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Sort out power plans before SMEs close up shop urges ASBFEO

THE AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has called for a bipartisan approach to energy policy to avoid job losses and business closures.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the small business sector faces being crippled by rising electricity costs and reduced reliability if the status quo remains.  

Ms Carnell said both sides of politics should endorse the Finkel Report and adopt its recommendations.

"Business as usual is no longer an option. Business as usual is lack of reliable power and exponential price increases," Ms Carnell said.

"If Parliament obfuscates and refuses to get behind Finkel it will cause small business closures and job losses, it's that simple.

"What we've seen up until now is a perception from both sides that there are more political brownie points in shooting down the other side than there is in coming up with a solution.

"The most important issue here is that support from all sides of politics for Finkel gives investment confidence," she said.

"These investments are long term. You don't invest in power for two, three or five years.

"It's for the long term and investors need confidence there's not going to be another change of policy when there's a change of government."

Ms Carnell said the Finkel Report provides a framework that's not technology specific. It doesn't rule in or out any form of generation.

"The report's whole focus is it allows any technology to occur inside certain parameters of emissions," she said.

"It would allow a current coal-fired power station to be upgraded significantly to make it more carbon efficient, but it also gives rewards for low-emissions technology.

"There are no penalties but there are rewards. It's not a carbon tax because no revenue flows to government.

"We understand there are a number of projects ready to go. Without confidence that there won't be policy change the investors are not willing to take the risk, which is totally understandable," Ms Carnell said.

"The major issue right now is investor confidence."

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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New foreign investor 'ghost house' tax will not help domestic affordability - QUT research

ABOUT 300,000 vacant dwellings across Australia will be unaffected by the Federal Budget’s new ‘ghost house’ tax on foreign investors. The tax will "do nothing" to increase housing affordability according to a property researcher from Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

QUT property economist Andrea Blake claimed Australia’s empty housing stock was an overlooked resource in an era of high demand for affordable housing. 

“Some inner city apartment developments have more foreign investors (20 percent) than domestic owner occupiers (19 percent)," Dr Blake said.

“While I welcome a vacant house levy being applied to foreign investors as a mechanism to support other affordable housing initiatives, this new tax will do nothing to help the current issues.

“This levy will affect only applications for foreign investment made after 7.30pm on May 9, 2017, rather than the more than quarter of a million dwellings we have going empty.

"The $5,000 per annum tax is unlikely to deter an overseas investor. The only thing it could do is put more money into the pot for other housing initiatives.

"Another issue could be determining that an apartment is vacant and ensuring compliance," Dr Blake said.

“Foreign investment in inner and near city markets has driven supply and pushed real estate prices up while much-needed rental and housing stock from the market goes empty when we have a severe affordable housing shortage.”

Dr Blake said the impact of foreign investment on property values in the inner Brisbane apartment markets had caused much debate.

 “In markets such as Hamilton and West End we have seen a price drop of up to 30 percent on apartments bought in 2011," she said.

“This is because strong foreign investment has created a two-tier market -- prices for off-the-plan sales are undoubtedly linked to foreign investment and would not be sustainable at the volume or prices for the domestic market alone.

“Consequently the impact has been felt by the second tier of the two-tier market -- domestic buyers.

“The reasons foreign investors buy in Australia are varied. For some purchasers it is part of a future lifestyle plan and so the apartments are left unoccupied, and, in many cases, not even furnished.

“These apartments still deteriorate and bring down the value of the other apartments in the complex, causing owner occupiers and those who do rent out their properties some distress.”

www.qut.edu.au

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Tax cut will deliver 'relief to small business heavy lifters' - ASBFEO

THE highly anticipated tax cut for small businesses will provide "much needed relief for mum-and-dad owners" according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell, citing the agency's latest report.

The report highlighted that the amount of tax paid by the small business sector overall has increased, while the contribution made by big business has fallen. 

The ASBFEO’s Small Business Counts statistics report, released on March 29, includes ATO figures showing the small business share of company tax revenue has increased two percent in recent years, while input from the big business sector has fallen three percent. 

“A healthy small business sector is a prerequisite for a growing economy; there’s no doubt small businesses are doing their fair share when it comes to paying tax, not to mention creating job opportunities,” Ms Carnell said.

“The Federal Government’s foreshadowed company tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million will give 99 per cent of Australian businesses a tax reduction, and will provide a much needed shot in the arm for the sector’s growth prospects, enhancing the ability of small businesses to employ,” she said.

Compiled over the past 12 months, the ASBFEO statistics report brings together data and analysis from a range of sources including the ATO, ABS and Austrade, and has been released to mark the office’s one year anniversary.

“This report provides a unique insight into the sector; it ultimately reinforces the size and importance of the small businesses to the Australian economy, and outlines its growing diversity,” Ms Carnell said.

Among the report’s findings, Ms Carnell said the number of small businesses currently venturing into offshore markets is on the rise. 

“Encouragingly, ABS data shows more and more small businesses are entering export markets, with 44 per cent of goods-exporting firms classified as small business,” Ms Carnell said.

“Many are also entering the global market place at an early stage of their development, giving rise to the ‘born-global’ phenomenon,” she said.

Ms Carnell said while many small businesses are at the cutting edge of innovation, she’d like to see more small businesses go down this path.

“Our report highlights ABS data showing small business accounts for 17 per cent of business expenditure on R&D; while this is encouraging, it’s a figure I think the sector can – and will – build upon, particularly as more small businesses realise the benefits of entering into strategic partnerships with larger companies, especially in industries like defence,” Ms Carnell said.

Ms Carnell said the purpose of the report is to be a resource for governments, public policy makers and researchers that will improve their knowledge and understanding of the Australian small business sector.

“We’re inviting feedback on the report and welcome comment from small business and others on how we can ensure this document is the go-to publication for small business stats in Australia,” Ms Carnell said.

The full report can be found on the ASBFEO website: www.asbfeo.gov.au where a feedback form is also available.

SMALL BUSINESS STATISTICS AT A GLANCE

  • Over nine in 10 Australian businesses are small businesses;
  • Small businesses account for over 33 percent of Australia’s GDP;
  • Small businesses employ over 40 percent of Australia’s workforce;
  • Small businesses pay around 12 percent of total company tax revenue;
  • 30 percent of small businesses engage in product innovation;
  • Small businesses account for 17 percent of business expenditure on R&D;
  • 44 percent of goods-exporting firms are small businesses;
  • 34 percent of business managers/owners are women.

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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New inbound tourism record boosts Australia: 8 million

AUSTRALIA has, for the first time, enticed more than eight million international tourists over the last 12 months, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The acceleration of international visitors has been dramatic, with the eight million mark being reached just 18 months after visitor numbers eclipsed seven million annually.

In contrast, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five million to six million. 

“Since 2013, growth in the tourism industry has supercharged with visitor numbers breaking the six, seven, and now eight million mark,” Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said.

“This rapid rise has come on the back of strong Coalition Government support for the tourism industry. The tourism industry is growing three times faster under the Coalition Government than it was under the previous Labor Government.”

Mr Ciobo said the Federal Government’s support for the tourism industry “hasn’t happened by accident”

There have been some key changes to the sector, credited with helping to boost inbound tourism, including a lowering of the value of the Australian dollar in recent years.

Mr Ciobo said one factor hardly remembered was the removal of the former Labor Government’s carbon tax “which slugged the tourism sector over $115 million in its first year alone”.

He said the previous governments cuts to the Tourism Australia budget were reversed into a record $639 million spend on Tourism Australia to promote Australia internationally.

There have also been several practical moves, including increasing the number of markets that have access to online visa lodgement from 72 to more than 200, including China, India and Indonesia.

The Government has also announced a new 10-year multiple entry visitor visa to encourage repeat visitation from China and made visa applications available online in Simplified Chinese – the first time Australia has trialled visa application lodgement in a language other than English.

Perhaps just as importantly, Australia has expanded international aviation capacity, including a tripling of gateway capacity between Australia and China.

“To drive further growth from our largest tourism market the Prime Minister and Chinese President have jointly designated 2017 as the Australia-China Year of Tourism,” Mr Ciobo said.

www.dfat.gov.au

www.tourismaustralia.com

 

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