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Draft legislation and regulations – enhanced FinTech regulatory sandbox

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THE Federal Government has today released exposure draft legislation and regulations to create an enhanced regulatory sandbox to support innovation in financial services.

This proposed legislative package will be a game changer for competition in the financial services sector and continues the Turnbull Government's strong support of Australian FinTech which has helped Australia become the second largest alternative finance market in the Asia-Pacific.

As announced in the 2017-18 Budget, the FinTech regulatory sandbox will allow a broad scope of activities to be tested without the need to meet all the existing licensing requirements of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The enhanced regulatory sandbox will help firms overcome the initial regulatory burden and costs of licensing that may otherwise hinder innovative offerings.

This is an exciting opportunity that will further cement Australia's position as a leading FinTech hub in the Asia‑Pacific.

Under the Government's legislative framework, firms can test a wider range of new and innovative FinTech products and services, including:

  • providing holistic financial advice in relation to superannuation, life insurance and domestic and international securities;
  • issuing and facilitating consumer credit;
  • issuing non-cash payment products; and
  • providing a crowd-funding service.

The 24‑month testing timeframe will improve firms' ability to evaluate the commercial viability of new concepts, promoting greater competition and delivering more choice for Australian consumers.

Firms will need to adhere to robust consumer protections and disclosure requirements including responsible lending obligations, best interests duty, and the need for adequate compensation and dispute resolution arrangements.

The exposure drafts and explanatory material are available on the Treasury website.

Consultation on the draft legislation (and explanatory memorandum) is open until 3 November 2017, and on the draft regulations (and explanatory statement) until 1 December 2017.

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$50m to help land managers farm smarter

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FARMERS, fishers, community and industry groups can apply for grants of between $5,000 and $100,000 to assist them to protect and improve the condition of soil, vegetation and biodiversity and support agricultural systems to adapt to change.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, called for applications for the competitive $50 million Smart Farms Small Grants, through the National Landcare Program, which opens on 24 October 2017.

"Our farmers take immense pride in managing their land to ensure they can pass on productive and healthy land to the next generation of farmers," Minister Joyce said.

"Significant technological advances are taking place in land management and the Smart Farms Small Grants will provide grant funding to develop and extend new tools, methods and technology for farmers to continue to be at the forefront of land management.

Under the program these grants will:

  • protect and improve the condition of natural resources (in particular soils and vegetation and biodiversity)
  • increase land managers' awareness, knowledge, capability and adoption of tools and management practices that will deliver productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries
  • protect Australia's biodiversity
  • assist Australia to meet its obligations under relevant international treaties.

"Our farmers manage 61 percent of Australia's land and have a long-held reputation for sustainable and innovative land management. These Smart Farms Small Grants will help farmers to come up with, or take advantage of the next great idea."

Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, said the projects supported by a Smart Farms Small Grant can make a real difference to local communities and deliver results that will be beneficial for farmers and consumers.

"I strongly encourage people who have a good idea about how to improve soils, vegetation and biodiversity in their communities to apply for one of these small grants and make that idea a reality," Minister Hartsuyker said.

"These Smart Farms Small Grants support the adoption of on‑the-ground innovative practices that improve the management and quality of our natural resources and increase on-farm productivity."

Fast facts

  • The Coalition Government is investing more than $1 billion for the next phase of the National Landcare Program.
  • In Australia, there are around 5400 Landcare groups and 100,000 active volunteers in those groups.
  • Over 80 percent of Australian farmers are involved in Landcare. $50m is part of the $134 million over six years for the Smart Farms Program through the next phase of the $1 billion National Landcare Program.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants are available between $5,000 and $100,000—applications for Round One opened 24 October and close 7 December 2017.

www.nrm.gov.au

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Energy Committee to meet market commission and market regulator

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THE House of Representatives Environment and Energy Committee will hear from the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) at the final public hearing tomorrow for the inquiry into modernising Australia’s electricity grid.

The Chair of the Committee, Andrew Broad MP, said the Committee was looking forward to hearing from the Australian Energy Market Commission about its plans for supporting the grid during this period of modernisation.

“The Australian Energy Market Commission is the ruler maker for Australian electricity and gas markets.  The Committee is keen to hear about the kinds of new rules the Commission thinks will best support a modern grid,” Mr Broad said.

The Committee will also hear from the Australian Energy Regulator. The Australian Energy Regulator regulates wholesale and retail energy markets, and energy networks, under national energy legislation and rules.

The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Mr Pat Conroy MP, said the Committee was looking forward to hearing about the challenges a modern regulator faces.

“We want to ensure that the modern grid operates in accordance with the rules, and the Australian Energy Regulator’s role is an essential part of this,” Mr Conroy said.

As part of the inquiry, the Committee is encouraging members of the community to share their views on the electricity system via an online questionnaire.

Further information about the inquiry, including submissions from organisations appearing at the hearings, is available on the inquiry website.

 

Public hearing details: 

10.00 am – 11.15 am, Thursday, 26 October 2017
Committee Room 1R4, Parliament House, Canberra

The proceedings 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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Committee to check out internet shopping

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THE impacts on local Australian businesses from global internet-based competition will be the focus of a new inquiry by the House Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources Committee.

The Committee will examine how Australian businesses, particularly in the retail and small business sectors, have responded to growing competition from global online companies and what effect this change has already had and will continue to have. The Committee welcomes submissions to the inquiry addressing the terms of reference.

Committee Chair Michelle Landry MP said that the inquiry is both timely and important: “Online sales currently make up a small but noticeable proportion of Australia’s total retail spending. While that will grow, it is vital that Parliament understands the effects it will have on local Australian businesses.”

The inquiry will also examine the effects of global internet-based competition on the broader Australian economy, as well as on the employment levels and conditions for those in the sector.

“Approximately 10 percent of Australians are employed in the retail industry, and around 40 percent of Australia’s private-sector employment is in small businesses”, Ms Landry noted, “so changes in how those sectors operate will have a significant impact on Australia’s economy as a whole”.

The Committee is calling for submissions by 1 December and will schedule public hearings to further examine issues in detail.

The Committee will inquire into the impacts of global internet-based businesses on local Australian business, particularly in the retail and small business sectors and will consider the following:

  • How has/will the existing retail industry cope with changes to the sector’s landscape brought about by the existence of global online retail business?
     
  • What are the consequences for small businesses in terms of new competition and access to digital platforms?
     
  • How are small businesses responding to digital change and what is their uptake of new digital business services?
     
  • What impacts do the above have on employment, including employment levels and conditions?
     
  • What roles can the Commonwealth Government and Parliament play in fostering innovation for Australian businesses to respond to these challenges?

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

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Cybersecurity improvements recommended

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THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit report has found that much work remains for cybersecurity compliance and cyber resilience to be achieved across the Commonwealth.

The inquiry focused on the Auditor-General’s cybersecurity follow-up audit.

The Committee was most concerned to find that the Australian Taxation Office and Department of Immigration and Border Protection were still not compliant with the Government’s mandatory mitigation strategies, despite the Government setting a target date to achieve compliance by 30 June 2014.

The report makes 10 recommendations aimed at strengthening the cybersecurity posture of Government entities, including making it mandatory for all Commonwealth entities to:

  • comply with the Essential Eight cybersecurity strategies;
  • join the Internet Gateway Reduction Program; and
  • participate in the Australian Signals Directorate’s annual cybersecurity survey.

The Committee also recommended that both the Attorney-General’s Department and Australian Signals Directorate report annually to the Parliament on the Commonwealth’s cybersecurity posture.

Committee Chair Senator Dean Smith said cybersecurity should be a top priority for all Government entities.

“Achieving compliance with the mandatory cyber mitigation strategies is one way entities improve their cyber resilience and mitigate cyber-incidents, alongside good governance and a strong culture of prioritising cybersecurity within the context of entity-wide strategic objectives.”

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

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