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Retail alliance group calls for urgent action on the GST threshold ahead of Hockey's meetings

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RETAIL industry alliance the Australian Traders Group (ATG) members lead by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) have met with senior State and Federal Government Treasurers over recent weeks on the low value overseas GST collection issue.

Spokesperson for the group and Australian Retailers Association (ARA) Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the ATG has been in discussions with government and opposition MPs, emphasizing the urgent need for collection on LVIT.

ARA members have directly raised the issue of overseas GST collection with the Prime Minister in discussions over recent weeks.

“We are also in discussions with state government treasurers, officers and federal government ministers to get this issue finally resolved.

“The ATG industry groups fully support NSW Treasurer Mike Baird in his call for the LVIT issue to be fixed as soon as possible. Mr Baird has been pushing for reform on the low-value threshold on GST for online overseas purchases for a long time, and we are pleased to see that online shopping purchases worth less than $1000 will finally be on the agenda when Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey meets his state and territory counterparts this week.

“It is now up to the states and territories to make a case for changes to the goods and services tax (GST). The ARA and ATG members see Australian based online and traditional stores disadvantaged with the current arrangements and with various low cost collection methods on the table, there should be little standing in the way of collection of the tax through a number of methods.

“We want to level the playing field for online Australian retailers who have to charge GST while their overseas competitors do not. If a reduction to $20 in the threshold from the current $1000 collection rate was implemented, around $1 billion GST could be collected in the 2014-15 financial year, according to last year’s LVIT Taskforce report,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The Australian Traders Group (ATG) comprises the following industry bodies: Australian Retailers Association, Australian Booksellers Association, Bicycle Industries Australia, Photo Marketing Association, Australian Music Association, Photo Imaging Council of Australia, Retail Cycle Traders Australia (Inc), Australian Toy Association, Australian Sporting Goods Association, Franchise Council of Australia and Snowsports Industries of Australia.

Since 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has been the peak industry body representing Australia’s $258 billion retail sector, which employs over 1.2 million people. The ARA ensures retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 5,000 independent and national retail members throughout Australia.

Visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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Mantra Group to manage Soul Surfers Paradise

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Australia’s largest resort operator, Mantra Group, has been appointed to manage apartment letting at the iconic Soul development in Surfers Paradise.

Mantra Group will manage the property as Soul Surfers Paradise to capitalise on the market presence the Soul name enjoys. The change in management will take place in early November. 

Mantra Group is the most experienced operator of integrated and mixed use properties in Australia. Their appointment and the strategic branding approach will ensure investors not only benefit from the continued market presence of the Soul brand but also the powerful distribution platforms that Mantra Group employs.

Bob East, Mantra Group CEO said he looked forward to taking Soul Surfers Paradise to an even greater level of distinction, "Soul Surfers Paradise is a very exciting addition to our network. The property is already recognised as an outstanding development and our vision is for Soul to be considered one of the most iconic and successful integrated beachside properties in Australia."

Soul is an impressive 77 level tower located on the corner of Cavill Ave and The Esplanade, Surfers Paradise. Developed by Juniper, the development – including the apartment letting business - was placed into receivership in October 2012.

Receiver and Manager Michael Fung of PwC said the management appointment of Mantra Group is a strategic step in the ongoing evolution of the Soul development,  "Mantra Group is recognised as having extensive experience in managing strata titled properties. It has successfully operated beachside locations throughout Australia. We are confident that Mantra Group will maximise returns to owners while delivering the five-star experience that Soul has to offer.

“The Soul development is already recognised as a unique and prestigious five-star property Australia-wide and internationally. By operating the apartment letting business as Soul Surfers Paradise, Mantra Group can utilise its expertise to capitalise on Soul’s current profile in the market.”

All two and three bedroom apartments at Soul Surfers Paradise enjoy spectacular unobstructed ocean views, spacious floor plans, exceptional finishes, beautifully integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, superb colour palates, and exclusive fittings.

Soul's acclaimed two-hatted restaurant, Seaduction, has its own wine-tasting room and private dining room and bar, while the vibrant retail precinct offers excellent onsite shopping and dining. For business and entertaining, Soul incorporates well-appointed conference and meeting rooms to host special events of all kinds, including weddings and other celebrations.

A world class array of facilities are on offer for guests, including multiple pool areas surrounded by sun lounges and day beds; spa, sauna and steam rooms; an oasis of tropical gardens and water features; a superbly equipped gymnasium, plus outdoor exercise and recreation facilities.

Mantra Group is a leading manager and marketer of hotels and resorts in Australia and New Zealand with its first foray into Asia being the opening of Mantra Nusa Dua, Bali in March 2013. The Group owns and operates three well-known and trusted brands – Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree - with over 114 properties and 15,000 rooms under management.

www.soul.com.au

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City bike lane work deferral is valid: VECCI

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CONTINUING discussions by the Melbourne City Council about the validity of a bike lane on St Kilda Road and Princes Bridge are important to avoid congestion on one of the city’s key transport routes, says VECCI.

VECCI Executive Director of Policy Richard Clancy says, “We are concerned about the serious impact to traffic flow that closing a lane on this high-traffic route will cause.

“We are hearing reports from the trial that congestion has definitely increased and this is exactly what businesses operating in and around the city, and transport businesses and the like, have continually raised concern about since the proposal surfaced.

“We think it is better to offer a separate bike lane or seek some other solution rather than removing a lane very regularly frequented by high traffic volumes.

“We encourage the Melbourne City Council to consider all options in making the best transport networks for all commuters in the Melbourne CBD.”

www.vecci.org.au

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) is the peak body for employers in Victoria, informing and servicing more than 15,000 members, customers and clients around the state.

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VECCI: Station Pier picket line ‘totally unacceptable’

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VECCI welcomes the orders of the Supreme Court of Victoria preventing the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from hindering access to and from the Qube site at Station Pier.

The peak business body says it is however concerned that yet another Victorian business has had to resort to court action just so it can go about it normal operations.

“Qube has been forced to undertake costly legal action to ensure it can move its freight,” says VECCI Executive Director of Policy Richard Clancy.

“The evidence before the court was that a picket line at Station Pier was having a serious impact on the movement of freight between Victoria and Tasmania and that third parties were incurring substantial losses as a result.

“This is totally unacceptable.

“In recent months there have been court orders in response to picket line activity at Grocon, Little Creatures and now Qube. Everybody has the right to be able to freely access their place of work. Everybody has an obligation to act lawfully and comply with court orders.

“If the dispute between Qube and the MUA concerns the dismissal of certain workers, those workers have legal avenues they can pursue. There is no justification for a disruptive and costly picket line in such circumstances.”

www.vecci.org.au

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Views sought on draft VET pricing report

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THE Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is seeking input from the business community before finalising its draft recommendations on price and fee setting for government-funded VET under Smart and Skilled to apply from July 2014.

IPART’s draft recommendations propose base prices for each qualification according to the efficient cost of providing the training, with government funding 60% of the base price for courses on the Skills List, and students paying 40%.

IPART is proposing that this approach should apply to all student fees, including apprentice and new entrant trainee fees.

This will ensure the level of government subsidy provided to VET students is equitable. Under this proposal, 16% of students that pay the standard fee would see a fee decrease, while around 24% would face increases of up to $500 per qualification (or $250 per year).

A further 37% would face increases of between $500 to $1500 per qualification (or $250 and $750 per year).

Around 22% of students studying in high cost areas will face increases of more than $1,500 per qualification or around $750 per year.

Apprentices and trainees may face larger fee increases than other students because their current fees are much heavily subsidised, particularly if they are undertaking a higher level qualification in a technical or trade-based industry where training costs are relatively high.

Fees for almost all apprentices and about two-thirds of trainees will increase by $1,000 or more per qualification, or $379 per year for a 3.5 year course, and we have recommended that fee increases for apprentices and trainees be initially capped at $3,000 per qualification to ensure that no individual student faces a higher fee increase than this.

In the subsequent years, this cap should be increased by $1,000 per year until the fee reaches a level that reflects 40% of the base price IPART Chairman, Dr Peter Boxall, said the proposed approach seeks to balance the affordability and availability of VET in NSW.

“While we anticipate that trainees, apprentices and employers will have concerns about fee increases, setting fees lower than 40% will reduce the number of government-subsidised VET places that can be made available in NSW,” Dr Boxall said.

“We estimate that, without fee increases, the NSW Government would provide around 61,000 fewer subsidised VET places in 2014/15, compared to if fees are increased, and we are interested in stakeholder views about whether this is the right balance between affordability and availability.”

IPART has also recommended fees for students receiving a concession. They will vary by qualification level – ranging from $100 for a Foundation course to $500 for Diploma or Advanced Diploma.

Submissions are being sought until 27 August, with IPART due to finalise its recommendations to the NSW Government in September.

The IPART review is occurring alongside the development of the NSW Skills List by the Department of Education and Communities that will determine which courses and qualifications receive government funding.

Under Smart and Skilled, fees would be applied equally across TAFE and registered private providers, with final prices to be set by the NSW Government based on both IPART’s recommendations and the NSW Skills List that is being developed by the Department of Education and Communities.

The Draft Report is available on IPART’s website or by calling 9290 8435.

www.ipart.nsw.gov.au

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