NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR NOVEMBER 2016
This has been politics at its worst. The Government conceded the 32.5% tax was probably too harsh, so was prepared to implement it at 19% on every dollar earned by a working holiday maker. Labor, the Greens and Senator Lambie scuttled it in favour of 10.5%, so the Government brought back a compromise rate of 15% thinking it had the numbers in the Senate. This time Senators Culleton (splitting from One Nation), Hinch and Leyonhjelm backed the 10.5% and again the Government in the lower house refused to accept it. Thankfully the Greens, no doubt under pressure from farmers and tourist operators, agreed to the Government’s 15% in return for a lower backpacker superannuation tax rate and additional $100 million for Landcare. It disappoints me that Labor and some crossbenchers just played politics rather than seeking an outcome.
FALLOUT FROM THE CENSUS
Following the collapse of the online census log-on system because of what is called Deliberate Denials of Service (they actually started in the morning of Census day), the Prime Minister’s cyber-security adviser conducted a review of what went wrong. The report found a succession of failures and deficiencies by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and principal contractor IBM led to the breakdown. The ABS has ackowledged it displayed poor judgment and IBM has reached a confidential settlement with the Australian Government. 96% of households completed the Census and private information was not compromised, but the adviser’s report made it clear it will be difficult for the Government to convince people it is ready for the digital area when this operation went so horribly wrong.
The ACCC has announced an inquiry into the dairy industry and is seeking feedback from industry participants. It says it will not be solely focusing on price cuts to suppliers but also considering over-supply of milk, matters affecting the renewal of contracts and the pricing of retail milk particularly in NSW and Queensland. The ACCC has also released its preliminary findings following its investigation into the transparency of the Australian beef and cattle markets. It says beef and cattle markets could be improved by the adoption of objective carcase grading, improvements to the nature and coverage of market reporting, and the implementation of a range of measures to lessen the risk of collusive and anti-competitive behaviour in saleyard auctions. The report raised concerns that there are features of saleyards auctions which make them susceptible to anti-competitive behaviour. Feedback is being sought for both inquiries at www.accc.gov.au. or contact my office.
BUILDING BETTER REGIONS FUND This new programme has been announced by Minister for Regional Development Senator Fiona Nash and has two funding streams. The Infrastructure Projects Stream will invest in projects that involve the construction of new infrastructure, or upgrade or extension of existing infrastructure that provide economic and social benefits to regional and remote areas. The Community Investments Stream will invest in local events and activities, strategic regional plans and leadership and capability building activities that provide economic and social benefits to regional and remote communities. The latter could include expanding a local Festival, attract a theatre production or major sporting event to the region to bring more visitors to the town, or it might be leadership or business training for young locals. Subject to the amount sought there could be a requirement for a co-contribution from the applicant. Further information is available at www.business.gov.au/bbrf or call 13 28 46.
VACCINES FOR FREE
People over the age of 70 are now able to get the shingles vaccine for free under a Federal government initiative. Shingles is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. It is a serious infection that has a particularly debilitating effect on older people. The vaccine is available from your doctor.
WAR ON WILD RABBITS
Rabbits cause an estimated $206 million in losses each year in agriculture. A number of sites across the nation have been chosen for a trial of a new rabbit virus known as RHDV1K5. When the last virus was released in 1995 the rabbit population had exploded to an estimated 600 million, and the virus had a devastating impact on their numbers particularly in arid areas. Rabbit populations are on the rise again so RHDV1K5 will be trialled in areas of high rabbit density and where there is the best chance of success. Across New England trials will be conducted at 71 sites.
In Round 2 base stations will be built at Baldersleigh, Koreelah, Pinkett, Mount Hourigan at Aberfoyle and Doughboy Mountain near Wongwibinda
VOLUNTEER GRANTS AVAILABLE
Numerous organisations in the New England electorate received funding this year to support volunteers who drive community groups. Applications are now open for the grants which will be announced next year. The grants are between $1,000 and $5,000 and can be used to buy equipment such as computers, train volunteers or improve fundraising efforts. Applications close on the 20th of December and further information is available at www.dss.gov.au/grants or Freecall 1800 020 283.
FREE RANGE EGGS
An information standard has been released for consultation. It requires eggs that are labelled as ‘free range’ to have been laid by hens that have meaningful and regular access to the outdoors and a maximum outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. Producers who label their eggs as ‘free range’ will be required to prominently disclose the outdoor stocking density of the hens laying the eggs and they wll be protected from court action under the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Australian Consumer Law. Details are available at www.treasury.gov.au and submissions on the standard close on the 9th of December. I welcome this latest development as certainty for egg producers who have been fearful of being prosecuted by the ACCC even though the regulator itself has admitted there has been no definitive standard.
NEW STANDARDS FOR FINANCIAL ADVISERS
Legislation to raise the education, training and ethical standards of financial advisers has been introduced into Parliament. Various parliamentary inquiries have heard of advisers giving wrong advice for their own gain and even forging clients signatures resulting in some financial institutions having to review client portfolios and make restitution. This has led to an erosion of trust in the financial advice sector and only 1 in 5 Australians seek financial advice. ASIC now hosts a register where people can see whether an adviser is appropriately qualified or has a ‘black mark’ against them. The new legislation will establish a standards body by mid-2017 and it will develop an exam and a code of ethics. These will apply from the 1st of January 2019 and existing advisers will have until January 2021 to pass the exam and until January 2024 to meet the degree-equivalent requirement.
TED MULLIGAN – 100 NOT OUT
One of the joys of this job is meeting nice people and recently I was privileged to be in the company of Ted and Iris Mulligan and their extended family at Guyra. Ted was celebrating his 100th birthday and I doubt there would be a more spritely centenarian anywhere. He has been involved in many local organisations and until two years ago he was still riding horses. I was joined by former Guyra Mayor Hans Hietbrink in presenting the keys of Guyra to Ted, and I spoke in Parliament about his life.
On behalf of Nancy and my staff Greg, Heather, Gary, Debbie and Lynne I wish everyone a happy and safe festive season.
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