super (now Spirit Super).

Spirit Super chief investment officer, Ross Barry said, “Not only has this been a very successful financial investment, but it is also part of our 'impact investing' platform and so Spirit Super members can feel proud that their investment is driving home-grown technology and job creation right here in Australia.

“Spirit has the ability to look to opportunities some of the larger super funds may pass over. Our direct investment in ANUConnect Ventures is a great example," Dr Barry said.

“More generally, Spirit Super is committed to investment in regional Australia and restoring our domestic industrial fabric. The ecosystem created in Canberra with the collaboration of ANU, ANUConnect Ventures and the ACT Government has extensive multiplier effects on local employment.

“Spirit Super congratulates the founders and management of Intsaclustr, the CEO and team at ANUConnect Ventures and the ANU. It's a great testament in the ability of Australians to create value and grow businesses in the technology sector.” Dr Barry said.


About ANU Connect Ventures

ANUConnect Ventures is a 50/50 joint venture between the ANU and Spirit Super. Incorporated in 2005 the $47 million fund was established to invest in unique ideas, discoveries and inventions coming out of the ANU and ACT. The joint fund was supported by a $10 million commitment from the ACT Government. Investments were aimed at early-stage ventures within the Canberra region, with exceptional commercial potential, and economic and societal benefit to the ACT. Now, 16 years later, the returns on these investments are flowing into the ACT, with two of Canberra’s high-growth tech companies long term beneficiaries of the joint fund. This could not have been possible without the on-going support of Spirit Super (formerly MTAA Super), the Australian National University, and the ACT Government. The fund is closed to new investments but continues to support portfolio companies as they grow.

About Spirit Super

Spirit Super is multi-industry fund built for hard working Australians with support they can count on, low fees and a history of strong returns. It has 325,000 members (as at June 2021) and representatives around the country.



Victorian accountant and banking director sent to jail for tax fraud

A 55-YEAR-OLD Melbourne former tax accountant was recently sentenced in the County Court to three years jail for tax fraud.

Immanuel Shmuel was convicted of attempting to obtain a financial advantage of more than $390,000 by amending his Business Activity Statements (BAS) to reduce his existing debt and receive a refund.

As the director, owner and authorised tax representative of E.C Services Pty Ltd (a bank franchisee), Mr Shmuel failed to lodge his BAS between July 2012 and June 2014. The ATO commenced an audit looking into the missing BAS, which resulted in almost $200,000 raised in outstanding debt and penalties.

When Mr Shmuel failed to pay the amount owing, the ATO applied to the Supreme Court to have the company wound up. But in the meantime, over a two day period, Mr Shmuel lodged 66 false BAS revisions, deliberately reducing the pay as you go (PAYG) withholding to nil.

Not only did this eliminate the debt, but it also created a purported credit of $144,538. Further investigations found the revisions were entirely fraudulent. Mr Shmuel subsequently requested a refund of the credit amount; however, the ATO did not pay out the refund.

Mr Shmuel’s tax practitioner registration was also terminated, and he has not lodged a new registration since.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Megan Croaker welcomed the sentence and said it reflected the serious nature of Mr Shmuel’s crimes.

“Tax professionals play an integral role in supporting the tax and super systems for all Australians," Ms Croaker said.

“We have a shared interest with registered agents, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and tax professional associations to protect the community and the integrity of Australia’s tax and super system.

“Those people who try to evade or cheat the system will get caught and firm action will be taken. We have systems in place to detect this type of behaviour and it will not be tolerated.

“We welcome the sentence and will continue to work with tax professionals to ensure the integrity of the system and to protect honest tax professionals and the community from these types of crimes,” Ms Croaker said.

This matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.



FSC releases guidance on divesting Russian assets

THE Financial Services Council (FSC) has today released guidance to assist superannuation trustees and fund managers with divestment of Russian assets.

Despite superannuation funds only having a small exposure to Russian investments in the context of the $3.5 trillion superannuation system, the guidance reinforces the resolve of the financial services sector in ensuring that it meets the strong expectations of divestment outlined by the Australian Government.

FSC CEO Blake Briggs, said, “Divestment of Russian assets complements a range of Russian sanctions imposed by the government. The guidance supports superannuation trustees implement sanctions, cease new investments, and divest from Russian assets.

”By providing guidance, we aim to ensure that divestment occurs in a way that is consistent with the best financial interests of members and trustees’ legal and fiduciary obligations.”

The guidance, which is available on the FSC website sets out guiding principles for superannuation trustees; asset managers directly investing superannuation capital; and asset managers operating managed investment schemes with superannuation funds as investors.

The guidance covers:

  • what constitutes a ‘Russian asset’;
  • steps to be taken by superannuation trustees:
  • issues in relation to ownership and control; and
  • how the investment process will achieve divestment.

Mr Briggs said the FSC was confident this contribution will assist the broader industry in ensuring divestment occurs so that the superannuation sector can play its role in supporting international sanctions against Russia.


About the Financial Services Council

The FSC is a peak body which sets mandatory standards and develops policy for more than 100 member companies in one of Australia’s largest industry sectors, financial services. FSC Full Members represent Australia’s retail and wholesale funds management businesses, superannuation funds, life insurers and financial advice licensees. Supporting Members represent the professional services firms such as ICT, consulting, accounting, legal, recruitment, actuarial and research houses. The financial services industry is responsible for investing $3 trillion on behalf of more than 15.6 million Australians. The pool of funds under management is larger than Australia’s GDP and the capitalisation of the Australian Securities Exchange, and is the fourth largest pool of managed funds in the world.



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