CONSTRUCTION industry leaders met in Canberra today to urge the Federal, State and Territory Governments to act now to address the building certifier insurance crisis that has potential to bring building and construction activity to a halt. 

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “The leader of Master Builders Associations from around the country are gravely concerned. Up to 30 percent of insurance renewals for building certifiers and surveyors may not be renewed as early as July and construction activity will grind to a halt if a solution is not found urgently.

“Insurers as a result of a number of fires around the world, including the Grenfell fire in the UK, have elevated risk ratings on cladding affected buildings.  They are declining to provide professional indemnity insurance, offering it with unacceptable exclusions or asking for unaffordable premium increases for building certifier professional indemnity renewals.  As a result, certifiers who are needed to sign-off new buildings are being forced to close up shop,” Ms Wawn said. 

“The problem is already causing delays to building projects across the country and will only get worse as more insurers withdraw from the market. 

“We need all governments to come together now to manage what has become a risk for the whole industry caused by the use of combustible cladding on some buildings,” Ms Wawn said. 

What’s needed to avert the crisis is: 

  • Establish a national pool of qualified engineers to sign off high risk components.
  • Set up a working group to deliver options within six months for funding the rectification of existing buildings with combustible cladding.
  • State governments allow for temporary licence exclusions for combustible cladding, specific to aluminium composite panels and expanded polystyrene.

"Master Builders wrote to Building Ministers in April seeking action ahead of the July deadline,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Master Builders around the country are also calling for governments to speed up implementation of recommendations in the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report to improve access to and the reliability of regulatory requirements for the building and construction sector."

www.masterbuilders.com.au

ends 

EMPLOYMENT in Queensland’s resources sector has added an extra 5,730 jobs over the last 12 months – the equivalent of one new job every 90 minutes according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) labour force data.

Queensland Resources Council deputy chief executive Judy Bertram said the data reaffirmed the resources sector’s role as a key Queensland employer with new jobs in mining regions and Australia’s biggest mining town – Brisbane.

“This is good news for people working in the resources sector and more importantly people looking for work especially in regional Queensland. The resources sector has hundreds of vacancies looking for men and women to fill,” Ms Bertram said.

“Queensland’s resources sector supports more than 315,000 direct and indirect jobs. Resource jobs are long-term, well paid jobs and can provide education and training to advance employees into the next stage of their careers.

"We want to keep employing more Queenslanders and supporting more regional communities through local investment. To do that, it’s essential that we have clear and transparent rules and regulations.

The Queensland resources sector provides one in every six dollars in the Queensland economy, sustains one in eight Queensland jobs, and supports more than 16,400 businesses and community organisations across the State all from 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass.

THE Australian Taxation Office (ATO) today announced that it has received nearly double the amount of referrals from the community about tax evasion compared to the same time last financial year.

The ATO received nearly 60,000 reports of suspected tax evasion, the black economy or illegal phoenix activity from July 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019, which is a 42 percent increase on the volume of referrals in the same time period in the previous financial year.

While not all referrals result in an audit, they help build a more complete view of risk and help us determine if any further action is required.

More than half of all referrals received from were for suspected under reporting of income or about the cash economy, for example businesses demanding cash from customers or paying their workers cash in hand.

The top 5 ‘tip offs’ to the ATO (July 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019) were:

  1. under reported income (31%)
  2. cash economy (27%)
  3. non lodgment (25%)
  4. inadequate or no superannuation paid (8%)
  5. over stating expenses (3%)

Assistant Tax Commissioner Peter Holt said, “We’re seeing an upwards trend in the volume of referrals about people suspected of participating in the black economy, which suggests that honest businesses have had enough of competitors cheating the system and getting an unfair advantage.

“Going on current numbers, we’re on track to receive over 70,000 community referrals before the end of this financial year. By way of comparison, we received over 51,000 referrals in 2017-18 and that was the highest ever number of referrals received,” Mr Holt said.

"We are committed to supporting business meet their tax and super obligations, and offer a range of resources for businesses to get it right.

"We understand the pressures business owners face in running a business and that sometimes they make legitimate mistakes. The best way to stay on top of your tax and super is to ensure your records are kept up-to-date. Good record keeping will help you complete and lodge your tax returns, manage cash flow, meet your tax obligations and understand how your business is doing."

ATO TAX INTEGRITY CENTRE

The record number of referrals coincides with improvements to the process for letting the ATO know about suspected tax evasion, according to Mr Holt.

The "new and improved" Tax Integrity Centre will be launching on July 1 and will provide a single point of contact for reporting suspected or known illegal phoenix, tax evasion, and black economy activity.

“Our tip-off line is the taxation equivalent of Crime Stoppers for tax. Members of the community will be able to tip the ATO off online or by calling our hotline on 1800 060 062,” Mr Holt said.

"Members of the community can report any known or suspected activity where someone might be gaining a competitive advantage by intentionally doing the wrong thing. This is not just limited to tax issues."

Mr Holt said it involved behaviours such as:

  • demanding or paying for work cash in hand to avoid obligations
  • not reporting or under-reporting income
  • illegal phoenixing – deliberately liquidating and re-forming a business to avoid obligations
  • over-claiming deductions e.g. paying for home renovations through their business account.

“We value referrals from the community," Mr Holt said. "Tip-offs are assessed and referred to experienced staff for review to determine if any action is required. Tip-offs help us build a more complete view of risk.

"A community tip-off may be the missing piece of the puzzle that we need to finalise an investigation and seek prosecution action to help protect honest taxpayers. Even if you only know part details, this information is still very useful. It helps us understand industry trends and emerging issues and forms part of our engagement strategies,” Mr Holt said.

"All tip-offs are private and can be anonymous. The ATO does request contact details in case information provided needs further clarification.

“Sometimes we may need to ask you about the information you provided. Leaving your name and contact details can help us to do that. We will only contact you for more information if you tell us it’s okay," Mr Holt said.

“Due to privacy laws, we won’t be able to inform you of the outcome of the information you provide. We also won’t be able to provide you with any updates on progress of the information you provided.

"The Black Economy Taskforce estimates that the black economy is costing the community as much as $50 billion each year, which is approximately three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is money that the community is missing out on for vital public services like schools and roads,” Mr Holt said.

“Businesses that operate in the black economy are undercutting competitors and gaining a competitive advantage by not competing on an even footing.

“Improvements to evasion reporting and analysis of intelligence received are just two of the many ways we’re tackling the black economy,” Mr Holt said.

ABOUT THE BLACK ECONOMY TASKFORCE

The Black Economy Taskforce was established to provide a whole-of-government approach to combat the black economy in Australia. It was established in December 2016 to develop a policy framework involving new proposals to tackle black economy activity. The Black Economy Taskforce's Final Report was released in October 2017.

The ATO plays a significant role in leading and delivering on the Black Economy Taskforce recommendations accepted by the government. Since July 1, 2018, the ATO has coordinated an extensive program of work to tackle the black economy. This program of work includes a multi-faceted approach.

The ATO is responsible for addressing the following aspects of the black economy:

  • under-reporting income and over-claiming expenses
  • ensuring businesses meet their employer obligations – so they don’t pay employees or contractors cash in hand, underpay wages, fail to withhold tax or not contribute to super
  • addressing illegal phoenixing (together with Phoenix Taskforce partner agencies) – deliberately liquidating and reforming businesses to avoid obligations
  • preventing tax fraud
  • dealing with illicit tobacco, duty and excise evasion
  • targeting intermediaries and agents who enable black economy behaviour.

HELP AND SUPPORT

The ATO said most businesses use a registered tax agent for tax advice and to lodge their tax return.

"We also offer a range of learning resources for business operators to understand their tax and super obligations and get it right, including business webinars and workshops," the ATO spokesperson said.

"Businesses can chat with us one-on-one through our Live chat and After-hours call back service. We can also answer general questions via social media or you can join the discussion in our peer-to-peer forum, ATO Community.

ato.gov.au/sbsupport 

ends

FEDERAL Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham, will officially open the first-ever National Wine Tourism Conference Beyond the Barrel in South Australia today.

The three day conference (June 18–20, 2019) delivered by Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is for Australian wine businesses looking to enhance their wine tourism offering and increase the number and expenditure of international tourists visiting their regions.

ATEC has introduced the conference after securing a $35,000 grant through the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package, which is administered by Wine Australia.

The event will feature educational workshops, commercial businesses meetings, conference sessions and networking events – all designed to propel wine businesses into the world of tourism.

Mr Birmingham officially opened the first conference session on Thursday June 20, 2019 at the National Wine Centre.

“Australia is lucky to have some of the best wine regions in the world and there is no doubt we are well positioned to capitalise on this growing part of the tourism market and attract more international visitors seeking premium food and wine experiences,” Mr Birmingham said. 

 
“We want people from around the world to not only taste our world class wines but to also visit the spectacular regions in which they are made, where visitors can genuinely indulge in the experiences of a lifetime.
 
“Our Government has backed Beyond the Barrel because we want Australian wine businesses to have the capabilities, connections and knowledge to deliver world-class premium experiences, which ultimately injects more tourism dollars into our economy and creates more jobs.”

ATEC managing director, Peter Shelley, said, “Beyond the Barrel recognises the value of our wine industry as part of the tapestry of offerings Australia brings to the international tourism marketplace.

“Our wine industry is an important part of the future growth and expansion of the international visitor experience and Beyond the Barrel will focus on helping businesses and tourism regions develop and deliver quality, authentic and engaging wine tourism experiences.”
 
Beyond the Barrel provides a unique opportunity for wine businesses to participate in commercially focused discussions with international travel buyers and to find insights and advice on how to create and expand a sought-after wine tourism experience.  Speakers including MONA’s CEO Mark Wilsdon and Mat Janes, the head of Winery and Restaurant Innocent Bystander will both shed light on their experiences, challenges and inspirations.

www.atec.net.au


 
Background
 
The International Wine Tourism Competitive Grants program is administered by Wine Australia on behalf of the Australian Government. Grant applications were assessed by an Independent Expert Assessment Panel in accordance with the grant guidelines, and co-contributions applied. More information about the $50m package is available at:  http://erwsp.wineaustralia.com 

OFFICIAL results show that 2018 was one of the strongest years on record for population growth, with the number of people living here rising by 404,780 during the year, accordinvg to Master Builders Australia.

“This reinforces the need for state and territory governments to work with the Federal Government to implement microeconomic reform measures that will support the fast tracking of congestion busting infrastructure projects and more efficient planning, tax and red tape cutting regimes to support an increase in new housing construction,” Master Builders Australia chief economist Shane Garrett said. 

The ABS data indicates that Australia’s population rose by 1.6 percent over the course of 2018. Net migration from overseas accounted for about 250,000 additional residents while the excess of births over deaths added 156,000 to the population. 

“There is a very strong linkage between inward migration to Australia and the pace of job creation. The 270,000 increase in total employment during 2018 is very similar to the figure for overseas migration,” Mr Garrett said. 

“Population and jobs growth drives construction activity right across the spectrum including for residential, offices, shops, schools and hospitals – not to mention all of the support infrastructure needed,” he said. 

“Australia’s building sector is currently facing challenges in the form of weakening economic growth and difficulties around access to finance in some parts of the market. Fast tracking the rollout of previously announced government infrastructure projects would help strengthen confidence on the ground in addition to meeting the needs of a growing population,” Mr Garrett said. 

“Master Builders estimates that between 193,850 and 201,705 new homes will need to be built each year over the coming two decades to accommodate future growth. Failing to do this will surely result in home ownership becoming an even more formidable quest for our younger generations. 

“Given that we managed to build just 173,350 dwellings per year over the past 20 years, the onus is on all tiers of government to lift their game and ensure that land supply, planning policy and taxation settings are more conducive to the delivery of the homes and buildings we will require,”  Mr Garrett said. 

During 2018, the fastest rate of population growth was in Victoria (+2.2%), followed by the ACT (+1.8%) and Queensland (+1.8%). More modest growth was recorded in NSW (+1.6%) and Tasmania (+1.2%). 

Particularly challenging economic conditions in the NT contributed to a 0.4 percent decline in its population during 2018. Population growth was quite modest in South Australia (+0.8%) and Western Australia (+0.9%).

www.masterbuilders.com.au

ends

THE Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has reminded employers that any ‘cash in hand’ payments made to workers from July 1, 2019 will not be tax deductible.

‘Cash in hand’ refers to cash payments to employees that do not comply with pay as you go (PAYG) withholding obligations. Payments made to contractors where the contractor does not provide an ABN and the business does not withhold any tax will also not be tax deductible from July 1.

Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said the new rules have a dual purpose of levelling the playing field for honest businesses that are doing the right thing by their workers as well as tackling the black economy.

“It’s fairly straight-forward: do the right thing and you can claim a deduction. Deliberately do the wrong thing and you’ll miss out on a deduction and risk being penalised," Mr Holt said.

This new measure will take effect for payments made to workers from July 1, 2019 for income tax returns lodged for the 2020 income year onwards and is part of the government’s response to recommendations from the Black Economy Taskforce.

“The Black Economy Taskforce estimates that the black economy is costing the community as much as $50 billion, which is approximately three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is money that the community is missing out on for vital public services like schools and roads.” Mr Holt said.

“Businesses that operate in the black economy are undercutting competitors and gaining a competitive advantage by not competing on an even footing."

In addition to the loss of a tax deduction, employers caught not complying with their PAYG withholding obligations may be penalised for failing to withhold and report amounts under the PAYG withholding system.

“This new measure is just one of the many ways we’re tackling the black economy," Mr Holt said.

Mr Holt said “transacting in cash is a legitimate way of doing business, and we recognise that some industries do tend to take more cash than others”.

“But when cash is used to deliberately hide income to avoid paying the correct amount of tax or superannuation it’s not only unfair, it’s illegal," Mr Holt said.

Employers who mistakenly classify their employee as a contractor will not lose their deduction where their worker provides them with an ABN. 

Mr Holt said that payers who attempt to do the right thing but make a mistake do not need to worry; they will not lose their deduction.

“Our objective is to support small business to help them get it right. But anyone caught deliberately doing the wrong thing will lose their deduction."

Mr Holt said employers that failed to withhold or report their PAYG obligations can come forward and voluntarily disclose this to the ATO before we take any compliance action. If they do they will not lose their deduction and may be entitled to reduced penalties.

If a member of the community has any knowledge or concerns about an employer paying their workers cash in hand, they can report it to the ATO online at ato.gov.au/ReportAConcern or by phone on 1800 060 062. Reports can be made anonymously. One in five of the reports we received in 2017-18 were about the black economy.

More information is available at ato.gov.au/paygwdeductions

 

About the Black Economy Taskforce

The Black Economy Taskforce was established to provide a whole-of-government approach to combat the black economy in Australia. It was established in December 2016 to develop a policy framework involving new proposals to tackle black economy activity. The Black Economy Taskforce's Final Report was released in October 2017.

The ATO plays a significant role in leading and delivering on the Black Economy Taskforce recommendations accepted by the Government. Since July 1, 2018, the ATO has coordinated an extensive program of work to tackle the black economy. This program of work includes a multi-faceted approach.

The ATO is responsible for addressing the following aspects of the black economy:

  • · under-reporting income and over-claiming expenses
  • · ensuring businesses meet their employer obligations – so they don’t pay employees or contractors cash in hand, underpay wages, fail to withhold tax or not contribute to super
  • · addressing illegal phoenixing (together with Phoenix Taskforce partner agencies) – liquidating and reforming businesses to avoid obligations
  • · preventing tax fraud
  • · dealing with illicit tobacco, duty and excise evasion
  • · targeting intermediaries and agents who enable black economy behaviour.

www.ato.gov.au

ends

REPORTS that the NSW Government has cut the budget of its tourism agency is a kick to the tourism industry and the success it has delivered the state’s economy over the past decade.

“Despite the success of our export tourism sector, which has seen international visitation to NSW more than double in the past decade, the Berejiklian Government has seen fit to make a 20 percent cut to the budget of the very organisation which supports this success,” ATEC managing director, Peter Shelley said today.

“In a fiercely competitive international tourism marketplace it is vital Australia maintains its profile and Destination NSW has been very successful in promoting NSW as a highly desirable destination.

“This is not the time to be cutting the budgets of our tourism marketing agencies and ATEC is highly concerned about how this cut will affect Destination NSW’s ability to continue to engage effective advertising campaigns in market.

“We are seeking more information from the Minister’s office on what this will mean to the industry and what impacts we should expect to roll out of this concerning move.”

www.tourismdrivesgrowth.com.au

ends

MORE THAN 400 global business leaders and senior officials from 36 countries will converge in Sydney for the 2019 World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment from today, June 17.

NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres said the three-day forum funded by the NSW Government would provide an opportunity to attract global investment to key industry precincts being developed across the State.

“The World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment has been secured for Sydney for the first time and brings global business leaders and government officials together to discuss international investment issues and opportunities,” Mr Ayres said.

Delegates will tour key investment precincts, including the Western Parkland City, Westmead Health, Education and Research Super Precinct and Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct to promote business opportunities in defence, aerospace, startup and tech, health and medtech, manufacturing, agribusiness, and education sectors.

“The investment appeal of our regions will also be championed including the Special Activation Precincts being developed in centres like Parkes and Wagga Wagga,” Mr Ayres said.

“Sydney is the ideal host for this important forum as Australia’s business capital. NSW has the  lowest unemployment rate of any state and a flourishing economy that has seen 28 years of consecutive growth.”

Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of BESydney, which secured the world forum for Sydney, said such global gatherings provide “long tail benefits” above the expenditure of delegates. 

“Forums like these help deliver on economic development goals, attract investment and talent, creating a focused time and place to form vital relationships for cross-border investment," Ms Lewis-Smith said.

The World Forum on Foreign Direct Investment is taking place from June 17-19 in Sydney. 

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THE QUEENSLAND Government’s 25 percent gas royalty hike will translate into a slug of more than $13 million a year on Queensland industry and households through higher energy costs, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said today.

 QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was likely the cost of the tax hike would be passed on directly to consumers.

“When you put up taxes someone has to pay, and in this case unfortunately that means that domestic gas users will have to reach further into their pockets,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Domestic industry and manufacturers have been struggling under the weight of higher gas bills, which can run into the millions of dollars already.

"An extra tax hit of more than $13 million a year will make Queensland manufacturers less competitive and it will have a bigger flow-on effect for other Australian businesses that rely on Queensland gas.

“Up until now the Palaszczuk Government has been taking sensible measures to supply domestic industry with affordable and reliable gas, including through domestic gas only acreage releases.

“A 25 percent gas royalty tax increase could prove to be self-inflicted economic damage.

“QRC has urged the Queensland Government to exclude domestic gas from the royalty tax increase and to delay the introduction of any gas royalty increase until January 1 2020 to address confusion about the legislation," Mr Macfarlane said.

“Under the new legislation, the tax increase is applied retrospectively to January 2019.

 “Queensland’s resources sector pays its fair share of tax and we are ready to work in close consultation with the State Government on its plan for a longer term gas royalty review.

“We are also seeking a meeting with the Treasurer to discuss a longer term freeze on coal and mineral royalty taxes.

"Queensland’s reputation as a safe place to invest depends upon stable and transparent laws and regulations and a commitment to open and good faith consultation.”

 Queensland’s oil and gas industry supports more than 39,000 full time jobs, both directly and in supporting industries, according to the QRC

www.qrc.org.au

ends

 

The Queensland Resources Council has welcomed the approval from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science for the Adani Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan.

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the finalisation of the plan meant the project could now get underway and start delivering returns to Queensland.

“Every investment in resources projects benefits all Queenslanders. Our resources sector employs more than 315,000 people, mainly in regional Queensland, and this year alone is returning $5.2 billion to the state budget,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“All Queenslanders should welcome new investments in resources projects whether they’re coal, gas or other minerals.

“The Adani Carmichael mine is one of six in the Galilee Basin that could create tens of thousands of jobs in construction and operation and deliver billions of dollars in royalties over their working life span.

“Mining jobs are typically highly skilled, high-tech and high-paying, and they support local communities across Queensland. The mining sector also provides economic returns and career opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

“Resources projects in Queensland are subjected to rigorous approval processes to ensure they proceed in a way that benefits our state and deliver world-leading environmental outcomes.

“Each project should be reviewed according to consistent requirements and on consistent timetables.

“QRC welcomes the recent decision from the Premier to ensure the Coordinator-General plays an overarching role for the approvals process, and we welcome the LNP’s commitment to a more structured approval process for mining projects.

“The Queensland Parliament should also act swiftly to reject the Greens’ job-destroying Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin) Amendment Bill 2018 (Qld) which wants to ban all mining in the Galilee.

“The Adani project has undergone eight years of planning and assessment at both the State and Commonwealth level.

“Everyone should accept this ruling and let the project proceed. Queenslanders have sent a very clear message that the stalling tactics of activists must stop.  

“Central Queenslanders and North Queenslanders are ready to get on with these jobs and deliver for our entire state.”

THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has called on the Palaszczuk Government to delay the implementation of any gas royalty increase to January 1, 2020 to allow industry and Government to work through confusion in the draft legislation. 

“As it currently stands, the 25% increase in gas royalties on domestic and export gas will damage industry viability and increase costs to the electricity and domestic processing and manufacturing sectors,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

“Increasing the cost of gas to Queensland businesses puts their viability and jobs at risk. Of particular concern is the retrospective introduction of the royalty increase to 1 January, 2019 which will be passed through as an additional charge to gas consumer companies which have already produced and sold their electricity and goods. 

“The gas industry understands its role in delivering returns for all Queenslanders, but the shock tax increase announced in this week’s budget will undo all the benefits Queensland has secured by being the only East Coast state to develop its own gas.

“We’re calling on the Premier and the Treasurer to hold off on any royalty increase until January 1 2020, instead of rushing it through the Parliament and adding to the existing confusion on domestic gas royalty impacts. 

“Currently, the legislation for the gas royalty increase risks pricing Australian LNG exports out of the international market and perversely making domestic gas more expensive for industry users here in Australia," Mr Macfarlane said.

"At the very least there should be an exemption for gas sold on the domestic market. We’re calling on the Treasurer to make that commitment as soon as possible.

“Queensland is the only East Coast state producing new gas resources to supply the domestic market. Given production in the Bass Strait is declining, that means Queensland gas will be more important than ever. 

“At the height of the East Coast gas supply squeeze, the ACCC said transport costs from Queensland to southern markets were already adding at least an extra $2 a gigajoule to the price for domestic users.

"Even though the price of gas has since come down from those peaks at which domestic users were being offered contracts at about $20 a gigajoule, nothing can reduce transport costs.

“Adding on the extra 25 percent royalty tax will mean more expensive gas for export and more expensive gas for domestic users.

“The QRC looks forward to meeting with Premier Palaszczuk and the Treasurer as soon as possible to address these significant concerns with the legislation.”

www.qrc.org.au

ends

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MANSFIELD QLD 4122