THE Trade and Investment Growth Committee today commenced an inquiry into the role that the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) has in attracting investment to Australian businesses and how they can help those businesses to attract investment themselves.

The terms of reference for the inquiry have particular regard to a number of significant industries or sectors: Resources and Energy, Agribusiness and Food, Major Infrastructure, Tourism Infrastructure, and Advanced Manufacturing, Services and Technology.

Committee chair Ken O’Dowd MP said, “The committee has considered the role of Austrade in previous inquiries in this Parliament, but we wanted to take a more focused look to fully understand the important role that the agency can play in promoting and encouraging investment.

“As Australia’s role in the international economy evolves, the role that Austrade has in ensuring that our businesses are competitive is crucial.”

The committee welcomes submissions from any individuals, organisations and businesses interested in the terms of reference of the inquiry. Submissions can be made through the committee’s website before 16 November 2018. The Committee anticipates holding public hearings on the inquiry and advice will be provided on the website when these are scheduled.

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the www.aph.gov.au/jsctig.

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) believes the three key economic Bills which passed the Senate yesterday will bring significant changes to the retail industry.

From late-2019, gift cards issued across Australia will be regulated under a new law which will enforce a minimum three-year expiry period.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, said while many retailers and the ARA were against the expiry extension, the new Federal legislation will remove inconsistencies which were caused when NSW acted alone on similar legislation at the start of this year.

“Although the ARA were not impressed with the three-year extension, we called for an 18-month transitional period for retailers to get rid of old stock,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Instead we were left with a 12-month transitional period, placing more strain on retailers already operating in an unstable environment. We will continue to lobby for exemptions to the new law to ensure the impacts on retailers are limited.”

Australian retailers will also be contending with new requirements under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) with the Australian Consumer Law Review also passing the Senate yesterday. Mr Zimmerman said this new legislation will bring key changes to pricing rules regarding fees and charges, product safety provisions, and the extension of consumer guarantees.

“The positive developments coming out of yesterday’s onslaught of economic developments include the passage of the Lower Taxes for Small and Medium Businesses Bill 2018, which will mean small retailers will receive a lower tax rate five years earlier than expected,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Previously, all businesses with annual turnover of $50 million or less could expect to see their corporate tax rate slowly decrease over 10 years.”

This new legislation means that the transition has been fast-tracked, and the small business corporate tax rate will drop to 26 percent in the 2020/2021 financial year, and then to 25 percent in the 2021/2022 financial year.

Mr Zimmerman said these moves follow on from the ARA’s continued efforts to lobby the Government to ease the pressure on retailers, to lower their costs, increase their flexibility, and provide investment certainty so that small and medium retailers can grow their businesses, hire more staff, and compete more effectively.

While this news is a boon for small and family retailers, the reality is that Australia now has a two-tiered corporate tax rate, which increases the burden of Australia’s already-complex tax system.

“At 30 percent for all businesses operating over the $50 million turnover threshold, Australia’s top corporate tax rate remains one of the highest in the developed world,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The ARA will continue to lobby the Government to apply the lower tax rate to businesses of all sizes and will update members on any further developments through their fortnightly newsletter and member alerts. 

About the Australian Retailers Association:

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041. To subscribe to the ARA’s fortnightly newsletter, click here.

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The CFMMEU has been fined "yet again for bullying small business people and workers" according to Master Builders Australia.. 

The Federal Court found that the union and six of its officials had threatened and coerced contractors into signing union wage agreements and broken safety and right of entry laws in 2014 and 2015, resulting in fines totalling $313,000 and orders to publish paid advertisements about the breaches. 

“Bullying by the CFMMEU is an everyday reality for small business people and workers on building sites around the country," Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.

"These are people who are just trying to earn a living and build successful businesses that employ people and the CFMMEU wants to deny them that right unless they bow the union’s threats and intimidation."

Six union officials including three senior officers – former NSW state secretary Brian Parker, assistant state secretary Robert Kera, and organiser Luke Collier – were found by the court to have taken unlawful action against a group of concreting companies in order to coerce them into signing Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs). 

In his judgment, Justice Flick said of the CFMMEU, "The conduct… evidences a continuing commitment on the part of the CFMEU to pursue its industrial objectives by unlawful means and a continuing commitment to pay such penalties as are imposed as but the 'cost of doing business'." 

Ms Wawn said, "Without the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) holding the CFMMEU to account and bringing their appalling behaviour to the attention of the courts and the community, then the union would just get away with bullying small business people.

“This decision by the Federal Court is more evidence that the ABCC is essential to ensuring the rule of law is observed on construction sites just like it is on normal workplaces,” she said. 

“In under two years, the CFMMEU has incurred over $8 million in fines. This is money that comes out of their members pockets, every time they are caught they never show any remorse. This is why our industry needs the ABCC."

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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PARLIAMENT'S Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has tabled its second report on Commonwealth Procurement, based on three Auditor-General’s reports.

The reports considered were:

  • No. 12 (2017-18), Management of the Contract for the Telephone Universal Service Obligations
  • No. 9 (2017-18), Management of the Pre-construction Phase of the Inland Rail Program
  • No. 61 (2016-17), Procurement of the National Cancer Screening Register

Committee chair Dean Smith said the committee had made a number of recommendations in its report to improve procurement management across the important areas of health, telecommunications and infrastructure.

“Under Commonwealth Procurement Rules, Commonwealth agencies must achieve value for money in procurement processes that are competitive, robust and transparent,” Senator Smith said.

“Effective Commonwealth procurement is a key focus of the Joint Committee for Public Accounts and Audit in its role in scrutinising the governance, performance and accountability of Commonwealth agencies.”

The report’s recommendations include that:

  • the Department of the Communications and the Arts report back on: whether it will be utilising flexibility mechanisms under the Telstra Universal Service Obligation Performance Agreement (TUSOPA) to improve value for money outcomes; how the department’s TUSOPA contract performance reporting assurance processes have been strengthened; and the transition from TUSOPA to the new Universal Service Guarantee
  • the Australian Rail Track Corporation: report back on actions taken to develop an appropriate risk management system for the Corporation and Inland Rail project; and provide a copy of the procurement guidelines used for the project to demonstrate officials have adequate procurement guidance
  • the Parliamentary Budget Office consider how information in the Budget papers could be augmented to improve parliamentary scrutiny of the expected rates of drawdown for investments and value of commitments without compromising commercially sensitive information
  • the Department of Health report back on: the implementation status of the national bowel cancer screening register and national cervical cancer screening register transition under the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR); how it is proactively managing the contract to ensure value for money; the objectives and planned performance information for the NCSR; how it will improve consideration of risk during future procurement planning; whether the Auditor-General had access to all departmental records relevant to Audit Report No. 61; and how it is improving procurement record keeping
  • the Department of Finance, together with the Australian Public Service Commission, write to all Commonwealth entities reminding them of their obligations as regards full compliance with conflict of interest requirements

Interested members of the public may wish to track the Committee via the website.

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THE ACCC will not review Aurizon's sale of its Queensland intermodal business to Linfox.

The ACCC has considered the Linfox proposal, and has decided that a public review of the transaction is not required, as it does not consider the acquisition by Linfox will give rise to a substantial lessening of competition.

“Linfox’s operations in Queensland are relatively limited, and the transaction will mean there will remain two intermodal rail line-haul providers in Queensland, which is a good outcome for rail competition and Queenslanders,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

Aurizon had previously announced it would shut the Queensland intermodal business if it couldn’t progress the earlier transaction proposal involving Pacific National.

Under the earlier transaction proposal, it planned to sell the rail component of the Queensland intermodal rail business to Pacific National, its only competitor in intermodal rail in Queensland.

“The ACCC did not consider that Aurizon’s shut-down plans were rational given there were other options,” Mr Sims said.“The sale of the Queensland intermodal business demonstrates why the ACCC must always question claims that businesses will be shut if we don’t approve a merger.”

The ACCC litigation concerning the sale of Acacia Ridge Rail Terminal to Pacific National and Aurizon’s intermodal sale process is continuing.
 
 
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