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Big Four banks agree to new small business contracts

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CHANGES in bank contracts with small business people would boost the economy and be a feather in the ombudsman’s small business cap, according to the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA).

COSBOA today congratulated the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) and her staff, as well as the Australian Bankers Association on a ground-breaking agreement for processing contracts and inclusions for small business people.

Peter Strong, CEO, COSBOA commented on the impact of these changes for small business people ahead of the Vodafone National Small Business Summit which takes place this week, 23-25 August in Melbourne.

“It’s taken longer than it should have done, but the big four banks have finally agreed to eliminate unfair terms from their contracts. Small business people are now safe from banks unilaterally changing loan contracts. Good on the banks," Mr Strong said.

“Unfair contracts legislation came into effect in November last year and banks were very slow to comply. But thanks to the work of Ombudsman Kate Carnell and her team, there are now important protections for small business customers,” said Mr Strong.

COSBOA notes that banks can no longer call in a default for an unspecified negative change in circumstances of a small business customer. In addition, banks are now able to vary contracts only in specific circumstances.

“These are basic rights that individual customers have had for a long time. It was unfair that small business people were at the mercy of decision from banks that were able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The changes are a positive step for business and for the health of our economy,” added Mr Strong.

“The other big change is the new maximum threshold for the changes to take effect which is now $3 million, well up from the $300,000 set for other contracts. This is much more reflective of the real situation in the small business finance space, we do not want to appear greedy, we’d like it to be $5 million, but $3 million is a great leap forward.

“It is important that we acknowledge the work of the Australian Bankers Association who have supported changes in contract inclusions,” concluded Mr Strong.

Finally, it is worth noting the presence of an Ombudsman for small business people, along with the State Small Business Commissioners, has not had a negative impact on big business but indeed has had a positive impact on small business people and the economy. 

It is interesting that all the staff of the Ombudsman and commissioners understand small business as people and its wider importance to the economy. Not many agencies have that situation as there always seems to be some ideologue, or some 1990s laissez-faire economist in other government agencies who hold back progress and good regulation.

Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman; Judy O’Connell, Victorian Small Business Commissioner and Anna Bligh, CEO of Australian Banking Association will speak at the Vodafone National Small Business Summit, 23-25 August 2017 at the Events Centre Collins Square, Melbourne. 

Registrations are open for the Vodafone National Small Business Summit. For more information please visit: www.cosboansbs.com.au  

#NSBS17

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Payment times improve but more needs to be done

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has welcomed new data which shows that late payment performance is beginning to improve.

The latest Dun & Bradstreet report shows that late payments fell during the second quarter of 2017 by 4.6 percent, while prompt payments rose sharply.

On average, 63.8 percent of Australian businesses paid their bills on time.

However, just 12 per cent of ASX-listed companies pay on time compared with almost 34 percent of non-ASX-listed companies.

“This is very disappointing as public companies should be leading by example,” Ms Carnell said.

“It’s pleasing that some progress has been made since the ASBFEO inquiry into payment times and practices reported in March but more needs to be done.

“One of the biggest issues facing small business is delayed payments by big business and governments.

“Cash flow is king to small business; late payments can be the difference between success and insolvency.

“Overseas jurisdictions have demonstrated that faster payments through supply chains will free up cash flow and stimulate investment, jobs and growth.”

Ms Carnell said the Dun & Bradstreet report also reveals that Western Australia has the slowest payment times and the worst-performing sectors are wholesaling and manufacturing.

She said ASBFEO is developing a National Payment Transparency Register to publish businesses payment times and practices rated against a benchmark for good and bad performers.

The Business Council of Australia has established the Australian Supplier Payment Code – a voluntary, industry-led initiative.

For government payments, Ms Carnell said she would continue to push for 15-day payment terms.

“I’m encouraged the NSW Government has undertaken to investigate this,” she said.

View the Dun & Bradstreet report online.

 

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Court of Appeal dismisses activist’s claim

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QUEENSLAND Resources Council (QRC) Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the opening of the vast rich coal deposits in the Galilee Basin edged forward today with another dismissal of an activist’s challenge in the Court of Appeal.

The proceedings were brought against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine project and the State Government from a member of the Wangan and Jagalingou people over the granting of Adani’s mining lease.

"It’s no surprise the court action was dismissed as it is just another in the long line of vexatious legal suits that hold back regional economies. Ten local government areas across central and northern Queensland are desperate for the economic investment this project will generate," Mr Macfarlane said.

"For every year, the Adani Carmichael coal mine project is delayed, Queensland misses out on $185 million in royalties, which would pay for 2,900 extra nurses or 3,350 extra police officers or 3,400 extra teachers. Exporting resources helps to fund essential services and they are a significant driver of growth, in 2015/16 the industry contributed $55.7 billion to the state’s economy.

"The appeal by Adrian Burragubba is merely a tactic of the anti-coal brigade and is straight out of the activists’ playbook. It’s all about disrupting and delaying new projects in the hope that the investor will give up and walk away and in so doing, denying regional Queensland thousands of desperately needed jobs.

"With coal prices strong, we need to get this project out of the courts and into construction."

www,qrc.org.au

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Is Telstra’s regional monopoly holding back small business growth?

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ACCORDING to telecommunications and small business experts, ahead of the Vodafone National Small Business Summit in Melbourne this week, Telstra’s regional monopoly is holding small business growth back.

On the agenda at the Summit will be how domestic mobile roaming is Australia’s best opportunity to drive mobile coverage expansion in regional areas.

Currently, Telstra holds a taxpayer-funded mobile monopoly in vast areas of regional Australia. The Summit hosted by the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) will support the right for regional businesses to have the same coverage enjoyed by their metropolitan counterparts.

The introduction of domestic mobile roaming would allow all Australians to use their mobile wherever coverage exists, regardless of their provider. This removes the need for multiple carriers to duplicate infrastructure in regional areas, so that carriers, governments and communities could co-invest in one expanded, shared set of infrastructure which delivers new coverage. 

Dan Lloyd, Chief Strategy Officer and Corporate Affairs Director, Vodafone will champion the call at the Summit to improve coverage, competition and choice in regional areas.

“Domestic roaming would be a game changer for small businesses in regional Australia, unlocking enormous opportunities for innovation, productivity and growth through improved mobile coverage and competition.

“Telstra’s regional mobile network is the network taxpayers built, with around $2 billion in government funding and subsidies given to Telstra since 2006. All small businesses in regional Australia should be able to benefit from taxpayers’ investment, instead of being stung with Telstra’s price premium,” said Mr Lloyd.

Domestic mobile roaming has proved successful in similar countries around the world.

“Mobile roaming has been effectively regulated in virtually every other western country with similar challenges of large land area and low population density – the USA, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Spain. It should be a no-brainer for Australia,” concluded Mr Lloyd.

Small business advocate, Peter Strong, CEO of Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) supports Mr Lloyd’s call for increased competition through domestic mobile roaming

“Small businesses across the country would benefit from increased competition in the rural telecommunications. Sector competition encourages product improvement and lower costs, both which rural small business people and consumers alike would welcome,” said Mr Strong.

Mr Lloyd will join senior politicians and industry leaders at Australia’s premier small business policy event to discuss key issues facing small business in Australia, including banking payments, cyber security, the digital economy, regulation red-tapeand more.

Key speakers include:

  • Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition
  • Josh Frydenberg MP, Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy
  • Michael McCormack MP, Federal Minister for Small Business
  • Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
  • Anna Bligh, CEO, Australian Bankers Association
  • Dan Lloyd, Chief Strategy Officer and Corporate Affairs Director, Vodafone
  • Richard Flanagan, Head of Business Marketing, Google Australia and New Zealand
  • Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council Australia 

Vodafone is partnering with COSBOA to host the Vodafone National Small Business Summit, Australia’s premier policy event for small business representatives, government and industry leaders which will take place in Melbourne, 23-25 August 2017.

Registrations are open for the Vodafone National Small Business Summit. For more information please visit: www.cosboansbs.com.au

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Sydney striding towards a sustainable future

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SYDNEY'S population is now north of 5 million people and growth is projected to continue. Its expanding population will test the capacity of key infrastructure including transportation, water, energy and waste treatment facilities. Innovative methods will be needed to meet greater demand.

The Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities is investigating the Australian Government’s role in addressing these issues. It will conduct site inspections in Sydney next week, to examine examples of environmentally and socially sustainable urban design, and to talk to thought leaders at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Committee Chair, John Alexander OAM MP, said Sydney is already making strides towards a more environmentally sustainable urban form, capable of accommodating an increasing population.

“A lot of people in Sydney are aware of these issues and are identifying innovative solutions,” Mr Alexander said.

“The city is a global leader with pioneering urban renewal projects, like Barangaroo, which will be the first ‘climate positive’ precinct in the world when it is completed.

“Our inquiry will look at development and other activities occurring in Sydney with a view to identifying a role for the Commonwealth Government in facilitating long term city planning to address these issues.”

‘Smart cities’ will be on the agenda at the hearing. The Downer Group describes smart cities as efficient, liveable, and economically, socially and environmentally sustainable cities, which “take static infrastructure and services, and make them smart, to empower people and improve their standard of living”.

“While the cost of building smart infrastructure can be more expensive to build, there is huge value to be gained through operational efficiency and improved customer outcomes”, the Downer Group suggested.

 

Public hearing details: 9.00 am – 3.00 pm, Tuesday 22 August, Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament

9.00 am: Green Building Council of Australia
9.40 am: Consult Australia
10.40 am: Sue Holliday
11.20 am: Total Environment Centre
12.00 pm: Lunch
12:50 pm: Downer Group
1.30 pm: Committee for Sydney
2.10 pm: IoT Alliance Australia
3.00 pm: Close

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

Further information on the inquiry, including the full terms of reference, is available on the Committee website.

 Interested members of the public may wish to track the inquiry via the Committee’s website.

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