THE CARAVAN INDUSTRY Association of Australia has welcomed the announcement today from the Federal Government of a $250 million regional Australia package with $150 million specifically for tourism and infrastructure projects to assist regional tourism.

Caravan Industry Association of Australia CEO Stuart Lamont said the caravan and camping industry was much loved by Australians, and with the desire for tourists to "control their own environment" the industry was "poised to help in the immediate recovery of regional tourism as caravanners and campers travel further and for longer as Australians look to explore our own backyard". 

Visitor expenditure by caravanning and camping tourists already contribute over $10 billion annually with a significant amount of this dispersed across regional and rural Australia, supporting local jobs and contractors.

Mr Lamont said, "We have a real opportunity for Australians to rediscover the attractions and experiences which are plentiful in regional Australia, but which are under real threat without government support.

“The tourism industry has been savaged through a winter of COVID off the back of a summer of bushfires.  While we have seen recent green shoots in concentrated regions, many tourism industry businesses (and those businesses which rely on tourism) continue to be on their knees.  We are in a feast or famine situation at present with some of our most significant tourism regions hardest hit with the challenges of 2020.

“With many of Australia’s tourism icons located in the regions, and international travel off the cards for some time yet, today’s announcement is a significant boost for domestic tourism, while encourages the development of important tourism infrastructure which will underpin the industry when normal travel returns.” 

On World Tourism Day, Mr Lamont said this announcement supported the theme Tourism and Regional Development and is consistent with the Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s calls for shovel-ready tourism projects to be supported in regional Australia. 

"These projects will not only introduce or upgrade important long-term assets but will encourage the use of local contractors, local accommodation, and the use of local services during construction," Mr Lamont said. "With caravan and camping in 2019 being the number one commercial accommodation provider in regional Australia, today’s announcement provides some level of optimism for operators still reeling from huge losses from touring markets.

“Caravan parks, for several years, have been developing the accommodation experiences available which has brought new markets on board and led to record numbers in 2019.  This announcement from the government will help businesses return faster to the lofty heights set in 2019,” Mr Lamont said.  

“Tourism is such an important social and financial contributor to regional and rural communities, and it will be important to make sure funding from today’s announcement is equitably spread and provided for immediately to get this money flowing through the system.    

"Caravan Industry Association of Australia looks forward to engaging with the Federal Government regarding the eligibility and appropriation of this important initiative."

www.caravanindustry.com.au

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THE Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has welcomed the Federal Government's announcement of additional funding for the tourism industry but remains concerned by a lack of specific funding to support the businesses which deliver international visitors to Australia.

The government package will bring some desperately needed support to major, mostly internationally focused, tourism businesses across regional Australia but support is still needed to ensure the inbound tour operators (ITOs) who supply international visitors to these areas survive.

“ITOs are essential to the export tourism supply chain and are a vital part of the fabric of our connection to the global tourism marketplace,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. 

“Without ITOs many of these regional tourism businesses would have never had the level of international visitation that has helped them to build their product and if ITO businesses disappear, the long term viability of these regional tourism businesses is questionable too.

“Right now support to enable tourism businesses to better connect with domestic visitors will be very welcome but their previous success was built on having a mix of international and domestic visitors with international visitors making a stronger contribution to the bottom line – they simply stay longer and spend more.

“Australians just don't travel the same way or spend on the same things as international visitors and in the long run these businesses will need to turn back to their international market for survival and they will typically do this in partnership with inbound tour operators, their international distribution partners.

“The export tourism industry has a complex supply chain which relies on business relationships which have been forged over decades and ITO businesses have been the platform on which Australia has grown its annual tourism export earnings to over $45bn annually," Mr Shelley said.

“We know many of our regional tourism supplier members will be very happy to see this funding, but there remains many gaps in the solution and many tourism businesses will still be looking for help.  Businesses in metropolitan areas which have seen their business grind to a halt, ITOs which have had no income since February and those businesses which fall outside of the funding guidelines. Twelve months ago they were all viable and today they face extinction through no fault of their own.”

Mr Shelley said the funding will be welcome in the short term but will be quickly exhausted given the extent of need within the industry.  ATEC has been calling on the Federal Government to establish a long term, well-funded strategically focused tourism resilience fund which will provide layers of support to assist recovery and restart of our industry over the next three years.

"Earlier this year we saw the government announce a sizeable $1bn fund for tourism as part of its initial COVID stimulus package, funding which was quickly allocated to supporting large infrastructure like regional airports.

“While we recognise the importance of these priorities, many tourism businesses are struggling to survive and many have completely shut down their operations, exasperated by the uncertainty of state border closures. Over the past decade Australia’s export tourism industry has delivered more than $350bn in export earnings to our economy and this success has supported one in 12 jobs and has been the lifeblood of many regional communities," Mr Shelley said.

“Recognising the importance of international visitors to the future of regional tourism operators ATEC continues to urge the government to directly address the survival of the ITO sector and look to provide support in the upcoming Federal Budget.”

www.atec.net.au

 

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said an overhaul of lending laws proposed by the Federal Government would offer a necessary funding injection to the small business sector.

Under the plan announced today by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, lending laws will be changed to lift onerous barriers to small businesses applying for loans.

“Access to finance is critical to small business survival, particularly as support measures are tapered over the coming months,” Ms Carnell said.

“The reforms outlined today would give small businesses the confidence they need to seek funding to get through this crisis, so they can grow and employ. Since the Banking Royal Commission, small businesses have faced an uphill battle to secure a loan, due to unrealistic serviceability requirements from the banks.

“The pendulum has swung too far and now is the time to correct this imbalance which is harmful to small businesses.    

“Even in the best of times, many small businesses struggle to secure finance, with a recent Sensis report revealing that of the dwindling number of small businesses that applied for a loan in the three months to August, about one in four had been knocked back. There’s a good chance the onerous small business loan application and bank assessment process is partly to blame.

“We are aware of small businesses that have been asked for all sorts of documentation by the banks - even for loans that have been 50 percent guaranteed by the federal government – including director guarantees, which really means the family home. It’s no wonder small business owners are reluctant to borrow.

“Importantly the banks will still be accountable to ASIC and the Government has pledged greater protections for vulnerable borrowers. ASIC will also have the power to impose penalties for prohibited or excessive fees and interest charges," Ms Carnell said.

“Small business borrowers should always ensure their lender is an AFCA member and to go their trusted accredited financial adviser before taking out a loan.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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THE Federal Government has given the rebuilding of the economy a big boost by removing overly restrictive lending requirements for finance lenders, including mortgage finance, according to Master Builders Australia.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “We commend the Federal Government for winding back regulation to a more reasonable position that allows the market more flexibility to approve housing finance. We hope this means that banks will reconsider their loan to value ratios (LVRs) to help people overcome the deposit gap.

“We expect that loan applications for borrowers should also become less cumbersome.

“The Reserve Bank has already flagged that the tighter regulatory provisions have been holding back credit growth and some banks have acknowledged that they have been forced into being overly conservative,” Ms Wawn said. 

“It is good to see the Federal Government is giving banks flexibility to deal with applications on a case by case basis which should result in lenders providing mortgage finance to more people.

“It should help streamline the processing of HomeBuilder applications on top of pre-approval processes which have been adopted in some states. All states and territories should adopt these pre-approval processes,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Access to finance, land titling and planning approvals can substantially delay building of new homes and measures are needed to remove these impediments and speed up processing of HomeBuilder applications.

“While today’s announcement should open up access to mortgage finance, we now need state and territory governments to activate their option under the agreement with the Federal Government to extend the HomeBuilder construction deadline from three to six months, as has already occurred in Victoria. 

“This will ensure that the economic stimulus provided by HomeBuilder can be maximised to save more tradie jobs, and give more people access to the opportunity HomeBuilder provides,” Ms Wawn said.

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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NEW COVID-19 related research conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) and super fund Cbus has identified that urgent short-term needs for funds are driving people’s decision to withdraw some or all of their superannuation savings under the COVID-19 Superannuation Early Release Scheme.

The study has also revealed that many people who withdrew their super over the past few months are uncertain about the long-term consequences of their decision.

To understand the operation and effect of the COVID-19 Superannuation Early Release Scheme, a multi-organisational research team analysed survey results of over 3,000 members of Cbus, a leading industry superannuation fund, who withdrew some or all of their superannuation savings in the first phase of the COVID-19 Superannuation Early Release Scheme between April and June 2020.

The results show that the $10,000 limit both guided and constrained withdrawal amounts and that most respondents withdrew the upper limit. Around 25 percent of surveyed members withdrew almost their entire account balance, according to the study.

Immediate financial need (59%) and concerns for future expenditures (27%) were the main reasons members gave for accessing savings. 

“Some surveyed members expressed they are uncertain about the long-term consequences of their decisions,” said study co-author Susan Thorp, professor of economics at the University of Sydney Business School.

“Around one third of respondents said they were unsure about the impact of their withdrawal on their retirement balances, or had not thought about that, or did not care,” Prof. Thorp said.

Co-author Hazel Bateman, professor of economics at the UNSW School of Risk and Actuarial Studies, said they also compared respondents’ estimates of the impact of their withdrawal with a projection of that impact based on assumptions made in a Cbus guidance on the early release scheme for members.

“Around half of the survey respondents either underestimated or didn’t estimate the impact of the withdrawal on their superannuation balance at retirement,” Prof. Bateman said.

“These findings demonstrate that many withdrawers either could not or did not evaluate the impact of their decision.

“However, another finding is that those who spent longer thinking about their decision and consulted more information sources before withdrawing their savings, held more realistic expectations of the impacts on retirement wealth and were half as likely to decide to withdraw within one day or less than members who used no information sources.

“This shows that more attention to information is related to an attempt to assess impact on retirement balances,” Prof. Bateman said.

Robbie Campo, Cbus Super group executive, said, “This research highlights the fundamental importance of the super systems cornerstones – compulsion, universality and adequacy. Cbus’ membership recognises the importance of these principles to ensure all Australians can enjoy a dignified and secure retirement.”

 

Background:

The COVID-19 Superannuation Early Release Scheme was one of the first pandemic-related policy changes made by the Australian Government. By mid-August 2020, Australian superannuation fund members had made more than 3 million applications to withdraw retirement savings under the COVID-19 Superannuation Early Release Scheme, supporting more than $31 billion in payments.

Full industry report: https://cepar.edu.au/sites/default/files/20K-now-or-50K-later-WhatsDrivingPeoplesDecisionToWithdrawTheirSuper.pdf

Key findings of the industry report:

  • Surveyed COVID-19 early release scheme applicants expressed urgent short-term need for funds and considerable uncertainty about the long-term consequences of their decision.
  • The $10,000 limit both guided and constrained withdrawal amounts.
  • Around 25% of surveyed members withdrew almost their entire account balance.
  • Immediate financial need (59%) and concerns for future expenditures (27%) were the main reasons members gave for accessing savings.
  • Around 30% of surveyed applicants were unsure of, or unconcerned about, the long-term consequences of their withdrawal.
  • Around 50% of surveyed applicants either underestimated, or didn’t estimate, the impact of the withdrawal on their superannuation balance at retirement.
  • Members who collected information from Cbus and from other sources, such as news services or social media, were half as likely to decide to withdraw within one day or less than members who used no information sources.
  • Members who spent longer thinking and consulted more information sources before withdrawing their savings held more realistic expectations of impacts on retirement wealth.

About CEPAR

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) is a unique collaboration between academia, government and industry, committed to delivering solutions to one of the major economic and social challenges of the 21st century. The research centre is based at the University of New South Wales, with nodes at the Australian National University, Curtin University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

cepar.edu.au

 

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THE Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme will begin public hearings this week, helping to shape the recommendations to be made in its Second Interim Report.

The Committee’s First Interim Report, tabled in May 2020, made 14 detailed recommendations that were intended to inform the Scheme’s legislated second anniversary review.

Committee Chair Senator Dean Smith noted that, while the second anniversary review is ongoing, a number of issues associated with the operation of the Scheme need to be considered now.

These issues include defunct institutions and the operation of the funder of last resort mechanism, awareness and access to the Scheme for Indigenous Australians, and the impact of COVID-19 on the provision of specialised redress support services.

Protecting survivors from opportunistic behaviour by legal practitioners, who seek to target them for financial benefit under the guise of assisting with applications, will also be considered.

“The Committee is dedicated to ensuring the National Redress Scheme is continually recalibrated to improve the experience of survivors,” Senator Smith said.

The Second Interim Report is expected to be tabled in Parliament in early 2021.

Public hearing program

Date: Friday, 25 September 2020
Time: 10am to 1pm
Location: via teleconference

Date: Monday 28 September 2020
Time: 9am to 11.15am
Location: via videoconference

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live and public hearing programs will be available at the Committee website prior to the hearing.

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THE Australian Taxation Office (ATO) said it would continue to provide ongoing support to employers to assist them to prepare for the next phase of JobKeeper payments.

The JobKeeper Payment scheme has been extended from September 28, 2020, until March 28, 2021.

"There are some key dates to keep in mind, and simple steps employers can take now, so they are ready for the changes, but please remember that not everything needs to be done from next week” Taxation Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran said.

“From Monday September 28, employers will need to pay their eligible employees a different rate of JobKeeper, with the rate dependent on the number of hours they work. These rates will change again from Monday, January 4,” Mr O’Halloran said.

It is important for employers to let their eligible employees know now what rate of JobKeeper payment they will receive. This will then be the amount that the ATO pays to employers.

“Although you do not need to re-enrol in JobKeeper, you do need to notify us of your eligible employees and what rate you are paying them as part of your normal payday reporting in October. This can easily be done through Single Touch Payroll," Mr O'Halloran said.

“Employers  will also need to nominate any new employees if they  are applying for a JobKeeper payment for them for the first time,” he said.

For the extension period commencing September 28, 2020, employers will need to show that their actual GST turnover has declined in the September 2020 quarter relative to a comparable period. This needs to be done before October 31, 2020. There is an actual decline in turnover test that can be accessed.. Alternative tests for determining actual decline in turnover may be available in some circumstances and the ATO is encouraging businesses to seek guidance if necessary.

“We are here to support employers and we know how vital the JobKeeper payment is to the community,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“I encourage employers seeking advice on JobKeeper to contact their tax agent or call us on our dedicated help line 13 10 20.

“There is also a range of information, fact sheets and videos available from ato.gov.au to help and support you in this process. We’re also preparing translated information, which will be available in 16 languages,” Mr O’Halloran said.

 

KEY DATES

ATO has advised employers to:

  • Now: notify your employees about the JobKeeper payment they can expect to receive.
  • September 28, 2020: start paying your eligible employees Tier 1 and Tier 2 JobKeeper rates based on their hours worked. 
  • From September 28: if using Single Touch Payroll to notify us of your eligible employees, provide each eligible employee’s Tier as part of your normal payday reporting. Enrol for the JobKeeper payment if you’re doing so for the first time.
  • Between October 1–14, 2020: complete your October JobKeeper monthly business declarations to receive your reimbursement for the September fortnights.
  • Between October 1–31, 2020: prepare and submit your businesses actual decline in turnover to the ATO.
  • Before October 31, 2020: ensure you meet the wage condition for all eligible employees included in the JobKeeper scheme for the JobKeeper fortnights starting September 28, 2020 and October 12, 2020.
  • From November 1, 2020: complete your monthly business declaration and confirm what payment tier you are claiming for each employee.

FURTHER INFORMATION

More information on the rates of the JobKeeper payment is available at ato.gov.au/JobkeeperExtension,

For information about current JobKeeper support and assistance available from the ATO and information about the JobKeeper extension go to ato.gov.au/JobKeeper.

Individuals, sole traders, small or medium businesses having difficulty meeting tax and super obligations because of COVID-19 can contact the ATO’s Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 to discuss tailored support options.

 

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WORLD Maritime Day is today, recognising the invaluable efforts of millions of seafarers, dockers, ferry and port workers to keep global supply chains operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, while highlighting the plight of hundreds of thousands seafarers who have been unable to return home to their families due to the crisis.

Organised by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, the event shines a spotlight on the vital role of maritime workers in Australia’s security and economic success.

The Maritime Union of Australia said that with more than 98 percent of Australia’s imports and exports carried by sea, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the urgent need to reinvigorate the nation’s domestic shipping industry.

MUA national secretary and International Transport Workers' Federation president Paddy Crumlin said this year had demonstrated the absolutely essential work of seafarers and dockers, who are ensuring vital medical supplies and essential household goods continue to arrive in Australia.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic threatened global supply chains, the importance of maritime workers was thrust into the spotlight, with their hard work responsible for keeping fuel, food, and other essential goods flowing,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Without the efforts of maritime workers, Australia’s economy would have collapsed, our health system would have run critically short of equipment, households would have been unable to access essential products, and our resources and manufactured goods would not have been exported to the world.

“This invisible workforce responsible for keeping our island nation operating now faces their own crisis, with hundreds of thousands stuck onboard ships, in some cases for up to 18 months, unable to return to their families due to border closures and a lack of government efforts to repatriate them.

“The Australian Government must do more to address this humanitarian crisis by facilitating the movement of international seafarers through the country so crew changes can once again take place.”

Mr Crumlin said World Maritime Day also highlighted the need to revitalise Australia’s shipping industry, including by creating a strategic fleet of Australian-flagged vessels crewed by Australian workers that can improve our sovereign self-sufficiency and the security for our nation’s fuel and supply capabilities.

“As an island nation, maritime trade keeps the economy ticking, but very few large trading vessels still fly the Australian red ensign, which has undermined our economic sovereignty as supply chains become increasingly reliant on foreign owned, crewed and flagged ships,” he said.

“A smart island nation needs a strong merchant navy — a lesson highlighted by this global pandemic.

“As the number of Australian-crewed vessels declines, not only are quality jobs lost, but our country is left vulnerable to global shocks that can disrupt maritime trade.

“Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack put out a statement today honouring Australian seafarers in the same week that he released a discussion paper seeking to further deregulate Australian shipping and destroy our industry.

“This discussion paper is a further step in building on the government's negligence and abandonment of the national interest under the current policy settings which ignore the lessons of COVID and fuel security.

“Decades of neglect have seen the industry hollowed out, leaving Australia almost entirely dependent on foreign flag-of-convenience vessels, often registered in tax havens and crewed by exploited visa workers on as little as $2 per hour, to move cargo around the coast.”

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PERSPECTIVES from local governments will be heard on Friday, along with bodies representing conservation, natural resource management and farming, as the House of Representatives Environment and Energy Committee conducts another public hearing for its inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia.

Committee Chair, Ted O’Brien MP said the Committee’s inquiry haD received nearly 160 submissions which highlight “the complex nature of the legal, environmental and social factors surrounding feral and domestic cats in Australia”.

He said, “Friday’s public hearing provides the Committee with a further opportunity to build upon its evidence base regarding the impact that cats have on the environment and on agriculture in Australia, and the role of local governments and others in responding to the growing cat problem.”

A full program for the hearing is available on the Committee’s website here.

Public hearing details

Date: Friday 25 September 2020
Time: 10.15am to 2.45pm
Location: via teleconference

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live (audio only).

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MONASH University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) has climbed 16 places in the QS 2021 Global MBA Rankings to 73 in the world.

The Monash MBA now ranks in the world’s top 28 percent out of 258 MBA programs from 40 countries. In the Oceania region, the Monash MBA ranks third, a position it has held for the past three years.

The results come after Monash University ranked in the top 5 percent of universities overall in the QS World University Rankings 2021, rising three places to 55th globally.

Monash Business School’s director of MBA programs, professor Patrick Butler, said the latest results cemented Monash’s reputation as a world-leading institution for executive learning.

“The Monash MBA is focused on producing the next generation of top-tier leaders, whether they be corporate heads of business, leaders of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or start-up entrepreneurs,” Professor Butler said.

“Our MBA programs are dynamic and agile, equipping today’s executives with the business acumen and social skill set to not only lead but also drive positive change in the evolving global business economy.”

The Monash MBA has global reach, partnering with universities and business schools worldwide, including the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), which has campuses in Beijing, Zurich and Accra.

Prof. Butler said Monash prided itself on a diverse cohort; the 2020 MBA intake comprises an equal split of men and women from 11 countries, with 17 industries represented. The sectors with the highest concentration of MBA students are construction, manufacturing, and medicine and allied health.

In addition to intensive theoretical study, the two-year program also involves experience-based modules, consulting projects, overseas learning and industry engagement opportunities. 

www.monash.edu

 

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THE Queensland Resources Council has welcomed a $500 million investment by Glencore which will see its Mount Isa copper smelter and Townsville refinery extend operations beyond 2022.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said 570 direct jobs would be secured at a time when Queensland’s unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 9 percent due to the impacts of COVID-19 and welcomed an additional financial incentive from the Palaszczuk Government.

“This is a significant investment from Glencore and will be a huge boost to the regional economies in the north and north-west of Queensland with a further 1000 indirect jobs supported,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“An additional financial incentive has been provided by the Palaszczuk Government to assist with the continued operations following constructive discussions between both parties.

“Smelters and refineries generate downstream jobs in the mining equipment and technology services (METS) sector which supply and service the resources industry.

“I visited Townsville yesterday to promote the importance of the resources sector to Queensland’s economic recovery and the feedback I received was the sector’s massive contribution to jobs and regional economies," Mr Macfarlane said.

“The resources industry will continue to play a critical role in keeping Queenslanders working and earning through COVID-19 and will be central to the State’s future economic prosperity post-COVID-19.

“During the COVID-19 response and its recovery, the resources sector has kept as many of the 372,000 Queenslanders who work in or because of our industry working and earning.”

www.qrc.org.au

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