THE HOUSE Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources today launched a new inquiry into the barriers to increased investment in Australia’s agriculture sector by superannuation funds, and called for submissions.

According to the committee’s chair, Rick Wilson MP, the Australian agricultural sector is in danger of being left behind because of a lack of investment:

“The agricultural sector in Australia needs much more investment if it wants to remain competitive, and the superannuation industry is an obvious source of that. With this inquiry, the committee hopes to find out how investment can be encouraged," Mr Wilson said.

The committee will be inquiring into and reporting on whether:

  • there are any regulatory requirements imposed on superannuation funds by ASIC, APRA and any other relevant regulators, which are acting as a barrier to superannuation fund investment in Australian agriculture; 
  • the information required by the superannuation funds in order to invest in Australian agriculture is readily available, and if not, what statistical performance reporting of the agricultural sector is necessary; and
  • there are any other practical barriers to superannuation fund investment in Australian agriculture.

The Committee will be accepting submissions until Friday, June 22.

www.aph.gov.au

 

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VICTORIA will benefit from a more independent Parks Victoria with expanded functions and powers to manage and protect the state’s natural assets, accordingto the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The chamber has welcomed the passage of the Parks Victoria Bill 2018 in Parliament today.

The new legislation will make Parks Victoria a statutory authority. It will provide the agency with direct land management powers and clearer responsibilities to better manage Victoria’s national parks and other reserves.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Mark Stone AM acknowledged the support of the Government and Opposition for this important bill, which will benefit our visitor economy.

“Strong strategic management from Parks Victoria is vital to ensure visitors have a great experience and local communities and businesses benefit from sustainable tourism,” said Mr Stone.

"Victoria’s national parks and reserves make a significant contribution to Victorian tourism and provide environmental and recreation benefits to the broader community. Each year, Parks Victoria welcomes 106 million visits to national and state parks across the state.

"The Great Ocean Road region alone draws more than five million visitors per year, adding $1.3 billion to the Victorian economy and generating over 9000 jobs. The number of international visits to the region is projected to double by 2025/26.

"As a statutory authority, Parks Victoria will be better placed to protect Victoria’s natural assets and support important initiatives like the Shipwreck Coast Masterplan – a comprehensive program to improve opportunities for visitors and strengthen the local economy and employment opportunities through sustainable tourism."

www.vicotrianchamber.com.au

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The Queensland Resources Council has welcomed a record of more than 50 nominations for its 5th annual Indigenous Awards to be announced during Reconciliation Week on May 28.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said record nominations for the awards, to be presented over five categories, reflected the growth in Indigenous Australians working in the resources sector.

“As the Closing the Gap report found, the number of Indigenous Australians employed by the resources sector increased by 250 percent to almost 7000 in the years between 2006 and 2016,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“Over the same period, the share of indigenous Queenslanders employed in our State’s resource sector increased from 3 percent to 4 percent.  This is a milestone for our sector.  We have reached employment parity with population.  Indigenous Queenslanders make up 4 percent of our population,” he said.

“The Queensland Resources Council Indigenous Awards are an excellent opportunity to recognise this growing contribution to the resources industry that is so important to Queensland.”

Mr Macfarlane said the awards recognised contribution across the sector, including encouraging Indigenous business participation in procurement, which was recently highlighted by Indigenous leader Warren Mundine.

Mr Mundine said: “If you look at the other mining industry companies, you are looking at a few billion dollars just in that industry alone. The other industries are a bit behind that but they are starting to catch up.”

The QRC Indigenous Awards for six categories will be announced on May 28.  The award categories are:

  • Indigenous Advocacy Award recognises Indigenous or non-Indigenous individuals that have demonstrated outstanding effort to encourage, promote and advocate for increasing Indigenous participation within the resources sector.
  • Exceptional Indigenous Person in Queensland Resources Award recognises exceptional achievement by an Indigenous person working with the Queensland resources sector in any occupation or profession.
  • Exceptional Indigenous Business in Queensland Resources Award recognises exceptional achievement by an Indigenous business supplying the Queensland resources sector.
  • Best Company Indigenous Procurement Initiative Award recognises companies that have developed and maintained strategies that enhance supplier diversity and support increased Indigenous business participation within resources sector supply chains.
  • Best Company Indigenous Employment and Training Initiative Award recognises companies that have developed and maintained strategies that enhance the attraction and retention of Indigenous people in the Queensland resources sector.
  • Exceptional Indigenous Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy Student Award recognises exceptional achievement by an Indigenous student at a QMEA school who has shown significant promise and passion for a career in the Queensland resources sector

www.qrc.org.au

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NEW JOBS in the Queensland resources sector advertised online have increased by 91 percent compared over the last 12 months, highlighting improved confidence and industry outlook, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane said online employment market SEEK found new jobs advertised in the mining, resources and energy sector had the highest growth in Queensland compared with 2017.

Kendra Banks, SEEK ANZ managing director said, “New job ads in Mining, Resources & Energy increased across all states with Queensland (91% year on year), Victoria (86% YoY) and New South Wales (62% YoY) driving growth in the sector.”

Mr Macfarlane said the Queensland resources industry supported one in every eight jobs – or 282,000 full-time equivalent jobs

“Improved prices and strong international demand is increasing confidence, investment, exports and mostly, jobs,” he said.

“Last financial year, direct full-time equivalent jobs in the resources sector grew by 12.7 percent to 38,150.”

Mr Macfarlane said there was renewed interest in careers in the resources sector.

“Mining company New Hope advertised for eight plant operator traineeships with two at its West Moreton operations near Rosewood and six at its New Acland operations. They received more than 300 applications in response,” he said.

The Queensland Resources Council is the peak representative body for Queensland’s resource industry. The Queensland resources industry provides one in every $6 dollars in the Queensland economy, sustains one in eight Queensland jobs, and supports more than 16,400 business across the State all from 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass.

www.qrc.org.au

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STATEMENT by Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane on Aurizon: >>

"Aurizon chief executive officer Andrew Harding must explain why he ramped up the dispute with the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) after Japanese steel makers raised concerns about his company’s actions to restrict the movement of metallurgical coal from central Queensland mines to export ports.

"The Courier-Mail report today that during Mr Harding’s visit to Japan last month that “questions had been raised by the powerful Japanese steel mills over the issue”, yet Aurizon initiated Supreme Court action against the Queensland Competition Authority four days later.

"This is the most reckless, anti-Queensland behaviour I have seen from a Queensland-based CEO, particularly from one that has a monopoly and is not prepared to work with its customers.

"When he was in Tokyo on 26 April, Mr Harding told Japan industry representatives that Aurizon was “seeking to engage directly with our customers and supply chain partners on the range of issues contained in the Draft Decision. We are working towards an outcome that is better aligned with the long-term interests of the Queensland coal industry and the economy more broadly.

"In fact, Mr Harding and Aurizon have failed to engage their customers – the coal-mining industry – and four days later (30 April), Mr Harding and Aurizon referred the matter to the Supreme Court of Queensland.

"The Queensland coal industry, the Queensland Government, Japanese steel makers, Aurizon staff and investors are all scratching their head about Mr Harding’s actions.

"Japan is Queensland’s second largest export market and it has been a key partner for our State’s resources industry for more than half a century – a key customer and investor.

"At a time when the industry and the Queensland Government is striving to increase exports and jobs, Aurizon is actively working against our efforts.  Aurizon and Andrew Harding are working against Queensland.

"At a time when the industry and the Queensland Government has urged Aurizon to respect the independent QCA processes, it has snubbed its nose at the regulator and introduced draconian measures to stifle industry and damage the Queensland economy.

"The loss of 20 million tonnes would reduce Queensland exports by up to $4 billion and cut royalties payable to the Queensland Government, to reinvest in infrastructure for all Queenslanders, by up to $500 million.

"Our company members are ready and willing to supply the metallurgical coal Japanese steel makers needs.  Aurizon’s decision to introduce new maintenance arrangements in the Central Queensland Coal Network, that it says will reduce movement of up to 20 million tonnes of coal per annum."

Background

In February, Aurizon announced it would change its maintenance program and that conceded this would impact on the movement of up to 20 million tonnes of coal each year.

Aurizon’s announcement followed the draft decision of the independent Queensland Competition Authority for the operation of the Central Queensland Coal Network.  The final decision is due by QCA at the end of the year.

Instead of waiting for the QCA’s final decision, Aurizon decided to cut train movements for coal.  The Blackwater system, which connects mines such as Rolleston and Minerva to Gladstone, including part of the North Coast Line between Parana and Rocklands, has already been severely impacted.

Link to Aurizon CEO Andrew Harding’s presentation to Coal Investment Seminar presented by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation in Tokyo on 26 April

Aurizon announced on 30 April confirming it had referred the QCA Draft Determination to the Supreme Court of Queensland for Judicial Review.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is working with Minister Kelly O’Dwyer and the Treasury over the proposed change to the audit cycle of Self-managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs).

“We need to understand the policy rationale for the proposal to move to three-year cycles for SMSF audits,” said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“How does reducing the audit cycle enhance regulatory oversight and transparency in the SMSF sector?

“We know, that now more than ever, in the financial services space, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Without an annual SMSF auditor oversight, how will the regulator of the SMSF sector, monitor compliance?

“These issues go far beyond the impact on SMSF auditors and speak to the very confidence and transparency of the SMSF sector. 

“Arguments around compliance costs are myopic at best as trustees are likely to be required to have a three year audit at greater total cost than the current (12 month) review.  Will the unsubstantiated audit cost-saving be worth the significant risks such a measure introduces?” said Mr Conway.

www.publicaccountants.org.au

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VICTORIAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Mark Stone has congratulated newly elected Lord Mayor Sally Capp on her win in the City of Melbourne by-election.

Mr Stone said the interests of business had featured strongly in the by-election campaign so it was no surprise that a pro-business candidate could capture the support of so many voters.
 
“Ms Capp is well-known to the business community through her previous senior roles with the Property Council of Victoria and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
 
“Melbourne’s business community will be looking to Ms Capp’s leadership to keep Melbourne a prosperous place to do business and a great place to live, work and visit,” Mr Stone said.
 
There are 16,000 businesses employing more than 450,000 people within the City of Melbourne area.
 
About the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, established in 1851, is the most influential business organisation in Victoria, informing and servicing more than 15,000 members, customers and clients around the state.

www.victorianchamber.com.au

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THE Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) is looking forward to working with the City of Melbourne’s new Lord Mayor Sally Capp to enhance Melbourne’s position as Australia’s number one holiday destination for domestic and international visitors.

VTIC acting chief executive Chris Porter has congratulated Ms Capp on her election and said there are many opportunities for the Council and VTIC to work together and continue to grow the City of Melbourne’s visitor economy.

“Each year tens of millions of visitors come to Melbourne, drawn to the mix of experiences on offer to tourists,” Mr Porter said.

“Melbourne is the undisputed culinary, cultural, sporting and events capital of Australia. Each year the tourism industry contributes more than $15 billion into Melbourne’s economy.

“Ms Capp’s business background will help to ensure tourism remains a focus for the Council.

“We will continue to support the City of Melbourne so that our state capital remains a vibrant, attractive and modern city that is the envy of others around the world,” Mr Porter said.

VTIC works closely with the City of Melbourne, as a Corporate Partner, to ensure that visitors to Melbourne have the best experience possible.

ABOUT VTIC

The Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) is the peak body for Victoria’s tourism and events industry, providing one united industry voice. Tourism and events are growth industries for Victoria and contribute more than $25 billion to the state economy each year and employ more than 214,500 people.

www.vtic.com.au

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BRISBANE City Council’s move to ban single-use plastic straws and water bottles and phase out helium balloons from their events is welcome news for marine life said the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

“AMCS welcomes the move by the Brisbane City Council to ban these single-use plastics at over 50,000 of their associated events annually. This is a huge step towards reducing marine plastic pollution its impacts on our unique marine life in Moreton Bay,” said James Cordwell, AMCS marine campaigner.

“Plastic pollution has a long and wicked legacy in our oceans, breaking down into smaller and smaller unidentifiable pieces and lasting forever. This pollution flows into places like South-east Queensland’s iconic Moreton Bay. Once it enters the ocean our marine animals are entangled, suffocated and starved by it.

“The banning of these straws, balloons, and plastic water bottles, along with the forthcoming implementation of Queensland’s Plastic Bag Ban and Container Deposit Scheme, are very encouraging steps for Queensland. These are crucial moves to put an end to an era of these highly damaging items from impacting on our marine environment.

“With this announcement, and as stewards of an incredible marine natural heritage, Queenslanders are again proving we can be a national leader in turning the tide against harmful plastic pollution.”

www.marineconservation.org.au

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THE FEDERAL Government’s vision of a strong, resilient and internationally competitive Australian defence industry took another step forward yesterday with the inaugural meeting of the Defence Export Forum in Canberra.

The meeting was chaired by the Australian Defence Export Advocate, David Johnston and brought together Commonwealth agencies, state and territory governments, and industry peak bodies.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the states and territories are important partners in achieving the government’s vision for Australian defence industry.

"The Defence Export Forum will help deliver a collaborative approach, allowing us to coordinate export advocacy efforts across all levels of government and industry, minimising duplication of resources,” Minister Pyne said.

The Forum was an important initiative of the Defence Export Strategy released on 29 January 2018, which set out a comprehensive approach to delivering an export system to plan, guide, grow and measure defence exports.

The inaugural meeting follows the opening of the Australian Defence Export Office on 23 April 2018.

Minister Pyne said the opening of the Export Office and the establishment of the Defence Export Forum shows that the government is delivering on what it says.

“We are delivering what Australian defence industry needs to achieve export success, become more sustainable and more internationally competitive, all in support of Australia’s Defence capability,” Minister Pyne said.

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THE FEDERAL Government is continuing to protect the integrity of Australia's corporate tax system – ensuring foreign investors don't have a competitive advantage over Australian investors.

Today it released exposure draft legislation and explanatory material for public consultation on the tax treatment of stapled structures to give effect to the policy announced on 27 March 2018.

This puts into action targeted integrity rules designed to neutralise the tax benefits of stapled structures.

An increasing number of foreign investors have sought to convert trading income into more favourably taxed passive income through the use of stapled structures. When combined with existing concessions used by foreign pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, some foreign investors are currently paying tax rates of 15 percent, or in some cases, far less.

The proposed amendments in the announced package will ensure that:

  • trading income that is converted to passive income will be taxed at the corporate tax rate;
  • foreign investors will no longer be able to use multiple layers of flow-through entities (i.e. trusts and partnerships) to 'double gear' their investments to generate more favourably taxed interest income;
  • foreign pension fund withholding tax exemption for interest and dividends is limited to portfolio investments only;
  • a legislative framework is created for the existing tax exemption for foreign governments (including sovereign wealth funds), and limit the exemption to passive income from portfolio investments; and
  • investment in agricultural land will not be able to access the 15 per cent concessional MIT withholding tax rate.New, Government-approved nationally significant infrastructure assets may be eligible to access the 15 per cent concessional withholding tax rate for managed investment trusts for 15 years. This will ensure continued support for the development of nationally significant infrastructure assets that enhance the productive capacity of the economy and drive long term economic growth.

To minimise the impact of these changes on existing investments, the proposed amendments include transitional arrangements of seven years (for ordinary business staples) and 15 years (for economic infrastructure assets).

The stapled structures package is an important integrity measure, and the Turnbull Government is committed to introducing legislation as soon as possible. To maximise time for consultation, draft legislation will be released in stages, starting today.

The released exposure draft legislation contains the first four proposed amendments in the package. Draft legislation on the agricultural MIT changes and the conditions stapled entities must comply with to access the infrastructure concession and/or transitional arrangements will be released in due course.

The exposure draft legislation and explanatory materials are available on the Treasury website.

The Federal Government is encouraging all interested parties to make a submission.

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