THE Accommodation Association has welcomed the publication of the NSW Government’s 2030 NSW Visitor Economy Industry Strategy which recognises the importance of mobilising government funding and support for the visitor economy. 

Importantly, Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said the strategy recognises the significant impact of COVID with a three-phase plan: Recovery, Momentum and Accelerate.
 
Mr Long said it demonstrated the government’s strong confidence in the NSW visitor economy by retaining the pre-COVID 2030 targets to triple the 2009 overnight visitor expenditure ($18.3billion) for an overnight visitor expenditure of $55 billion by 2030, incorporating a regional target of $25 billion by 2030.

“The Accommodation Association welcomes the Visitor Economy Strategy 2030 and acknowledges this as a critical step in the recovery of NSW’s tourism sector," he said. "We welcome the commitment to a Visitor Economy Index, which will ensure that outcomes are tracked and reported ensuring the strategy and implementation can be adjusted accordingly.
 
“We congratulate the NSW Government on their leadership and collaborative approach in developing this roadmap and committing to helping our members and the entire sector not only recover but also thrive in the future. NSW is the largest visitor economy in Australia and this roadmap will help rebuild our $43 billion visitor economy and grow it to $65 billion by 2030."

At a time of significant uncertainly, the Strategy forms the basis of a clear roadmap for recovery pointing to stronger government commitment to:

  • Sydney and Greater Sydney. For the first time the strategy recognises the metropolis of three cities encapsulated in the Greater Sydney Commission vision and the importance of Western Sydney Airport (2026) in escalating growth.
  • The Strategy recognises the significant economic contribution of the Sydney market to the NSW economy committing to the development of a compelling brand, programs and campaigns for Sydney.
  • Securing major events and business events to both position NSW globally, support recovery and accelerate growth.
  • Investing in tourism infrastructure with a clear plan. The Strategy points to a Visitor Infrastructure Framework and game changing concepts such as the creation of Special Activation Precincts, making land ready for investors and building enabling infrastructure.
  • Recognising the increased need for enhanced skills and workforce planning if the industry is to recover and to improve the competitiveness of our tourism offering.

“The Accommodation Association looks forward to working closely with the NSW Government and Destination NSW  to deliver on the plan for the accommodation sector in NSW," Mr Long said.

The Accommodation Association represents close to 3,500 hotels, motels and accommodation providers, over 150,000 rooms and nearly 100,000 employees across Australia (pre COVID). Accommodation contributes $17 billion to the Australian economy.

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IN ITS SUBMISSION to the Treasury Discussion Paper (December 2020): Education and training expense deductions for individuals, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) has given whole-hearted support for the proposal.

“The IPA is very supportive of any initiatives that encourage individuals to upgrade their human capital skills over their working life and the proposal in the Discussion Paper fits well with these ideals” said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“Human capital is the fundamental driver of productivity. There are strong linkages between education and entrepreneurial activity, particularly for the small business sector and the wider economy. 

“The economy has been savaged by the financial impacts of COVID and we are supportive of initiatives that are aimed at improving our productive capacity.  However, along with COVID, our labour supply market is facing the issues of an aging workforce, the loss of skilled migration and many business closures due to the pandemic. All of which require the need for individuals to reskill to meet new opportunities," Mr Conway said.

“Many individuals will have multiple careers over their lifetime which indicates a strong need for continued upgrading of skills.

“Our current tax settings do not support or encourage the retraining and reskilling once an individual has commenced earning an income in their chosen field. The requirement for a tax deduction is limited to expenses in gaining or producing assessable income to an individual’s current employment activities.

“The proposed measure in the discussion paper will add to the current support for higher education while addressing a void in the existing arrangements for individuals who are currently earning an income and may be unable to access any of the existing support initiatives. It also assists individuals who work for smaller entities that do not provide employer support for retraining or reskilling.

“The cost to revenue of implementing this measure will be more than offset by the additional productive capacity added to the economy through a more skilled and flexible workforce. 

“We appreciate that tax concessions cost money and therefore we propose, that if this initiative is implemented, that the risk be shared with the individual who proposes to take advantage of the concession," he said.

“Quarantining half the upfront deduction until the individual earns income from an activity associated with the retraining is an appropriate model to ensure that taxpayers do not wear the entire cost of education outlay in cases where the retraining does not result in the furtherance of a new activity. In areas of skill shortages (to be defined), we are not opposed to the concept of full deductibility. Both these measures will ensure the new initiative achieves its policy intention through better targeting of the concession.

“We urge the government to move on this proposal as quickly as possible, considering our labour market shortages and the loss of genuine productivity so greatly needed to lift the economy,” Mr Conway said.

 

About the Institute of Public Accountants

The IPA, formed in 1923, is one of Australia’s three legally recognised professional accounting bodies. With the acquisition of the Institute of Financial Accountants in the UK, the IPA Group was formed, with more than 40,000 members and students in over 80 countries. The IPA Group is the largest SME focused accountancy organisation in the world.

www.publicaccountants.org.au

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SUPERANNUATION funds MTAA Super and Tasplan have announced they will be known as Spirit Super after completion of their merger on April 1, 2021.

Spirit Super will be Australia’s newest industry super fund and will have about $23 billion funds under management and 326,000 members across Australia.

MTAA Super CEO Leeanne Turner said the new name perfectly represented the fund’s drive to be a national super fund that offers superior service, value, and member focus.    

“What I love about Spirit Super is it captures the energy of what we’re about,” Ms Turner said. “It’s fresh and optimistic and innovative — everything we want to be.

“The new name also speaks to the past achievements of our funds,” Ms Turner said. “MTAA Super and Tasplan are both outstanding funds and take great pride in providing historically strong long-term returns, excellent value and service to our members. As Spirit Super, we will have greater capacity to continue improving our products and service and to really embrace a member-first approach to everything we do.”

The merger follows a successful year for MTAA Super and Tasplan, with both funds receiving platinum ratings by SuperRatings and being named ‘Best Value for Money’ funds for 2020.

“That’s what makes this merger so exciting,” Ms Turner said. “This isn’t about a big fund absorbing a smaller fund. It’s about two successful funds coming together to get even better. It’s a true partnership that will provide a better super experience and outcomes to members across the nation.

“With MTAA Super’s strong long-term performance history and Tasplan’s superior customer satisfaction rating and award-winning digital services, we are bringing the best of both worlds to Spirit Super.”

Ms Turner was also pleased to announce a reduction in administration fees for all Spirit Super members.

“The details are being worked through, but there will be a drop in administration fees when Spirit Super kicks off. So right off the bat, members will start seeing the benefits of the merger.”

Tasplan chair Naomi Edwards said the new fund name was an important milestone to mark in the merger process.

“Our name is our future, so it was important we embraced something our members could be proud of and inspired by. I think Spirit Super nails it. Importantly, our name will also set us apart in the market. This will help us grow, compete, and continue pursuing opportunities in the best interests of our members.”

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NEXTGEN FUNDS Management has launched Australia’s first pure Artificial Intelligence (AI) Fund. It will invest in domestic and international technology businesses which deliver AI technologies that address environmental, social, and industrial challenges globally.

The Fund is aimed at sophisticated investors, including high net worth individuals, family offices and institutions. It will invest in a mixture of debt and equity and will maintain a diversified investment exposure across multiple industry sectors and growth stages ranging from start-up to pre-IPO. This includes a mix of developed and innovation in order to balance the risk profile.

Samuel Mullavey, head of distribution for NextGen Funds Management said, “The Fund’s key investment areas are where the adoption of AI will provide the greatest benefits economically, environmentally, and socially. These include sectors such as health and wellbeing, infrastructure and transport, environment and natural resources, cybersecurity, smart cities and buildings, and financial services.

“We believe AI will be the defining technology of our time. It is set for accelerated growth and demand and, as such, we have positioned the Fund to take advantage of the exciting investment opportunities unavailable to public markets.

“The Fund aims to deliver appropriate risk-adjusted returns to unitholders through a combination of capital growth and income generated from underlying investments in the rapidly expanding AI technology sector.

“With innovative technologies, including AI, forecast to be worth AU$315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028 and AU$22.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030, AI represents a significant new opportunity to enhance economies domestically and internationally.

“As a result, there are unprecedented levels of global activity and investment in AI. In recent times we have seen a total of AU$86 billion dedicated to AI programs and activities from 14 of the world’s most advanced economies. Locally the Australian technology industry will require up to 161,000 new expert AI professionals by 2030.

“In many cases, the technology is already available, but the challenge many smaller AI firms face is commercialising ideas into a viable product or service. This as a major opportunity to leverage our strong partnerships, experience, and networks, and provide the expert support required to navigate this tricky stage of development.

“We set out to be innovative in our offering and as such, the Fund’s agile strategy is to remain stage and sector agnostic so it can capitalise on multiple cross-sector opportunities and keep pace with changes in AI innovation.”

The NextGen Artificial Technology Fund has no floor nor ceiling on deal size.

While not guaranteed, the income yield objective of the Fund is 5 percent per annum with a total return objective of 10-12 percent per annum on an internal rate of return, pre-tax, post fees and costs.

Investments will be made in targeted opportunities, via individually structured arrangements that may include convertible notes, private equity, and debt funding such as secured loans.

The Fund is designed with a three to five-year investment term in mind and a minimum initial investment of $100,000. Following the minimum initial investment, investors may invest additional funds in multiples of $50,000. A minimum balance of $100,000 needs to be maintained.

Fees are 1.65 percent per annum exclusive of GST of Funds Under Management. A performance fee of 20 percent is charged above the Benchmark return of 7 percent and inclusive of pre-tax performance after management fees and other operating costs have been deducted.

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NEW SOUTH WALES could significantly increase technological innovation and new product development by creating beta-testing sites for university researchers.

that is the view of Stoic Venture Capital partner Geoff Waring, who said "technology innovation lifts employment while improving competitiveness of local companies at a global level".

“Creating a policy for beta-testing sites in NSW for university researchers would attract researchers, entrepreneurs, start-up companies, venture capital and multinationals to NSW,” Dr Waring said.

“It could also help to develop links between university research and industry as well as lead to the creation of new technology start-ups from the intellectual property developed at local universities.”

Dr Waring said NSW’s current procurement innovation stream for small and medium sized companies whereby contracts of up to $1 million may be awarded following successful proof of concept trial, does not currently meet the needs of university researchers who are at a very early level of development.

Many of NSW’s most difficult problems are beyond the technology capability of existing suppliers, so need unproven technology development, he said.

“These difficult problems include ecological conservation, the effects of climate change and pandemics. University researchers have a parallel problem proving their technology that works in the lab also works and is safe in use. Venture capital investors want to see a proof of concept before they invest. All these parties gain from a small-scale beta test."

If the NSW Government shared more information with university researchers about the priority problems they faced and had a process to evaluate emerging technologies, the universities could bring to the government potential technologies that could be trialled on a small scale in NSW locations, he said.

Small pilot trials could be undertaken in a managed environment to minimise risk.

“There would need to be requirements around safety, data privacy and a minimum level of technology readiness according to the standardised benchmarks,” Dr Waring said. “Coming from a university would also give the science a high degree of legitimacy.”

This has similarities to the Federal Business Research and Innovation Initiative and Melbourne 5G IoT testbed and prototype street programs, Dr Waring said.

"This is an innovative approach that could assist researchers and investors to overcome information gaps that act as a barrier to financing while exploring solutions to city problems that are too difficult for existing providers.”

About Stoic Venture Capital

Stoic Venture Capital provides financing for early-stage companies, particularly those arising from university research. Stoic is unconditionally registered as an Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP) and takes a collaborative approach to investing in the highest potential companies. Atlas Advisors Australia AFOF is the major limited partner for the Fund. www.stoicvc.com.au

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ELIGIBLE employers are now able to register for the new JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme, being administered by the Austrlaian Taxation Office (ATO) on behalf of the Federal Government.

The JobMaker Hiring Credit payment is a wage subsidy paid directly to employers that aims to help accelerate growth in the employment of young people during the COVID-19 economic recovery. The scheme is an incentive for businesses to employ additional job seekers aged 16 to 35 years.

Eligible employers can access the payment for up to 12 months for each eligible additional employee they hire between October 7, 2020 and October 6, 2021. They will be able to claim up to $200 a week for each additional eligible employee they hire aged 16 to 29 years, and up to $100 a week for those aged 30 to 35 years.  

This means an employer will be eligible for up to a total of $10,400 over the year for each eligible employee aged 16 to 29 years or $5,200 if aged 30 to 35 years.

Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran said the ATO was working hard to make it as easy as possible for employers to access the government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit payment.

“The ATO is here to support employers and the community to easily access important economic stimulus like the JobMaker Hiring Credit,” Mr O’Halloran said.

Mr O’Halloran encouraged businesses to check their eligibility and take this first step to register for the scheme from this week and then employers would be ready to move to quickly make a claim in February 2021.

"You cannot claim if you are not registered," he said.

“We encourage employers to register from now to ensure their hiring credits can be paid promptly from when the first quarterly claim period opens in February 2021,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Employers are reminded that new employees must have received the Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance (Other) or JobSeeker Payment for at least 28 consecutive days (or two fortnights) within the 84 days (or six fortnights) of being hired to allow for a claim to be made by the employer.

“There are some key dates to keep in mind, and simple steps employers can take now, but please remember that not everything needs to be done from next week.”

  • Employers and employees must meet eligibility requirements to receive the payment.
  • Employees must be aged 16 to 35 years. 
  • Employees must have started employment between 7 October 2020 and 6 October 2021 (inclusive) and 
  • Employees need to have completed a minimum average of 20 hours (worked or paid) per week during the time they were employed in the JobMaker period.

“I encourage employers seeking advice on the JobMaker Hiring Credit to contact their tax or BAS agent, or call us on our dedicated help line 13 28 66,” Mr O'Halloran said.

ATO's key dates to remember:

  • The JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme started on 7 October 2020.
  • You may be able to claim for employees hired between 7 October 2020 and 6 October 2021.
  • You can register from 7 December 2020 through ATO online services, the Business Portal or your registered tax or BAS agent. 
  • Claims for the first quarterly payment will open on 1 February 2021.
  • The last day you are able to claim for employees is 6 October 2021.
  • If you hire an employee on 6 October 2021, you are able to claim for payment to 6 October 2022.
  • The JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme will end on 6 October 2022.

More information on the JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme is available from our website at https://www.ato.gov.au/General/JobMaker-Hiring-Credit/

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CBUS SUPER, the Australian building and construction industry super fund, has announced new investments in innovation and solar technology.

A Cbus spokesperson said Cbus "demonstrates its commitment to the building and construction sector by partnering with Brookfield as a cornerstone investor in built environment innovation, alongside a commitment to sustainability with a global investment in Capital Dynamics’ solar projects".

Through its Brookfield partnership, Cbus will invest in technology-enabled, growth-oriented businesses with a strong connection to the built environment, leveraging Brookfield’s significant industry insight and operating capabilities.

The strategy will seek proven business models to invest in, targeting assets with robust revenue growth, strong management teams and limited technology risk. The commitment will capitalise on key built environment themes that have been accelerated by the pandemic, including the need for increased digital connectivity, health and liveability and sustainability.

Cbus chief investment officer, Kristian Fok said, “The market for emerging technology servicing the built environment is growing rapidly and will accelerate post-COVID, primarily across real estate and construction, transport and logistics, and healthcare.

“The disruption caused by COVID-19 has rapidly changed the way businesses operate, with increased reliance on technology and innovative business models as more people work from home. The Brookfield growth technology initiative will invest in the digital transformation of the built environment – linking technology, innovation and disruption.

“The strategy also supports the broader building and construction industry. The significant investment has a number of benefits, including the opportunity to leverage built environment innovation into Cbus’ assets.”

CAPITAL DYNAMICS

Capital Dynamics, together with Cbus Super and other co-investors, has completed the acquisition of a direct interest in two solar photovoltaic projects from LS Power.

Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure is one of the largest renewable energy investment managers globally. The portfolio includes a 100 percent interest in Centinela Solar Energy (252 MWdc) located in Imperial County, California and a 30 percent interest in Arlington Valley Solar Energy II (175 MWdc) located in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Kristian Fok said, “This is a significant investment for Cbus, providing our members with strong risk-adjusted returns, underpinned by long-term Power Purchase Agreements with an investment grade counterparty. There is also the opportunity to optimise the assets alongside the deep experience of the Capital Dynamics management team.

“The investment aligns with our commitment to sustainability and reducing emissions, while building on our direct investment strategy to deliver stronger returns for our members.”

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has called for an industry-specific R&D Tax Incentive, saying the current system is hampering investment and growth in the sector.

In a submission to the Federal Government’s Financial Technology Inquiry, the Ombudsman described the R&D Tax Incentive as unsuitable for software development in its current form.

“The R&D Tax Incentive eligibility requirements need to be changed so that it is clear and simple to claim tax incentives under the existing scheme,” Ms Carnell said.

“Alternatively a dedicated software development incentive should be created to promote investment and growth in the sector.

“With 80 percent* of all R&DTI claims made by Australian SMEs, it is clear that many small and family businesses rely on the R&DTI to help fund their research and development.

“About half (48%) of all R&DTI claims come from the software development industry, so a transparent and predictable system is absolutely vital to those businesses.”

The Ombudsman’s recommendations to the government have been echoed by industry peak bodies and private tech sector heavyweights, including Atlassian.

“We welcome submissions supporting my office’s long-held position on this issue, including Atlassian’s reported ‘strong endorsement’ of an interim recommendation to clarify the existing scheme and put a time-limit on any potential clawback action," Ms Carnell said.

“At the end of the day we want small businesses to grow into big businesses such as Atlassian and a fit-for-purpose R&DTI scheme is a key support mechanism.

“Our R&DTI report, released in December 2019, found many small and family businesses were subjected to examination and audit several years after the R&D was undertaken and the R&DTI refund had been spent.

“Often these affected businesses were required by the ATO to repay the R&DTI in full, with a severe penalty applied.

“This has had a devastating impact on the businesses involved, with some discontinuing or scaling down their R&D efforts in Australia and reducing their R&D staff," she said.

“Ultimately for SMEs to continue to invest in innovation and growth, it is critical they are supported in their R&D endeavours.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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THE Australian Workers' Union wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce a Royal Commission to investigate emerging evidence that Chinese migrants are living like slaves on Australian farms.

An investigation published by The New Dailyhas revealed shocking testimony from a whistle-blower, known as Mr D, who said people smugglers were charging Chinese nationals up to $50,000 for illegal jobs on a Coffs Harbour fruit and vegetable farm.

The report followed a union funded investigation, published in early December, which detailed how fruit-pickers – including backpackers and bushfire victims – were paid as little as $3 an hour by labour hirers and rogue operators in the area.

AWU national secretary Dan Walton said a hidden culture of wage theft inside Australia’s horticulture industry had created slave-like conditions for some workers, who are initially lured to farms with the promise of high wages.

“The allegations of illegal behaviour in this latest story from Coffs Harbour are simply shocking and demand swift action from authorities. Mr D has bravely exposed how Chinese people are being trafficked to Coffs Harbour and forced to work like slaves, with miniscule wages and dangerous conditions” he said.

"Australia's had inquiry after inquiry highlight these issues over the last 10 years. We’ve explored every form of inquiry available – from academic studies to Federal, State, and Territory investigations. They all have the same findings, yet the industry remains riddled with systemic exploitation. And it's getting worse not better” Mr Walton said.

Mr Walton said the AWU would shortly brief Border Force officials, on confidential evidence his union has obtained from Mr D.

He said the exploitation and illegal activity identified near Coffs Harbour is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“Migrant workers everywhere are highly vulnerable, and unions are aware that those who speak up about mistreatment are often threatened with deportation – or worse – by the unscrupulous criminals they work for.," Mr Walton said.

I believe a Royal Commission is the only option we’ve got left to stomp out the flagrant wage theft and illegal activity taking place, which has tarnished the reputation of Australian farms. This has become the story that overseas workers tell their friends and families when they return home” he said.

Mr Walton confirmed he had also written to the Prime Minister, offering to work with him and his government on delivering both a Royal Commission, and new reforms to end the underpayment, exploitation and abuse of local and foreign workers across the farm sector.

 

LINKS

Blue Harvest Report: https://mckellinstitute.org.au/research/reports/blue-harvest/

New Daily story by Cait Kelly: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2020/12/07/farm-workers-exploitation/

 

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THE Indigenous Affairs Committee tabled its report on food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities on December 7..

The report found that food costs were very high in many remote communities, reinforcing long-held concerns regarding food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who are living remotely, however it did not find evidence of systemic price-gouging taking place in remote community stores.

Julian Leeser MP, Chair of the Committee, said, "Food security issues for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are not new. For many people living remotely, food security is a constant concern. The supply of quality and affordable food is often unstable due to poor infrastructure, seasonal changes, the high costs of living and operating stores remotely.

"However, despite these challenges, the Committee also learned that there is a very good story to be told about what happened in remote communities this year during COVID-19. We have an opportunity to harness some of the lessons of the Supermarket Taskforce and the Food Security Working Group that were established this year in response to this pandemic and can build on the networks and goodwill generated through that process.’

The report recommends several measures to build on the cooperative momentum of 2020 including:

  • real-time price monitoring and a disclosure mechanism through a point of sale data system across all remote community stores.
  • a national scheme of licensing and inspection of remote community stores.
  • support for local food production schemes and enterprises.
  • maintaining the Food Security Working Group established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Leeser noted that while the committee did not find evidence of price-gouging, the persistent disquiet on the matter meant that allegations should be further considered and settled by a body equipped to do a thorough, forensic examination of what is taking place.

"It is important to acknowledge that this is the third time this matter has been examined in recent years and none of those inquiries has resolved the concerns about food prices and security that have been expressed," he said.

"Consequently, complaints concerning food pricing need to be examined by a body that is equipped to do the thorough, forensic examination that will satisfy the public. That is why the Committee is recommending these matters be investigated by the ACCC undertaking an enhanced market study which they have never done in remote communities."

The report also recommended measures to improve governance and oversight of community stores, to develop a national food security and nutrition strategy, and to encourage more competition between remote store management groups.

The report makes 16 recommendations to government and can be accessed and downloaded from the inquiry website.

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CONSUMER groups have called for a radical overhaul of privacy laws to provide greater protections for consumers to counterbalance the increased use and exploitation of big data by business and industry.

A joint submission by Financial Rights Legal Centre together with Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Counselling Australia to the Attorney-General’s Department Privacy Act Review, Issues Paper, October 2020 argues that substantial reform is needed to rebalance Australians’ right to privacy and ensure our laws keep pace with future economic and technological change.

Financial Rights chief executive officer Karen Cox said the review of the Privacy Act 1988 was well overdue.

“Australians want a safe and secure data environment that puts their privacy ahead of the increasingly rapacious data desires of industry,” Ms Cox said.

 “Australians have had very little power to stop the trade, misuse and abuse of their personal information. The time to strengthen our right to privacy is now.”

The joint submission describes how the rapid pace of technological change has led to a data saturated economy and the development of new business models and markets centred on the harvesting of surplus behavioural data for predictive purposes. 

Calls coincide with research released by the Consumer Policy Research Centre today which reveals:

  • 94 percent of Australian consumers are uncomfortable with how their personal information is collected and shared online;
  • 88 percent of Australian consumers do not have a clear understanding of how their personal information is being collected and shared;
  • 94 percent of Australian consumers reported not reading all of the privacy policies or T&Cs that applied to them in the past 12 months.
  • Of consumers who had read privacy policies, 69 percent reported accepting terms even though they weren’t comfortable with them – the main reason for doing so was it was the only way to access the product or service.

Consumers should be free to decide how much or how little of their information they wish to share in exchange for the use of services, Ms Cox said.

“Privacy agreements, privacy preferences, and terms and conditions are often complex and unclear so consumers don’t know what they are consenting to,” she said.

“Yet, declining to participate in data driven technologies is increasingly not an option for many consumers. Services are offered on a like it or lump it basis, meaning people have the choice to either fully participate in the modern economy or retain reasonable control of their personal data, you simply can’t do both.”

The Consumer Policy Research Centre research also found that Australian consumers believe that government has an important responsibility to ensure that consumers are protected:

  • 94 percent of consumers expected government to protect them against the collection and sharing of their personal information (67% high responsibility, 27% moderate responsibility);
  • 93 percent of consumers expected government to improve their understanding of how personal information may be collected and shared (67% high responsibility, 26% moderate responsibility);
  • 94 percent of consumers expected government to protect them from having their information being used in a way that makes them worse off.

Consumer Policy Research Centre chief executive officer Lauren Solomon said the message from Australian consumers was clear.

“Companies have too much control over their personal information. Australians expect a modern protection and enforcement regime that gives them more control and ultimately ensures that they receive fair treatment,” Ms Solomon said.

Ms Cox said while ensuring consent is freely given and informed is difficult if not impossible, there are simple reforms that could improve the process in line with reform under the Consumer Data Right.

Data collection and use exists on a spectrum from the relatively benign, through invasive but justifiable, to outright exploitation. Regulation should reflect this, with controls appropriate to the circumstance and clear prohibitions on more egregious practices, she said.

“The concept of consent has been rendered completely meaningless when it comes to protecting our privacy.” Ms Cox said. “It is time for the Privacy Act be overhauled to deliver real life protections for the modern world, rather than a cloak of legitimacy for poor practices and exploitation.”

The submission can be found here

 

BACKGROUND

Key recommendations

Update the Objectives of the Act to among other things recognise that Australians have a right to privacy and the Act must promote the protection of that right;
Acknowledge the failures of disclosure, notice and consent as an effective regulatory tool;
Build privacy and safety into the very design of data collection and handling;
Overhaul notification and consent process to make them more effective;
Introduce higher privacy standards including restricting, limiting or prohibiting certain uses and disclosures that are anathema to privacy rights such as screen-scraping, secondary direct marketing, the collection of genetic test results in life insurance, for-profit trade in personal data through data brokers/data vultures;
Establish a right to erasure, a direct right of action, a statutory tort and an unfair trade practices law;
Establish specific privacy protections for children.

 

NEW RESEARCH FROM

THE CONSUMER POLICY RESEARCH CENTRE

Transparency and informed choice

  • Privacy Policies and Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) continue to be ineffective at informing consumers of company data-handling practices – with 94 percent of Australians reported not reading all policies that applied to them in the past 12 months
  • Of consumers who had read Privacy Policy or T&Cs in the past 12 months, 69 percent admitted to having agreed to them for at least a few products/services despite feeling uncomfortable doing so

Fair practices and treatment

  • 85 percent of consumers consider it is unfair for companies to share personal information they’ve provided with other companies – while 90 percent think it is unfair for this information to be sold to other companies
  • A large majority of consumers also find it unfair when companies collect more information than is necessary to deliver the product or service they are receiving (88%)

Expectations of companies and government

The vast majority of Australians think government has a significant responsibility to:

  • Protect consumers against collection and sharing of their personal information (67% high level of responsibility, 27% moderate level of responsibility);
  • Protect consumers against information being used in ways that make them worse off (79% high level of responsibility, 15% moderate level of responsibility);
  • Improve consumer understanding of how personal information may be collected and shared (67% high level of responsibility, 26% moderate level of responsibility);
  • Ensure options to opt out of what data consumers provide, how it can be used and shared with others (68% high level of responsibility, 25% moderate level of responsibility);
  • Develop protections to ensure no one is excluded from essential products and services based on their data and/or profile (80% high level of responsibility, 17% moderate level of responsibility).

Full results of this research can be found at Consumer Policy Research Centre.

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Contact Us

 

PO Box 2144
MANSFIELD QLD 4122