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Committee to investigate supply chain transparency

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THE Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will hear from a range of key organisations and businesses at a public hearing on Friday 23 June 2017 for its inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, launched in February 2017.

The Sub-Committee is investigating whether elements of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 could be introduced in Australia, particularly the UK requirement for businesses and organisations to report on how they ensure their global supply chains are free of slavery and human trafficking.

Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub‑Committee, Chris Crewther MP, said the sub-committee welcomed the opportunity to meet with a range of organisations involved in combatting modern slavery in Australia and around the world, including the Walk Free Foundation, Anti-Slavery Australia and the Salvation Army.

“The Sub-Committee looks forward to hearing about the important work undertaken by these organisations to combat modern slavery, and to investigate how Australian businesses are currently addressing the risks of slavery and trafficking in their global supply chains,” Mr Crewther said.

Public hearing details: 9:15 am to 5:00 pm, Friday 23 June, Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website.

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Activism pays off - in the price of your power bill, says QRC chief

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THE anti-gas green activist campaign has hobbled development in the southern states and is a significant factor in pushing electricity prices up, Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane has claimed.

"Yesterday the federal government made the extraordinary announcement that it would intervene in the free market due to a shortage of gas in the east coast market, which has led to skyrocketing power bills for households and businesses," Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane said it was mind-boggling that foreign- funded green activists had influenced energy policy in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory, leading to gas shortages, blackouts and electricity prices going through the roof.

“New South Wales has excellent gas deposits that haven’t been developed because state politicians have buckled in the face of the relentless anti-gas green activist campaign,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Short-sighted NSW only produces about 5 percent of the gas supply it needs, which means it relies on other states like Queensland for its supply so households and businesses can keep this lights on.

“While NSW is in a state of gas panic, they expect Queensland to keep sending our maroon gas molecules south to keep their lights on at ANZ stadium tonight.

“But NSW is not alone, Victoria has a moratorium on all onshore gas, the South Australian Liberal opposition has pledged a gas ban, and the Northern Territory has a temporary moratorium.”

It is important to remember the gas export hub at Gladstone was approved because there was an expectation that NSW would go ahead and develop its own gas, but due to extreme green activist campaigns, NSW gas has been left in the ground, leaving the east coast in a state of panic over out-of-control prices for electricity and gas, Mr Macfarlane said.

www.qrc.org.au

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Driverless vehicles inquiry motors on

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SAFETY, employment, legal concerns, public transport, infrastructure needs, access and equity and Australia’s role in driverless vehicle technology – all topics are on the table as the parliamentary driverless vehicle inquiry holds its final public hearing in Canberra this morning.

The Industry, Innovations, Science and Resources Committee will be hearing from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as it wraps up its public hearings for its inquiry into the social impacts of driverless vehicles.

The Committee has heard from 30 organisations and individual witnesses and held four inspections over the course of the inquiry.

Committee Chair Michelle Landry MP commented that members of the Committee were looking forward to being able to follow up with the two departments on some of the questions that have arisen throughout the inquiry.

“We have heard from a wide range of stakeholders – from manufacturers, regulators, industry groups, academics and many others – about the social issues relating to driverless vehicles," Ms Landry said. 

"Today we will get the chance to discuss some of the issues we’ve heard about with representatives of the Commonwealth departments responsible for infrastructure and industry and innovation.”

Public hearing details: 10.45am – 12.30pm, Wednesday 21 June, Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website

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Law Council to discuss Brexit and UK trade

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HOW should Brexit affect the work of Australian lawyers in the United Kingdom? At a hearing in Canberra today, the Law Council of Australia will have its say.

The Trade Sub-Committee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will hear from the Law Council at a public hearing today for its inquiry into Australia’s trade and investment relationship with the United Kingdom.

The Law Council, which is the peak representative body for the Australian legal profession, believes the decision by the UK to leave the European Union should not diminish the current level of access for Australian lawyers into the UK and should potentially expand access.

The Law Council’s submission says any proposed trade agreement with the UK should recognise the importance of multi-jurisdictional legal services in facilitating two-way trade and investment without costly legal disputes and possible failure. It supported the free movement of legal service providers from Australia and the UK.

The submission also raises concerns that as a consequence of Brexit, Australian legal firms and lawyers may no longer be in a position to recommend their clients to set up companies in the UK under the laws of England and Wales due to the uncertainties of post-Brexit trading rules and tariffs when trading with the EU.

Public hearing details: 10:05am - 11:00am, Wednesday 21 June, Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website

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Small businesses encouraged to claim instant asset write-off

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has encouraged small business operators to take advantage of the Government’s instant asset write-off extension.

More businesses are now eligible to buy equipment (new or second hand) up to $20,000 and write it off immediately after legislation passed the Senate. Multiple claims can be made under the program.

Small business has also been redefined for tax purposes as having a turnover less than $10 million, up from $2 million.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the changes.

“The instant asset write-off program enables small business to immediately deduct assets costing less than $20,000 instead of claiming deductions over a number of years,” she said.

“This is a welcome incentive for small business to invest, which provides benefits for the broader economy and employment.”

Ms Carnell said anecdotal evidence suggested only a small proportion of eligible businesses were taking advantage of the opportunity.

“I encourage small business operators to invest before June 30 and claim the tax deduction,” she said.

Assets that cost $20,000 or more can't be immediately deducted.

Ms Carnell said small businesses in some industries would generally require assets above the $20,000 threshold.

“Effectively, this means that some industries are disadvantaged,” she said.

“It makes more sense for the threshold to be raised so that all businesses can benefit, upgrade their assets and continue to grow to benefit the economy.

“I will continue to urge the Government to lift the $20,000 threshold because for some industries, like farming, it’s too low for them to purchase equipment.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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