NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR MAY 2016
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE
The Coalition has committed a further $60 million towards improving mobile phone coverage, bringing to $220 million the total investment. This funding will target priority black spots that have not previously received funding and black spots that have been overlooked by mobile network operators because they are uncommercial. In New England four sites have been announced at Copeton Dam, Fig Tree Hill south of Inverell, Kingstown and Baldersleigh west of Guyra.
The Nationals have been listened to by our Coalition partners on the Backpacker Tax proposal. In the May Budget it was announced that the tax-free threshold would be removed and from July this year backpackers would pay 32.5% tax on every dollar. As Nationals we immediately raised concerns because we know how farmers in many areas rely on backpackers at harvest time, particularly as fruit pickers. Around 40,000 of them work in agriculture each year. Farmers tell me they are reliable and keen to work unlike many unemployed Australians. The imposition of the tax has been deferred for six months as part of a review which will include what labour shortages face the agriculture and tourism industries.
VOTING ON JULY 2nd
Postal vote applications must be received by the Australian Electoral Commission by the 29th of June. For the House of Representatives you must number all squares. For the Senate above the line you can vote 1 to 6, and below the line vote 1 to 12.
OUTRAGEOUS CLAIMS BY PETA
A person representing PETA from Byron Bay has written a disgraceful letter to newspapers criticising the dairy industry and he makes the statement “humans don’t need to drink cows’ milk, and we’re healthier if we don’t”. We know that cows’ milk is universally promoted as an excellent source of calcium and a complete protein source. PETA has used the financial plight of the Victorian dairy farmers to push its radical agenda but when you realise it also wants surveillance cameras in shearing sheds and describes animals as “fellow earthlings” you get a sense how far out of step it is with ordinary people.
DAIRY ASSISTANCE PACKAGE
Back in 2011 I joined with Senators Bill Heffernan and Nick Xenophon in launching a Senate inquiry into the impacts on the dairy industry of the $1 a litre supermarket prices. That inquiry warned the $1 a litre was not sustainable and five years later it is still a contentious point. The current crisis is caused by a slump in global prices, the Russian trade embargo and surplus production in China and Europe. Dairy farmers who are contracted to Murray Goulburn and Fonterra have been told they have to accept a lower price and in the case of Murray Goulburn, told they have been overpaid! Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce immediately visited the Victorian farmers and announced an assistance package comprising concessional loans, faster access to the Farm Household Allowance and more Human Resources staff to expedite claims. Contrary to media reports the dairy farmers have not called for a levy.
The State Conference in Tweed Heads was a wonderful success. Tamworth egg producer Bede Burke was re-elected for his third term as Chairman and he is highly respected by everyone.
Written and authorised by Senator John Williams, 144 Byron Street, Inverell 2360
GIFT OF LIFE FOR COMMUNITIES
Water has been described as the gift of life and that is what Werris Creek, Quirindi and Willow Tree will receive following a $10 million grant announced by the Member for New England Barnaby Joyce. The project will involve the installation of a nine Megalitre a day water treatment plant (WTP), a raw water pump station augmentation and treated water pump station, a new main to Werris Creek, a new reservoir in Werris Creek, and a new main from WTP to Quirindi. No-one is more happy than the Mayor of Liverpool Plains Shire Council Clr. Andrew Hope who says the three towns will be drought-proofed and commended Barnaby and the Coalition government for delivering the funding.
You would think with all the negative publicity surrounding the way 7-ELEVEN has treated its employees it would make every attempt to be transparent in its compensation programme. Instead it has dispensed with the panel headed by the respected Professor Allan Fels and will take the assessments for back pay in-house. Is it cynical to suggest 7-ELEVEN is more concerned about limiting the payouts than looking after those employees who have been grossly underpaid? I have written to the Fair Work Ombudsman asking that he scrutinise this new process to ensure the company does not escape its obligations. The Coalition has announced that if re-elected it will seek to introduce stronger protections for workers by increasing the penalties that apply to employers who underpay employees and who fail to keep accurate employment records. Central to this is the establishment of a Migrant Workers Taskforce that will target employers who exploit migrant workers.
INVERELL BUSINESS AWARDS
Unfortunately I could not attend this year’s awards as the Nationals State Conference was on at the same time. A big crowd saw Regional Finance Solutions named Inverell’s Best Business, Grant Walker named Employee of the Year, Britt Turner-Conley was Young Employee, the Kurrajongs Re-enactment Committee was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award and Dylan Sunderland followed in the footsteps of his uncle Scott in being named Sportsman of the Year for cycling. Many other awards were presented during the night which again highlighted the strength of Inverell’s business sector.
COUNTRYMINDED GETS IT WRONG
In an attempt to get a cheap headline the CountryMinded Queensland Senate candidate has made incorrect claims about wheat growers losing money because of alleged inaction by the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. Minister Joyce approved a grant of $3.5 million in 2014 to the Grains Research and Development Corporation to fund industry-good projects for the export wheat sector, including wheat stocks reporting. A Reporting System was trialled and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is now considering alternative approaches after some stakeholders requested changes. Minister Joyce has also asked the Department to consider options for a mandatory reporting scheme.
FINANCE FOR SMALL BUSINESS
Sixty percent of small businesses fail within three years for a variety of reasons but principally poor management and inadequate cash flow. In an effort to improve their image and relationship with customers, banks have developed a website that explains what banks look for in assessing loan applications. They make the point that before applying for a loan a business must decide if debt finance is right for them. Groups such as the Council of Small Business and NSW Business Chamber have had input into the website which is www.financingyoursmallbusiness.com.au
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