THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of Major Project Status for the Multicom Resources Limited Saint Elmo Vanadium project near Julia Creek.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the granting of this status was an important next step to creating new mining jobs in North Queensland.

“Queensland has a leading role to play in the development of the critical minerals industry,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“These new critical minerals projects will deliver new jobs in regional Queensland, and will play a strategic role for Australia in terms of defence industries, manufacturing, trade and regional development.

“Vanadium is just one of the critical minerals the Queensland resources industry can mine and process. 

“Queensland has globally-significant reserves of copper, nickel, zinc, graphite, and molybdenum and major deposits of cobalt, rhenium, scandium, tantalum, niobium and lithium.

“Our resources industry is primed to deliver regional investment and jobs for decades to come.  Investments in new critical minerals projects will add to the coal, gas, bauxite and zinc industries which already underpin the Queensland economy.

“In the last year, the resources sector contributed $74.3 billion to the state’s economy and supported more than 372,000 jobs," Mr Macfarlane said.

“It’s important that Queensland has the right policies in place to attract the investment to translate our opportunities in critical minerals into a reality.

“Granting Major Project Status sends an important message to global investors, and QRC has also welcomed the Queensland Government’s $13.8 million five-year package to encourage new discoveries of critical minerals to attract more overseas investment.

“QRC is calling for continued bipartisan support for policies that support the resources sector and help create jobs.”

www.qrc.org.au

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AS PART of a Federal Parliament inquiry into economic engagement with Traditional Owners, Members of Parliament are travelling to Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs.

The Northern Australia Committee is holding public hearings in the Northern Territory this week, and will hear evidence from Land Councils, Native Title holders, Indigenous business leaders, local councils and other stakeholders.

Committee chair Warren Entsch said  that Indigenous Australians represent a major social, cultural and economic asset.

"Traditional Owners are major landholders in Northern Australia. How we tap into that land resource is the key to promoting the economic development of Indigenous communities and the development of Northern Australia," Mr Entsch said.

In its submission, the Northern Territory Government noted, "Approximately 30 percent of the NT’s population is Aboriginal" and that "Aboriginal Territorians own or have rights and interests in a substantial portion of the Territory’s land mass and a large majority of its coastline. This made ‘Aboriginal Territorians key drivers and partners in the NT’s economic future".

The Central Land Council emphasises that Aboriginal people were not lacking enterprise or endeavour, but "need to be supported and resourced to engage with the mainstream economy and capitalise on their significant social, cultural and land assets". Critically, it noted that "this support must align with people's aspirations and cultural traditions and practices".

The committee will hold public hearings in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Programs are available on the committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Time: 9am to 3pm
Location: Ballroom B, Hilton Hotel, Mitchell St, Darwin

Witnesses include:

Northern Territory Government
Northern Land Council
Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation
Yingiya Mark Guyula MLA
NAILSMA
Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network
Aboriginal Investment Group
Mr Kevin Stephens
Arafura Resources Limited

Date: Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Time: 9:30am to 1:15pm
Location: Roper Gulf Regional Council, Crawford St, Katherine

Witnesses include:

Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation
Savanna Solutions
NT Cattlemen’s Association
Roper Gulf Regional Council
Centrefarm/ALSEDA
NARMCO

Date: Thursday, 12 December 2019
Time: 10:30am to 3pm
Location: Ballroom C, DoubleTree by Hilton, Barrett Dr, Alice Springs

Witnesses include:

Central Land Council
Aboriginal Carbon Foundation
Central Desert Regional Council
MacDonnell Regional Council
Mr Dennis Kunoth

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

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GLENCORE has again demonstrated the resolute commitment of the resources sector to upholding the highest environmental standards, according to the Queensland Resources Council (QRC). The Queensland Government has certified 166 hectares of rehabilitated mined land at the company’s Rolleston coal operations in central Queensland.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was the second area of land certified by the Government after 220 hectares were signed off at the site last year.

“It’s an incredible achievement from Glencore and further underpins the industry’s commitment to world class rehabilitation. Close to 40 percent of mined land at the company’s Rolleston open cut coal mine south of Emerald has been certified or almost 400 hectares,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The Queensland resources industry is committed to returning mined land to post mining uses which ensures ongoing economic opportunities for the area. Last year’s certified land at Rolleston is being used for grazing cattle.”

In financial year 2018/19 the Queensland resources industry invested $74.3 billion into the state’s economy and supported more than 372,000 full time jobs while only using 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass, according to QRC.

www.qrc.org.au

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GLENCORE has again demonstrated the resolute commitment of the resources sector to upholding the highest environmental standards, according to the Queensland Resources Council (QRC). The Queensland Government has certified 166 hectares of rehabilitated mined land at the company’s Rolleston coal operations in central Queensland.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was the second area of land certified by the Government after 220 hectares were signed off at the site last year.

“It’s an incredible achievement from Glencore and further underpins the industry’s commitment to world class rehabilitation. Close to 40 percent of mined land at the company’s Rolleston open cut coal mine south of Emerald has been certified or almost 400 hectares,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The Queensland resources industry is committed to returning mined land to post mining uses which ensures ongoing economic opportunities for the area. Last year’s certified land at Rolleston is being used for grazing cattle.”

In financial year 2018/19 the Queensland resources industry invested $74.3 billion into the state’s economy and supported more than 372,000 full time jobs while only using 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass, according to QRC.

www.qrc.org.au

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GAS IS FLOWING from Senex Energy’s Project Atlas near Wandoan after the company was awarded the acreage with a domestic-only condition last year by the Queensland Government.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Senex Energy had already created hundreds of jobs during construction and would now protect jobs by delivering gas domestically.

“This gas will supply reliable electricity to Queenslanders through the new State Government-owned generator CleanCo, which operates Swanbank E gas-fired power station near Ipswich, along with manufactures CSR, Orora and O-I," Mr Macfarlane said.

“It’s a great Queensland story with Brisbane-based Senex delivering first gas to Queenslanders and Queensland manufacturers. This will help drive down energy costs which will protect jobs in the manufacturing industry.

“Project Atlas vindicates Queensland’s proactive approach to developing gas but, with NSW and Victoria’s ongoing failure to develop their own gas resources, Queensland continues to do all the heavy lifting to provide extra gas for the eastern Australian market.”

Mr Macfarlane said Project Atlas was granted a domestic only supply lease by the State Government in March last year which was an innovative regulatory framework for ensuring domestic gas supply by avoiding an overly prescriptive gas reservation policy.

“Now it’s a flagship example of what can be achieved by developing Queensland’s resources to the benefit of local communities and the State’s industrial base.”

Project Atlas is the first natural gas acreage in Australia committed to supplying domestic customers.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Financial Services Council (FSC) has cautioned that APRA’s MySuper Heatmaps released today should not be used to rank superannuation products.

FSC CEO Sally Loane said APRA has an important role to play in ensuring more transparency and competition in superannuation funds, and that consistently poor performers either start delivering for their members or exit the system. The FSC expects super funds will continue to constructively engage with APRA regarding the published outcomes.

“It is really important to understand that the heatmaps are a point in time analysis, which is a useful tool for APRA in its supervision activities, but it doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to members’ retirement outcomes,” Ms Loane said.

“Particularly for lifecycle products, which adjust investment strategies over a person’s lifetime, the headline numbers in the heatmap don’t reflect the actual experience of a member in that fund, and could be misleading if viewed in isolation.”

Ms Loane urged super fund members to consider what they want from their super fund, and their retirement goals, rather than simply relying on any simplistic league tables that may be published by the media or other commentators.

“The heatmap may tell you that other funds have had higher returns over five years, but if you’re close to retirement you might be far more concerned with how your fund is managing the risks of a market downturn to safeguard your retirement savings. The heatmaps don’t reflect that.

“The heatmap doesn’t tell you how your super has performed over your lifetime, it can’t tell you whether your fund invests in accordance with your ethical and philosophical beliefs, and it doesn’t tell you what additional services they offer to help you manage your savings.

“If you have concerns about whether your super fund is right for you, talk to your fund or speak to a financial adviser,” Ms Loane said.

Ms Loane said that while the FSC hoped APRA would continue to refine its MySuper heatmap methodology, the proposal to extend the exercise to choice products was highly problematic.

“The broad variety of choice products in the market, the complexity and bespoke nature of platforms and wraps where individuals choose their investment strategies, and the lack of direct comparable data, makes it extremely difficult to translate heatmapping beyond MySuper and we urge APRA to not only be cautious in proceeding with this exercise but to engage deeply with industry.”

About the Financial Services Council

The Financial Services Council (FSC) has over 100 members representing Australia's retail and wholesale funds management businesses, superannuation funds, life insurers, financial advisory networks and licensed trustee companies. The industry is responsible for investing almost $3 trillion on behalf of more than 14.8 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. The FSC promotes best practice for the financial services industry by setting mandatory Standards for its members and providing Guidance Notes to assist in operational efficiency.

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THE regulator’s new heatmaps are a welcome new tool to help identify underperforming funds but further work needs to be done to get the methodology right, Industry Super Australia said.

Underperformance can cost some members up to $500,000 in their retirement nest eggs, so must be tackled wherever it is found in the superannuation sector.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) heatmaps are an important first step in highlighting underperformance and making trustees more accountable.

But ISA has some concerns in the methodology APRA used to generate the heat maps, these include:

- The failure to give primacy to net returns (after all fees and costs) for performance benchmark comparisons as the Productivity Commission did

- Excluding the effect of admin fees in much of the benchmarking, despite acknowledging high admin fees are associated with poor performance

- The use of simplistic and arbitrary metrics to adjust for risk which may materially affect the benchmarks a product is compared to

- Not assessing long term returns (10 years or more) where data is available.

Importantly the heatmaps should be expanded to cover the Choice sector, as underperformance is not limited to MySuper products, in fact, most underperforming products are in the Choice sector.

With too many Australians still stuck in underperforming super funds, the focus of the Government, regulator and the superannuation sector must be on ensuring members are connected to a single, quality-checked and high performing fund with low fees and good returns.

Tools such as APRA’s new heatmaps will provide an important bottom-up approach to tackling underperformance, rather than a top-down approach.

Industry Super Australia deputy chief executive Matthew Linden said, "As a priority, the costly drain of underperformance needs to be dealt with – wherever it occurs in the system. APRA’s heatmaps are a vital tool to shine a light on this underperformance and get trustees to lift their game, but more work is needed to get the detail right.

“We expect to see the worst performers called out, but are concerned methodological flaws may cast some products in a poorer light than warranted, while other products appear okay when they’re not.

“With any new measuring tool there are always kinks to iron out and we look forward to working with APRA as they refine the first cut of analysis and update the results in the new year.”

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THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has commenced a review of the operations of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) pursuant to section 64T of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999.

The Committee will inquire into and report on:

  • PBO implementation of the recommendations of the PBO Review 2016/17 Report of the Independent Review Panel;
  • PBO implementation of the recommendations from the 2014 Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit Report No. 446 Review of the Operations of the Parliamentary Budget Office;
  • Stakeholder relationships and engagement; and
  • Possible areas of reform to support the effective operation of the PBO.

Lucy Wicks MP, chair of the committee, said, "This review will provide an opportunity for the Committee to gain an understanding of how the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has improved since its previous independent review. The Committee will also examine options for possible areas of reform to support the effective operation of the PBO."

Submissions from interested individuals and organisations are invited by Thursday, January 23, 2019. The preferred method of receiving submissions is by electronic format lodged online using a My Parliament account.

Further information about the review is available on the Committee’s website.

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THE PERSONAL insolvency regulator, the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA), has identified and proven over $4m of fraud, according to a new report released today.

The Personal Insolvency Compliance Report, available now on the AFSA website, outlines AFSA’s compliance, regulatory and enforcement activities across the 2018-19 financial year. 

Hamish McCormick, chief executive of AFSA and inspector-general in bankruptcy, said the annual Personal Insolvency Compliance Report provides insight into the regulation of Australia’s personal insolvency system.

“AFSA is working to be both a firm and a fair regulator," Mr McCormick said.

“We undertake regulatory and compliance work to ensure that the personal insolvency system is equitable, and that all participants are meeting their obligations.

“Overall, we aim to provide the community with a personal insolvency system that they can have confidence in.”

Mr McCormick highlighted some of the report’s key findings – including complaints against registered trustees and criminal prosecutions.

“In 2018-19, we received nearly 2,000 referrals of alleged misconduct,” Mr McCormick said.

“We analysed each referral and found that 744 warranted further investigation. We referred 115 of these matters to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

“In total, 96 individuals were prosecuted for offences under the Bankruptcy Act. Our prosecutions attracted wide-ranging penalties, from fines to imprisonment.

“Pleasingly the number of prosecutions decreased in 2018-19, down from 137 in the previous year. The overall value of proven fraud also dropped, down from $5.5 million in 2017-18 to $4.6 million.”

Complaints about registered trustees, and the Commonwealth Government's Official Trustee, both increased in 2018-19.

“In 2018-19 we received 296 complaints about practitioners, up from 257 the year prior. Similarly, complaints about the Official Trustee also rose – we received 48 compared to 10 in 2017-18," Mr McCormick said.

“However, only nine complaints about registered trustees were found to be justified. And only one complaint about the Official Trustee was justified.”

The report noted that the conduct of untrustworthy bankruptcy advisers remains a potential threat to community confidence in the personal insolvency system. In 2018-19, AFSA made a concerted effort to disrupt the activities of untrustworthy advisers, who provide dodgy advice to people at a time when they are in financial difficulty and vulnerable.

“In 2018-19, we worked closely with registered trustees and industry bodies to identify and disrupt untrustworthy advisers,” Mr McCormick said.

“During the year we finalised three prosecutions involving untrustworthy advisers, and one more is still in progress. We will continue to target untrustworthy advisers in an effort to protect the integrity of the personal insolvency system. And where appropriate, we will refer matters to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for action.”

The full report is available now on the AFSA website.

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the partnership between Brisbane-based Armour Energy and Santos through the South Nicholson Basin Farmin Agreement.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said diversity in the state’s gas industry leads to smaller and larger operators using each other’s strengths to develop gas.

“This agreement is good news for the gas industry and demonstrates the collaborative approach in the development of gas fields in Queensland,” Mr Macfarlane said.

Under the agreement, Santos with a proven track record in safe and environmentally sustainable operations, will assume operatorship and has right to earn a 70 percent interest in Armour's South Nicholson Basin tenements in North Queensland and the Northern Territory. In return Armour will receive an upfront $15 million capital injection from Santos and a free carry on the proposed work program up to a total capped amount of $64.9 million."

Mr Macfarlane said Queensland remains a leader in responsibly developing gas which was good for all customers both domestic and international.

“Queensland’s gas industry invested $8 billion into the State’s economy last financial year, supported 37,984 full time employees and spent $2.7 billion with local businesses and community organisations,” he said.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed newly introduced legislation to implement Director Identification Numbers (DIN) and modernise business registers.

If passed, the legislation will require Australian company directors to have a unique identification number.

Ms Carnell said the legislation would help combat illegal phoenixing, a process where directors inappropriately take assets out of a business before liquidating, leaving staff, small businesses and suppliers in the lurch.  

“Illegal phoenixing not only hurts small business, it costs the economy as much as $3 billion per year,” Ms Carnell said.

“The DIN will allow regulators to detect and track rogue company directors to ensure they cannot engage in multiple instances of phoenixing.

“The legislation is a definite step in the right direction, so that small businesses get a fair go," she said.

“We also support the move to create a new central business registry regime, which will simplify the process for small and family businesses.

“At the end of the day, any measure that reduces red tape is good news for small and family businesses, because it allows them to get on with the job of growing their business.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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