THE HEALTH and wellbeing of the 372,000 men and women working in the State resources sector is the priority for the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and its member companies in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), accordong to QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane.

Mr Macfarlane said the QRC COVID-19 Working Group today shared information and responses to the virus with a focus on adhering to the advice from health authorities for all men and women working in the resources sector, their colleagues, their families and their communities.

“As an industry, we are following the advice of health authorities to minimise the impact on the one in seven working Queenslanders whose livelihood is linked directly or indirectly to the resources industry,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“The QRC is in direct contact with Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young and both the state and federal resource ministers Dr Anthony Lynham and Keith Pitt.

“The Prime Minister, through his National Cabinet, announced mine sites as essential activities and the Queensland Government today reiterated the importance of the sector and amid current conditions it was an “essential service” to Queensland. 

“The QRC welcomed the announcement by the Palaszczuk Government to allow all Queensland companies to defer payroll tax payments for six months, in response to COVID-19, will boost much needed cash flow to thousands of companies across the State.

“Companies are already taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 as we do all we can to keep our workforce and their communities healthy. New procedures include health questionnaires for visitors/suppliers, temperature measurement at mine site entries and before flights to mine sites, improved separation procedures including head office staff working from home, staggered crib breaks, and no non-essential visitors to mine sites. As well, where possible, essential service crews such as Emergency Response and Pump Crews are being keep in isolation from broader workforce," he said.

“In order to ease pressure and help lighten the load on health workers in regional areas from people presenting for COVID-19 testing, resource companies are also waiving requirements for Doctors Certificates for general illness leave.

“As the COVID-19 situation evolves here and around the world, it will be critical for our industry – like all Australians – to heed the advice from health authorities.

“It is also critical as an industry we continue to devote our full attention to implementing the processes and procedures in accordance with the latest advice.

“While these are turbulent times amid the COVID-19 response, the resources industry will continue to play its central role in the economic productivity of the state and lives of all Queenslanders," Mr Macfarlane said.

“QRC will continue to work on a full range of industry issues, but we cannot afford distractions from what is essential at this time – responding to the global pandemic that is COVID-19.”

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the Federal Government’s support package for bushfire-affected small businesses will help viable small businesses get back on their feet.

“The Federal Government is responding to the needs expressed by small business representatives at the roundtable last week, with a suite of measures designed to assist small and family businesses deal with the extraordinary challenges they are facing as a result of the devastating bushfires,” Ms Carnell said.

“Immediate tax-free cash grants of up to $50,000 are available to eligible small businesses that have sustained damage as a result of the fires. 

“That’s not just businesses that have burned down, but also those that have lost stock as a result of power outages for instance.

“Insured small businesses with less than 20 full time employees, can claim expenses not covered by their insurance," Ms Carnell said.

 “Concessional loans of up to $500,000 are available to small businesses that have suffered either significant asset or revenue loss.

“These loans will have no repayments due for the first two years, with no interest accruing in this period. Beyond that, an interest rate of about 0.6 percent will apply and small businesses have up to 10 years to repay.

“A further $3.5 million will be spent on establishing a Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line, which will be helpful in providing basic information to small businesses," Ms Carnell said.

“However small businesses really need a tailored financial recovery plan. Without it, the chances are they won’t survive.

“We will continue to push for a government grant that enables small businesses to go to their trusted advisor for a customised strategy. 

“In the meantime, fast-tracked infrastructure and a commitment to ‘build back better’ is absolutely vital," she said.

“As part of the re-build, all levels of government should be procuring from local businesses wherever possible.

“We broadly welcome the government’s efforts to help small business and will continue to advocate for measures to enable small businesses to get on with getting back on track.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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QUEENSLAND'S first direct international data and telecommunications connection to global markets came a step closer this week with the completion of the cable landing station at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast.

The cable landing station will house the connection point for the international submarine cable with landside communication networks and is a vital piece of infrastructure in a project that will deliver much needed diversity for Australia’s international communication needs. It is also expected to bring significant economic benefits for the Sunshine Coast and Queensland.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson was joined by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick on September 26 to mark the completion of the $7.2 million facility.

Mayor Jamieson said the completion of the cable landing station marked another milestone in the delivery of the Sunshine Coast international broadband network. 

“Unlike traditional cable landing stations that are normally non-descript buildings out of view from the general public, our landing station is designed to reflect council’s design vision for the Maroochydore city centre,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Our Sunshine Coast will offer the fastest data and telecommunications transmission from the eastern seaboard of Australia to Asia once the submarine cable comes ashore and is in service next year.

“It will help to position our region to become Australia’s first Digital Trade Hub – taking a region-wide approach to data and digital connectivity which will benefit a wide cross section of businesses and industries," Mayor Jamieson said.

“Projects such as the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network enable our region, its economy and our community to be well-positioned to respond to the rapidly evolving demands of the 21st century.

“When completed, this network will provide direct international data and telecommunications from the Sunshine Coast – the only location in Australia outside of Sydney and Perth to provide this direct international connectivity. 

“This will afford a significant step-change to the Sunshine Coast’s attractiveness as an investment location," he said.

“As the first local government in Australia to secure an investment in an international submarine cable, our council is yet again at the forefront of thinking outside the square, securing new revenue sources and pursuing opportunities to generate economic and employment growth as a major dividend for our residents, thus ensuring we continue to be Australia’s healthy, smart, creative region.”

DIGITAL BOOST TO REGIONAL GROWTH

The landing station is part of the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Cable Network being delivered through $15 million in support from the Queensland Government’s $175 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund and $20 million from Sunshine Coast Council.

Almost 865 jobs are a step closer as the landing-station for the $35 million Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network is completed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the project is facilitating the direct landing of a new undersea internet data cable at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast and will generate almost $1 billion for the state economy.

“This $7.2 million cable landing station is the gateway to better internet connectivity for Queensland businesses,” Ms Palaszczuk said. 

“Better connectivity means faster processing times for bigger data and more jobs. The cable will be able to provide Australia’s fastest data and telecommunications transmission speeds to Asia and the second fastest to the USA.

“It pitches Queensland firms to the forefront of the digital economy and will be a major drawcard for businesses and investment. We announced $15 million in funding to support this project in 2017 and we are now seeing the benefits.

“This is an investment that plans for the future and opens the opportunity for the jobs of the future here on the Sunshine Coast,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

State Development Minister Cameron Dick said the Palaszczuk Government was pleased to partner with Sunshine Coast Council to deliver this transformative project for the region and the state.

“Our data needs will only increase as we continue to attract new investment to Queensland and further diversify our economy,” Mr Dick said.

“Landing this international broadband cable directly on the shores of the Sunshine Coast will ensure we’re able to maximise every opportunity the digital era presents for our state.”

Robert Linsdell, managing director of Vertiv (Australia and New Zealand) said through the development of the cable landing station, Sunshine Coast Council is taking a huge step towards future-proofing the region’s digital future.

“The importance of investing in the right internet infrastructure cannot be overstated, particularly as we enter a new era of IoT and smart cities, where reliable connectivity will be paramount to all aspects of our daily lives,” Mr Linsdell said.

The international broadband network is exactly the kind of infrastructure needed to continue that growth, enable increased connectivity and enhance the Sunshine Coast’s and Queensland’s position as a leading technology and business hub.

“Having a vision for these new technologies is one thing, but council is going further by making this important investment and bringing its vision to reality.”

This is one of the Sunshine Coast's list of what the Mayor calls the region's "innovative region-making projects".

These include::

  • The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm – which has enabled the Sunshine Coast Council to become the first government in mainland Australia to offset 100 percent of its electricity usage through renewable energy
  • The Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project – which includes delivery of a new longer, wider runway which will enable direct access to new markets in Asia, the Pacific and other locations in Australia when the runway is completed and in service in 2020
  • Maroochydore City Centre – Australia’s only greenfield CBD and the nation’s truly smart city with technology and digital infrastructure solutions built in from the ground up
  • The Automated Waste Collection System at the Maroochydore City Centre – Australia’s first CBD-wide underground automated waste collection system
  • Establishing Australia’s first tripartite blue carbon initiative which will provide new opportunities and a sustainable future to our Blue Heart - over 5000 hectares of largely agricultural land in the Maroochy River Catchment.

Fast facts:

  • Sunshine Coast Council is facilitating the landing of a new international submarine cable to Maroochydore by mid-2020.
  • The project includes the installation of a 550km undersea fibre optic cable which will connect the Sunshine Coast to the 9700km Japan-Guam-Australia (JGA) submarine cable.
  • The cable, which is laid on or buried under the sea floor, will connect to the cable landing station adjacent to the new Maroochydore City Centre.
  • The cable landing station has the capacity to cater for four submarine cables and houses 24 data cabinets.
  • Security is a key consideration and the building has 20 cameras.
  • The cable landing station has electricity supplied from two different sources to reduce the risk of power outages and two 500kva generators as a backup power supply.
  • The Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network project will help stimulate local business, generate new investment, and improve telecommunications diversity to Australia’s east coast.
  • The cable will help to future proof the Sunshine Coast’s telecommunications capacity and increase the region’s smart city capability by ensuring access to important data networks.
  • The Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable Project is forecast to deliver up to 864 new jobs and stimulate $927 million in new investment in Queensland.

www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au or view the project webpage for more information.

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NEW Australian Brueau of Statistics (ABS) figures demonstrate that the challenges facing Australia’s building industry are mounting, Master Busilders Australia has warned.

Master Builders highlighted there has been a 7.3 percent drop in the value of building work approved across the country during July – the weakest monthly result since late 2016.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said, “Building activity is being hit by low expectations around the economy’s short-term growth prospects. We want to see government policies such incentives for businesses to invest as well fast-tracking infrastructure construction to help kickstart  activity.” 

Master Builders Australia chief economist Shane Garrett said, “Last month saw the number of approvals for new homes falling to its lowest since January 2013. This was driven by a reduction of some 19.6 percent in new apartment/unit approvals compared with June.

"Approval volumes in the high-density part of the residential building market have not been this depressed since the middle of 2012.

“Up until recently, commercial building activity had been one of the economy’s good news stories. However, things are moving in the wrong direction here too. In July, the value of commercial building work receiving approval declined by 9.9 percent compared with the previous month,” Mr Garrett said.

“Right across the spectrum, there appears to be a real absence of confidence and today’s figures confirm that building activity is paying the price,

“People and businesses also need tangible evidence that things are moving forward. Getting work started on major infrastructure projects as soon as possible would visibly demonstrate that better days are ahead for our economy,” Mr Garrett said. 

“As well as offering an instant boost to flagging demand, the installation of new infrastructure unlocks possibilities and opportunities, and allows for the creation of more homes and new businesses – the nuts and bolts of economic growth." 

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the Palaszczuk Government’s decision to award 18 square kilometres of land for gas production to APLNG-Armour Energy.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the granting of the licence with a domestic-only condition was an example of the state’s leading regulatory framework. 

“Gas sourced from the highly prospective land southwest of Chinchilla is destined for manufacturing businesses who need certainty around energy if they are to expand and employ more people,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“Not only will this decision fuel Australia’s manufacturing industry but it’s another example of Queensland’s success in best-practice regulation in action – fast, effective and focussed on outcomes.

“The Queensland Government has been very proactive in its support of the gas industry and I applaud all parties for partnering together to deliver an Australian first to put downward pressure on energy for the domestic manufacturing market."

Queensland already supplies around 25 percent of the domestic east coast gas demand.

The Queensland resources sector now provides one in every five dollars in the Queensland economy, sustains one in eight Queensland jobs, and supports more than 14,200 businesses across the State –– all from 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass. 

www.qrc.org.au

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UNLESS AUSTRALIA arrests its flagging productivity, the economy will continue to decline, putting our standard of living at risk for generations to come, according to the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), which is staging a special forum to tackle the issue.

“Productivity growth has continued to decline over the past 15 years,” IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway said.

“While we have had some successes through our Australian Small Business White Paper, the nation must make a much more concerted effort to boost SME productivity. 

“We will hold a special forum through the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre to focus on addressing this dire economic predicament," Mr Cponway said.

“In doing so we will be calling on Australian and international expertise, particularly from the US, to explore the creation of a sustainable ecosystem for SMEs.  This will be based on the five integral pillars of: financial capital; innovation; regulation; trade and internationalisation; and human capital.

“While some say that small business is the engine room of the economy, we believe that is an understatement; we believe that small business is the whole factory, plant and equipment.  Unless we stoke the fire beneath it, our future generations will suffer the consequences,” Mr Conway said..

The Small Business: Big Vision event will take place on September 4 and 5.  Keynote speakers include Minister for Housing and Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar,  and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, .

International speakers include Eugene Cornelius Jnr, senior adviser to the USA’s Office of International Trade at the Small Business Administration; and Dr Winslow Sargeant, managing director of S&T and former Chief Counsel for Advocacy appointed by and reporting direct to US President Barack Obama, who is now the senior vice president of the International Council for Small Business.

www.publicaccountants.org.au

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THE Queensland Government’s approval of mining leases to extend the life of the Cameby Downs Mine in the Surat Basin secures jobs, exports and royalties for the state and confirms the long-term role for coal, the Queensland Resources Council said.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the mining leases were for continuation of operations at the open cut thermal coal mine operation, extending the mine life to 75 years and increasing the extraction approval to 3.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of run-of-mine (ROM) coal, up from 2.8 mtpa, on the western Darling Downs. 

Cameby Downs employs 140 staff, he said.

Mr Macfarlane said the resources sector already contributed to the Western Downs Regional Council area, accounting for $374 million or 10 percent of the area’s gross regional product and 2006 full-time equivalent or 12 percent of the local workforce.

“The mine will operate under strict environmental approvals, detailed in its environmental authority, and will implement progressive rehabilitation,” Mr Macfarlane said.

Cameby Downs is near the Kogan Creek mine, which is owned by the Queensland Government as the owner of CS Energy and operator of Kogan Creek power station. 

“Whether it is the government-owned Kogan Creek mine, Cameby Downs, other existing mines in the Surat and Bowen basins or those proposed in the Galilee Basin, Queensland depends upon them. Coal currently delivers $43.4 billion or 13 percent of the state’s gross regional product and more than 215,000 or 9 percent of full-time equivalent jobs in Queensland,” Mr Macfarlane said.

www.qrc.org.au

Link to QRC’s 2017-18 report on the economic contribution of the resources sector to the Western Downs local government area https://www.qrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/WesternDowns_LGA_2018.pdf

Link to QRC’s 2017-18 report on the economic contribution of coal to Queensland https://www.qrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018_Coal_Contributions.pdf

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