NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR SEPTEMBER 2016
BAD FOR BUSINESS
A report has confirmed the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s Payments Order was bad for owner drivers in the transport industry and the Government did the right thing in abolishing it. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell conducted the inquiry and it found the Tribunal was out of touch with how the industry operated. In April this year owner drivers rallied in Canberra against the Payments Order because it made them uncompetitive on rates. The RSRT had been established by then-Employment Minister Bill Shorten in 2012 allegedly to increase safety (and to give more power to the Transport Workers Union) but the Carnell report found the Payments Order would force tens of thousands of owner drivers out of the industry. The report can be read in detail at www.asbfeo.gov.au/inquiries/impact-rsrt-payments-order/final-report.
FEDERAL ELECTION UNDER SCRUTINY
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will be asked to investigate a range of matters that have arisen as a result of the 2016 federal election. The committee will be asked to consider many aspects including the possible use of technology in casting and counting votes, donations to political parties and whether ‘truth in advertising’ provisions should be considered. I hope the role of GetUp! is thoroughly scrutinised. For a supposedly independent organisation it seems to only campaign against Coalition politicians as evidenced this year in New England.
SAME SEX PLEBISCITE
The Coalition went to the election with a pledge to hold a plebiscite on same sex marriage and legislation has been introduced into the House of Representatives. The date set is the 11th of February 2017 and Australians will be asked to vote YES or NO to the question whether the Marriage Act 1961 should be amended to allow same-sex couples to marry. Of the $170 million set aside for the process, the YES and NO campaigns will each receive $7.5 million to promote their case and these will be run by committees composed of Parliamentarians and citizens. Labor and the Greens have already said they will vote against the plebiscite in the Senate, claiming there will be homophobic attacks on those supporting the YES case. The Prime Minister best summed up the opposition when introducing the legislation – “The real reason I think many people oppose the plebiscite is because they believe that if there were to be a vote in the Parliament, a free vote in the Parliament, same-sex marriage would be supported. So they don't want to run the risk of the Australian people giving them the wrong answer.”
CITIZENSHIP TEST IN TAMWORTH
Those people wishing to take a citizenship test in the New England electorate can now take one in Tamworth at 219-223 Peel Street.
SENSIBLE SUPERANNUATION REFORMS
There was considerable anger about the superannuation reforms announced in the Budget and the Treasurer has listened. The $500,000 non-concessional lifetime limit has been shelved and replaced by a reduction in the annual (after tax) contributions cap from $180,000 to $100,000 from July next year. Only those with a balance of less than $1.6 million will be able to make non-concessional contributions. Full details are available from my office.
ACTION ON BANKING
I am pleased tosee positive movement on the financial front. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has been asked to undertake an inquiry into the adequacy of laws to address concerns raised in the PJC inquiry into the Impairment of Customer Loans. The Ombudsman will review some of the more contentious cases we considered during the inquiry to see if borrowers have been unfairly treated and what redress they have.
The CEO’s of the banks will be asked to appear before a Parliamentary committee annually to answer questions about how they treat borrowers, savers and shareholders, and the basis for their pricing decisions.
Labor’s push for a Royal Commission was defeated in the House of Representatives but was passed in the Senate. I sought leave to amend Labor’s motion to ensure that an inquiry would focus not just on the banks but also other aspects of white collar crime, and a spotlight on how Labor and the unions benefit from fees charged by industry super funds. Naturally Labor didn’t want this so they denied me leave to move my amendment, and consequently I refused to support the motion calling for a Royal Commission.
ACCC INVESTIGATES DAIRY INDUSTRY
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will look at all aspects of the dairy industry following concern at the inequities facing farmers and the actions of processors. The ACCC’s Agriculture Unit, a Nationals initiative, have the power to obtain information from companies and accept submissions confidentially. Beginning in November the inquiry will investigate sharing of risk along the supply chain, supply agreements and contracts, competition, bargaining and trading practices in the industry and the effect of world and retail prices on profitability. A report will be released in the second half of next year.
Great news to hear the change of policy that will see the working holiday makers having to pay 19 percent rather than the proposed 32.5 percent tax on earnings up to $37,000. The Nationals made it clear to our Coalition partners the Budget measure needed a re-think because of the impact it would have on our farmers and regional economies.
LIFE INSURANCE UNDER SCRUTINY
The Four Corners expose of what happens in the life insurance is still fresh in my mind. You may remember the Wee Waa man who was actually revived by his doctor, but Comminsure refused a payout because under their conditions he hadn’t had a heart attack! Or the staff member of Comminsure who was ill and was told by her boss she should resign and lodge a claim which she did, and was refused the payout! And there is the case where a deceased person’s parents attempted to get a payout, but were rejected on the grounds his balance was below a certain level yet at the same time the insurer was continuing to deduct premiums! I received the support of the Senate to establish the inquiry which will be handled by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. Submissions close on the 18th of November at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written and authorised by Senator John Williams 144 Byron Street, Inverell 2360.
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