CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall, in his recent address to the National Press Club, issued the call to Australia to rally around a set of national missions that aim to solve challenges and drive Australia’s economic recovery and future resilience. Here is the text of his presentation.

 

THERE ARE MOMENTS in time that shape generations – the generation who harnessed electricity; the generation who saw humans walk on the Moon; the generation who sw itched on the internet.

Moments driven by science.

This generation is living through a perfect storm of bushfires, pandemic, and recession.

Never in our lifetime has a country – or the world – turned to scientists in the way they are now.

This is our moment. Our moment in time that will shape our generation.

History will judge us by what we do next, and our children will live with the consequences.

Science has the unique and wonderful ability to unite people around a mission to achieve things that were once thought impossible.

The 1969 Moon Mission galvanised the public, inspired rafts of other inventions we now use in our everyday lives, and achieved something no one thought possible when it was announced. 

The rocket may have launched in the United States, but Australia enabled the mission through our Dish in Parkes, which was listed on the Heritage Register this week, and NASA tracking stations across Australia.

The 1988 Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched a global mission to eliminate polio, and by 2016 reduced the number of people paralysed by 99.99 percent.

Again Australia was a leader in this global mission, becoming polio-free 16 years earlier in 2000, the same year Sydney hosted the Olympics.

Today we have that same opportunity to rally research, industry, and community, around a new mission enabled by science – a mission of recovery and resilience.

Do we do things the same way as we did before this moment, or do we forge some bold new ground?

Science helps us see into the future to understand what that ground might be, and to prepare for future threats.

NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS

COVID-19 and the devastating bushfires of last season have brought into sharp focus the role of science in national preparedness, and in our ability to weather future crises.

But it’s important to understand that this doesn’t just happen – it involves foresight, planning, and investment in the right areas.

The reason CSIRO was able to hit the ground running on COVID-19 was because our research and modelling foresaw the threat of a pandemic four years ago, and weprepared for it.

We shifted to a ‘One Health’ model that recognises the complex interactions between humans, animals and our environment, and put it into action at our Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, the only high bio-containment facility in the southern hemisphere.

We invested in data modelling and Artificial Intelligence to reinvent the way we do our genetics research.

And we expanded our global and domestic ties in infectious disease with partners like CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, as well as local disease experts at James Cook University, the University of Queensland, The Doherty Institute and many others.

We also foresaw the need for agile manufacturing and invested in developing this capability for Australia.

This gave us an advanced biologics manufacturing facility to scale-up vaccine candidates, like we did with the University of Queensland, as well as the capability to scale-up a pilot facility to overcome the shortage of crucial safety products like face masks.

Last week that pilot facility became Australia’s first accredited face mask testing facility, meaning local manufacturers can test critical medical supplies here rather than sending them overseas for accreditation.

We also foresaw the threat of a warmer, dryer climate and invested in adapting our bushfire planning to incorporate climate change projections.

This, together with our expertise in modelling and 70+ years of expertise in bushfire research, meant we were on the front foot to monitor, analyse and advise when the catastrophic bushfires hit.

And Australia is in a stronger position to build back better as a result.

MOMENTS SHAPED BY PEOPLE

Preparation of our facilities and our research was, and continues to be, critical – but the moments that really mattered were shaped by people.

Like the researchers who have attended every major fire event in Australia since Ash Wednesday in 1983 to better predict fire behaviour and help keep our fire fighters and residents safe.

Like the textile manufacturers who worked with scientists to repurpose their factories to fill the desperate need for personal protection equipment against COVID-19.

Like the environmental scientists who transferred their expertise in water pollution to start testing wastewater to locate virus hotspots.

And in Geelong, a city where streets are quiet today with residents back in lockdown, at our Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, the CSIRO staff who returned from retirement to lend a hand as we work around the clock on a COVID-19 vaccine.

I want to pause here to thank the CSIRO team who have been working tirelessly on this since January, the bushfires team who have been working tirelessly since September, and all the other 5000 people in CSIRO who back them up.

I also want to thank our partners at Australia’s 39 universities, across countless government departments and in industry who have stepped up to play their role.

And of course, all Australia’s frontline workers over this difficult year – the fire-fighters and SES, the doctors, nurses and all healthcare workers – whose daily burden we try to ease.

We are all in this together, and we all have a role to play in shaping our future.

WORKING TOGETHER

History has shown us that when we work together to harness the power of science, we can overcome incredible challenges.

100 years ago, we were a nation ravaged by Spanish Flu, cut off from the world by oceans, andsuffering in the aftermath of World War 1, pandemic and recession.

But Australians stepped up to build our fledgling nation, and together we emerged and prospered.

Around the same time, the invasive cactus known as Prickly Pearwas choking an area of Australia’s richest farmland the size of the United Kingdom.

Farmers were abandoning their properties, livestock and wildlife were injured and dying, and our national food bowl was turning into a desert, threatening our very ability to feed ourselves.

A newly formed CSIRO – created to use science to redefine our future – was given its first national mission.

Scientists worked with farmers, government departments and communities on a biological control response, and identified a solution in the brown-grey Cactus Moth, which soon nibbled the problem into oblivion.

As CSIRO grew, its purpose quickly became clear: to solve Australia’s greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

It’s a purpose we’ve never wavered from, and in 2020 our purpose has never been clearer or more important.

As we look to the future and our road to recovery, there are some big challenges we must take on that are larger than any one group or organisation. We can only tackle them together, as Team Australia.

Efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and ‘flatten the curve’ and contain the disease have sparked unprecedented levels of collaboration between research, industry, government and communities all working in their own way to achieve a common goal.

If we can harness this level of collaboration and goodwill and fo cus it on a mission of recovery and resilience, we can accelerate our recovery, create new jobs, and grow our economy.

OUR CHALLENGES

We are at one of those rare moments in history where the decisions we make now have the power to change the course of our future.

Decisions that could be the difference between the future we want, or some other kind of dystopia.

It reminds me of the Back to the Future movie series, only unlike Marty McFly and Doc, we don’t have a time machine.

We can’t go back and change the past, and we can’t fast forward to see how our decisions will play out.

We are living in a real-life, high stakes scienceexperiment, and we need to use evidence to make our next move.

CSIRO has been working on that evidence for some time.

I mentioned that four years ago we made changes to prepare for a pandemic and for bushfires – that’s because part of CSIRO’s role is to stay ahead of both threats and opportunities for Australia.

We produced a series of industry roadmaps that informed our preparation, and last year these culminated in the landmark Australian National Outlook report – the first time science has been used to plot a path to prosperity for an entire nation.

In addition to forecasting a bright future for Australia if we make the right investments, it also predicted the slowdecline of our great industries if we don’t reinvent them.

Critically, it detailed the six great challenges we face as a nation if we are to secure our wealth and way of life.

  1. Our environment – how do we make sustainability profitable, so industry and environment become partners, not competitors?
  2. Our food security and quality –how do we give Australian exports an unfair global advantage?
  3. Our health and wellbeing – how do we prevent more Australians from joining the 11 million currently suffering chronic disease?
  4. Our future industries – how do we create new, high-value Australian industries, and reinvent old ones so our children even enjoy better lives than we have?
  5. Our energy – how do we navigate Australia’s transition to zero emissions, without derailing our economy?
  6. And our national security – how do we protect Australia from risks like cyber viruses and biological ones, so we can grow in both the digital and real world?

These are big, broad themes – but we don’t need to look any further than this year’s drought, bushfires, pandemic, and now recession, to see they aren’t just abstract ideas.

MISSIONS ANNOUNCEMENT

And so today, we are announcing a new program of missions to support Australia’s future.

They will help us deliver on our six great challenges and accelerate the pace and scale at which we can address each one, focused on outcomes that lead to positive impact, new jobs and economic growth.

Each mission represents a major scientific research program aimed at making significant breakthroughs, not unlike solving Prickly Pear, curing the rabbit plague, inventing the first flu treatment, or creating fast WiFi.

But let me stress, these are not just CSIRO’s missions.

Their size and scale require us to collaborate widely across the innovation system, to boldly take on challenges that are far bigger than any single institution.

We are working with government, universities, industry and the community to co-create and deliver these missions.

Some will be led by CSIRO, and some will be led by others, but all will have the collective focus of our science, technology and investment.

We will commit at least $100 million annually to this program, and we are calling for partners to join us in a Team Australia approach to solve our seemingly unsolvable challenges.

The missions under development for Australia imagine a future where we use science to amplify Australia’s global advantages and strengths.

A future where we save the 170 billion of export dollars we already create from coal, LNG and iron ore by building an Australian hydrogen industry to reduce the emissions but not the profits from a key pillar of our economy.

Where we transform Australian mineral commodities into unique, higher-value products like critical energy metals that deliver higher profit and sovereign supply.

Where we become a collaboration nation by doubling the number of Australian small and medium businesses utilising Australian science by 2025, so the tech jobs grow here, not elsewhere.

A future where we safeguard the health of our waterways and monitor the quality of our water resources from space using AquaWatch, by 2026.

Where we grow our trusted agriculture and food exports to $100 billion in this decade, by recapturing billions of dollars lost as others fraudulently trade on Australia’s reputation for food safety and quality; by protecting billions of dollars in helping our farmers overcome drought; and in generating billions of dollars in new industries, like in sustainable protein.

A future where we enhance the health and wellbeing of every Australian, regardless of where they live in this wide brown land.

Where we overcome antimicrobial resistance to ensure antibiotics keep saving lives despite the rise of drug-resistant superbugs.

Where we have infectious disease resilience built in to everything we do.

A future that makes protecting the environment not just important, but profitable.

Where we end plastic waste entering our environment, by reinventing the way plastic is made, processed and recycled.

Where we leap towards net zero by establishing the first net zero emissions region in Australia.

And of course, all these missions imagine future industries augmented and accelerated by technology.

For example in manufacturing, where humans work with machines to create something better than either could do alone.

A future where artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, controlled by a skilled Australian workforce, enable truly agile manufacturing, where a factory can produce unique high margin products in good times, but rapidly switch to supply critical needs in a crisis.

These missions build a future where our children have rewarding and sustainable jobs, in unique and resilient industries, that secure Australia’s wellbeing and prosperity for generations to come.

Not every part of CSIRO is reflected in these mission areas – but every part of CSIRO is working on Australia’s future resilience.

We remain committed to our existing programs of work, in areas like bushfires, preserving the Great Barrier Reef, in disaster resilience, and of course the many ways we are fighting COVID-19, and catalysing greater translation of research into economic benefit.

The missions are about preparing for things that haven’t happened yet, and getting the right structures, programs and partnerships in place to tackle them before they do.

There are a lot of smart people in Australia. We are reaching out to them each and every day to help us get this right. You’ll hear more from us and them as each mission is ready for launch.

DIFFERENTIATION

While this program of missions is new, the use of science to reinvent and differentiate our industries is not.

Science has been doing this for years.

We are still a small population, but we are a smart one. We cannot compete on size or scale – our future must be about differentiation.

Science has the power to revitalise our industries, but you might say at times our science itself is just a commodity.

As brilliant as we are, we still ship it off overseas like a raw material: to be commercialised there, not here; to grow the economy there, not here; to grow jobs there, not here.

But we are changing.

We’ve been reinventing ourselves from a food bowl for Asia to a delicatessen for the world – developing uniquely Australian plants that produce omega-3 fish oil, or used as protein alternative to meat.

We’ve been turning mineral sands worth only pennies per pound, into unique titanium ink worth hundreds of dollars per pound, and using that ink to 3D print custom biomedical devices to save lives, which are priceless.

These are some of the existing breakthroughs that lay the foundations for our missions today.

Missions identify areas where a Team Australia approach can help us use our natural strengths to differentiate our industries and give Australia an unfair advantage in a competitive world.

COLLABORATION, PARTNERSHIP AND IMPACT

By working together, by aligning our efforts, and by pushing each other further for a common cause, we can achieve more – and we can achieve it faster.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with every government department, including with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, who are represented here today and heavily involved in missions related to climate change, drought, agriculture and biosecurity.

We work with researchers and professors from all Australian universities, including Nobel prize winner, and Vice Chancellor of ANU, Professor Brian Schmidt, who couldn’t be here today but is watching.

We work with multinationals like Fortescue and Microsoft, and state governments like NSW, all of whom are heavily involved in our missions.

And we work with all major Australian industries and thousands of businesses, including small and medium businesses right across our country, like V2Foods, a new company formed using CSIRO science, investment from the CSIRO Innovation Fund, and in partnership with Competitive Foods, to be part of Australia’s growing alternative protein industry.

Partnerships like these are the life blood of our missions, and we will not create impact without them.

Impact is the key word here, because we can’t stop until we put a real solution into the hands of real people who will use it to solve a real problem.

Australia has great research capability and potential to lead in future industries, but we have to get better at translating that research.

If we don’t, our science will continue to be a raw commodity, shipped offshore to create wealth and jobs elsewhere.

We can do it, and that’s not just a hope – it’s a fact, because we’ve done it before.

It’s said that Australia was built on the sheep’s back, and it’s true that wool was once our greatest industry.

But it only became so because Australian science reinvented wool itself.

Before that you couldn’t weave wool, wear a wool suit, or even wash it – Australian science changed all that with a weaving machine to turn wool into clothes for the world.

Today Australia produces some of the world’s best cotton, but 50 years ago cotton wouldn’t grow here – Australian science had to reinvent it.

Then synthetics threatened to replace cotton, so we reinvented cotton again, and strengthened an industry that today employs thousands of Australians and supports rural communities.

The last 30 years of economic growth have lulled us into a false sense of security, and over time business investment in R&D has fallen. But there’s nothing like a crisis to snap us back into action.

Ironically, this recession may be the greatest opportunity for innovation-led growth we’ve had in decades.

TRAVELLING TO THE FUTURE

Even when it ends with a giant leap, every mission begins with one small step.

Small, but innovative breakthroughs in space exploration had been made before we decided we'd go to the Moon – but we had to dream big to get there.

Other diseases had been conquered before we tackled polio – but it took a global push to conquer a new, debilitating disease.

Our world-class Australian science has been inching us forward in exciting steps for years – but it will take big, bold visions to leap forward and realise the vision of our missions.

Our Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, or ASKAP, and the supercomputers that support it, already process vast amounts of data– so it’s not hard to imagine a future where our children’s jobs could be anywhere in the world, but they choose to live in Australia, supported by fast communications systems conceived right here.

We have already demonstrated liquid renewable fuel from hydrogen – so it’s not hard to imagine them driving to the beach on the weekend in zero-emissions cars fuelled by hydrogen made in Australia.

We can already 3D print food – so it’s not hard to imagine our children 3D printing high-value foods from home, based on their personal health profiles, preventing cancer, diabetes, and improving overall wellbeing.

We have already grown lungs in lab and demonstrated telehealth – so it’s not hard to imagine them accessing top-quality healthcare in their homes, and replacing any troubling organs with personalised replicas, grown in Australian labs.

When you add up each of these small steps, together they become a giant leap.

Australian businesses are already turning these visions into reality using Australian science, from giants like Fortescue investing in hydrogen, a thriving spin-out called Coviu transforming telehealth.

It’s a bright vision – but like Marty and Doc in the DeLorean, there is an alternate vision as well, one we might wish we could undo by returning to this moment.

Our Australian National Outlook and industry roadmaps predict the decline of each of our great industries if we don’t reinvent them, and our six great challenges identify areas where we need to invest tosecure our future.

Missions are the way we will do that, but we must act now, with purpose and resolve, to have impact.

COVID-19 will continue to disrupt, but Australia can harness this disruption to build a stronger, more resilient country in the process.

This is important, because there will be more pandemics and more disruption.

As we head into National Science Week in a few days, there has never been a more important time for science, and its power to unite us around big, visionary programs that make the impossible, possible.

We have an opportunity to treat 2020 like a call to action – albeit a dreadful one – to come together as we did 100 years ago, and focus our collective efforts and resources on solving our future challenges to secure our jobs, wealth and way of life.

Others have harnessed electricity, walked on the Moon, switched on the internet.

This is our moment. This is our time. This is our future.

It’s time to leap.

 

www.csiro.au

ends

THE Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is issuing a caution against businesses and individuals jumping in too early with this year’s tax returns.

“There are a lot of new variables such as COVID-19 related payments to be considered in submitting tax returns for the 2019/20 financial year,” IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway said.

“We understand that some individuals have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and want to get their hands on their refund as quickly as possible.

“Loss of employment; reduced earnings; rental property losses due to tenants being unable to pay or have negotiated a lower occupancy rate; deductions for protective COVID-19 measures such as gloves, face masks, sanitisers; and increased working from home expenses, are some of the reasons why individuals are planning on lodging early this year with an expectation of a larger than normal refund on offer," Mr Conway said.

“Those who have lost their employment this year and have received JobSeeker will need to wait for Services Australia to load this information into the pre-fill as this entitlement represents income which is taxable and needs to be added to other income. 

“Services Australia does not normally withhold tax so this may adversely impact on the individual’s overall tax situation which may turn a refund into an amount payable depending on personal circumstances. Similarly, if the employers have not withheld the proper amount of tax from JobKeeper payments this too can have an impact on the refund amount," he said.

“Another reason to hold fire, is that employers with 20 or more employees will have until July 14, 2020, to finalise single touch payroll data. Smaller employers have until July 31, 2020, to finalise. If someone has interest, dividends or trust distributions, then it is even more important not to lodge early until this data has had time to hit the pre-fill records.

“Another COVID-19 related issue this year is where a sole trader is receiving JobKeeper as an active participant. This represents income and needs to be included as part of their business income. Also, the cash flow boost is tax-free and can be excluded from business income," Mr Conway said.

“The ATO will also be continuing to look closely at work related deductions. It has a lot more granular data on what people are claiming so it is reminding everyone of the three golden rules: you must have spent the money and not been reimbursed, it must relate directly to earning your income and you must have a record to prove it.

“Our strong message is to wait for the information to become available before you lodge; otherwise, you may end up with an unexpected tax bill and angst down the track. Discrepancies will create reverse workflow and expose taxpayers to interest and/or penalties.

"The variables this year may be more complex, so we recommend not to rush in too early and seek advice from your public accountant,” Mr Conway said.

www.publicaccountants.org.au

ends

THE Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA)  is calling for an extension for vulnerable small businesses to gather sufficient funds to pay their staff applicable JobKeeper top-up payments for April.

This follows the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday that banks would need to speed up “bridging finance” to get businesses through the rest of the month and fund these additional payments from their cash flow before the payments come through from government to reimburse businesses at the start of May. 

ALNA CEO Ben Kearney said, “Many eligible small retailers have minimal cash flow coming in due to mandatory social distancing, but have the huge pressure on them to pay employees additional JobKeeper payments which are significant sums to find and which many don’t have, before receiving reimbursement from the government. 

"This means that they need more time, to access competitive bridging finance, not this impractical hard deadline which won’t allow many to compare the conditions of a loan and the interest that small businesses will need to absorb."

Mr Kearney said vulnerable small business owners without the cash reserves to pay their staff these payments needed more time to carefully review and consider their options provided by lenders, in order to not incur more cost and liability.

"We appreciate that this is a program being delivered in record time and the government, the banks and the ATO should be commended for their efforts," Mr Kearney said.

"However, the details of JobKeeper have been evolving and released over time, as you would expect and small businesses who are under immense pressure have been anxious and cautious about not getting it wrong with eligibility and this means many are only just now starting this process of accessing additional funds. Additionally, the dedicated hotlines that the Treasurer has advised small businesses to call to get support from banks are only now becoming accessible at the time of print.

“Without access to time and dedicated support, businesses will be left with few options, and no access to lender competition which is designed to protect them. While we realise this means there will be a delay in getting staff their additional JobKeeper payments, the alternative for some businesses is not going ahead with JobKeeper, which is bad for their staff, bad for their relationship with them and bad for their capacity to rebound with experienced employees when we hopefully come out of this.

“We believe providing a short extension to these vulnerable businesses is a more practical compromise, compared to having small business owners rush lending decisions and create bigger problems for their survival down the road. If this means there is a short extension for them to access finance and make payments, and a short delay in them receiving reimbursements for integrity purposes, then if that’s what it takes so vulnerable businesses and their employees don’t miss out then we should do that," Mr Kearney said.

“We need all parties to come to the table, so we don’t put Australian small businesses - the mums and dads, family enterprises, and first-generation Australians working hard – in even more trouble and further put their livelihoods at risk.

"We welcome that there is now pressure from the government to ensure banks are at the table to support Australian businesses quickly with this. However, the future availability of bridging finance will not help with the hard deadline these small businesses need to meet pay their staff top-up payments between now and May.

“We need a short extension for small businesses to access bridging finance and to pay their staff these additional payments, so they are able to access the help, review their lending options before they commit and so they are able to minimise cost in the long-term that they can simply not afford,” Mr Kearney said.

www.alna.net.au

ends

THE NEW JobKeeper Payment has passed through Parliament and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is now working to assist businesses to access the scheme, helping to retain their employees.

The program will be administered by the ATO and will involve employers checking that they are eligible and then enrolling with the ATO to be paid the JobKeeper payments.

Employers will receive a monthly payment for each eligible employee who was paid by the business during the previous month.

ATO Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran said employers need to take steps now to be eligible for the first round of JobKeeper payments which will be paid from the first week of May 2020. 

In order to receive JobKeeper payments from the first week of May, employers need to have paid eligible employees a minimum of $1500 per fortnight, before tax, for the period between March 30 and the end of April. The payments for the first two fortnights must be made by the end of April to receive the JobKeeper payment in the first week of May.

Employers also must meet all eligibility requirements, as outlined on the ATO’s website and enrol in the JobKeeper payment program, once the enrolment process is opened on April 20.

"When you submit your enrolment to the ATO, we will provide you with an acknowledgement and acceptance of your enrolment into the JobKeeper program based on the information you have provided," Mr O'Halloran said.

Employers are encouraged to discuss their businesses’ eligibility and participation in JobKeeper with their employees.

The JobKeeper payments will flow from the ATO to employers, rather than directly to employees, he said.

"Employees wanting to know whether their employer will be enrolling in JobKeeper should speak to their employer and fill out the employee nomination form."

Employees can also find out more information about the program on the ATO’s website.

Mr O’Halloran said the ATO was working hard to make it as easy as possible for employers to access the government’s JobKeeper payment.

“At this stage employers should focus on determining their and their employees’ eligibility and desire to participate, and should discuss ongoing work arrangements with their employees,"Mr O'Halloran said.

“The ATO website has all the information employers need to know about how to get ready. Alternatively, contact your tax representative for assistance and advice specific to your circumstances.

“We know this payment is vital for the community, and we want every eligible employer to be ready to receive the JobKeeper Payments to help keep Australians in jobs.

“As you would expect we will have systems in place to ensure that the payment is made to the eligible employers and will monitor any claims over the months that attract our attention,” Mr O’Halloran said.

ato.gov.au/JobKeeper

ato.gov.au/coronavirus

ends

CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS  Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) has cautioned businesses thinking they should rush their JobKeeper application.

CA ANZ explained that the Austrlaian Taxation Office (ATO) would soon publish extensive guidance on many aspects of JobKeeper, such as the eligibility criteria, how to apply, how it is paid (instalments or as a lump sum), the payment timetable and applicable conditions.

“The JobKeeper package has vested important and extensive powers in the Commissioner of Taxation, effectively turning the ATO into a giver, rather than a taker,” CA ANZ’s Australian tax leader Michael Croker said.

“The legislation has claw-back rules empowering the ATO to recover overpaid amounts and target those who weren’t entitled to payments received, plus interest.” 

The legislation says pre-payment record keeping requirements must be kept by applicants for five years unless excused by the Commissioner and outlines ongoing record-keeping obligations after the JobKeeper payment has been received.

“It’s so important not to blindly go after the money without some evidence of the economic impact of COVID-19 on business turnover,” Mr Croker said.

“Employers should get ready and get set before they go. 

"Business cashflow planning is also essential. Cash goes out the door before JobKeeper payments come in. The sad reality is JobKeeper will not be enough to save every business.”

Mr Croker also said employers need to wary about who they get their advice from.

“Inevitably there’ll be shonks touting contrived schemes designed to exploit JobKeeper. However the legislation empowers the Commissioner to call out ‘any change in the financial position of any entity’ as part of a scheme designed to improperly pocket JobKeeper cash and the ATO has extensive payback powers.

“Employees will be the ATO’s eyes and ears. Changes to the Fair Work Act impose a ‘flow-through’ obligation so that JobKeeper money flows from employer to employee. The ATO dob-in hotline will be busy where employers do the wrong thing.”

Mr Croker said employers need to quickly develop a JobKeeper employee response plan.

“Employees will have so many questions for the boss, ranging far beyond the simple ‘how much do I get and when do I get it’?

“In some situations, employers will need to deliver bad news to those excluded from JobKeeper. Employees who’ve already been stood down may now ask their former boss about the possibility of re-hiring arrangements," Mr Croker said.

“Eligible employees will want to know how their employment arrangements will be changed: their hours, adjusted salary and entitlements.

“Depending on the business’ circumstances, ‘JobKeeper enabling stand down’ arrangements and ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ may need to be designed and communicated to employees.

“To cope with all these questions, accountants and employers will need to develop a working understanding of the temporary changes which the legislation makes to the Fair Work Act.” 

Mr Croker also urged employees to be careful and not get caught out by scammers promising cash and seeking bank account details.

“Look for official JobKeeper communications from your employer and the ATO via trusted channels. Always call and check if in doubt," Mr Croker said.

“Our members are already flat out helping businesses across the nation get through COVID-19 and JobKeeper means they’ll really be burning the midnight oil now.”

Mr Croker said the CA ANZ Tax Team would also be working hard over coming weeks clarifying aspects of the JobKeeper program with the ATO.

CA ANZ has established a COVID-19 resources hub where CAs and their clients can access information about a range of COVID-19 measures, including the JobKeeper package.

 www.charteredaccountantsanz.com/news-and-analysis/news/covid19-updates

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

THE LOCKDOWN of businesses and social distancing should give Australian businesses the opportunity to reassess where they’re heading, according to Jana Matthews.

Professor Matthews, the ANZ chair in business growth and director of the Australian Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia (UniSA), has come up with list of tips for businesses to survive the pandemic.

She said the first thing businesses need to do is communicate with their customers about what’s going on.

“If you’re able to continue on with the project, meet the project, meet the deadlines and deliver, they need to be assured of that,” Prof. Matthews told Talking Business. 

“If you’re having problems because you can’t get parts or there’s been some delay or staff that’s left or for COVID reasons they’re in self-isolation or sick, then you need to have a conversation with your customers and tell them why you’ll be late and what you plan to do about that and work it out with them.”

“If you’re absolutely in freefall, then you need to have a conversation about that as well. Some people have been shut down through no fault of their own and others find the business isn’t viable anymore.”

CHECK FINANCIALS AND STAFF

The second thing to look at is business’s financials. What cash is coming in, who owes the company money, and how long will the company be able to keep paying its bills?

The third is to look at the staff and determine who will be able to take the company to the next level.

Prof. Matthews said the business also needs to look at its products and see which are selling, which are not selling and to let go of the products that no one wants.

The final part is to examine oneself and develop some self-awareness.

“You certainly need to look at yourself and your long-term goals and say ‘Am I up for this? I can cut back now, I can prune back, but is this still what I want to do with my life or is there another opportunity someplace else?”

She said a lot of businesses will end up leaving the sector, but then there are businesses that shut down every year …

“What this does is it’s almost a gift. It forces you to step back and look at the business, instead of going along with business as usual and plateauing and going down slowly,” Prof. Matthews said.

USE THE AID WELL

Prof. Matthews expects businesses will take advantage of the government’s aid package.

She said businesses should also check out the grants that are available and the banks would be more than willing to lend a business money.

She said she hopes many businesses will think laterally and examine what markets might be open for them, as in the case with Australian distilleries now making hand sanitisers.

“This is an opportunity to bring your key staff back and think with them,” she said. “Sit down and say: ‘What are the opportunities, what else can we do with the current products, the current machines and current staff capabilities.  And especially, what is that our customers would value?’” she said.

The key, she said, is for the business owner to be able to function in multiple dimensions. 

“You need to be very empathetic to your customers and your employees and understand what they’re going through,” Prof. Matthews said.

“You have to think hard about the business opportunities going forward and that’s where I am thinking to be more strategic, using your brains, looking at the market research and understanding where those opportunities are. Because in chaos, there is always opportunity.”

www.unisa.edu.au

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

By Dan Hadley >>

AS AUSTRALIANS ARGUE AND FIGHT in shopping aisles over packets of toilet paper, other nations have focused on more serious matters in regard to COVID-19.

Loosely referred to as ‘coronavirus’, the pandemic has spread to almost every country according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Originating in Wuhan, China, it seems the virus will inevitably reach every corner of the world.

At the time of publishing this article, the coronavirus has officially infected nearly 170,000 people globally and killed over 6,500.

In the face of government controls, lockdowns, isolate on and blockades, markets and economies have met a calamity that may have a fallout greater than the 2009 Global Financial Crisis. 

Markets falling…

Shares across all markets have taken a dive in the wake of WHO announcements and ever-growing statistical reports of coronavirus spreading. The Dow Jones has taken a 9.5 percent hit over two months since January 2020 with the Nikkei down 10.6 percdent and the FTSE down 14.6 percent (Bloomberg).

Market confidence continues to fall, and investors are clearly very conservative in the face of mass reductions in economic activity and spending.

Bloomberg indicated last week that the coronavirus may cost the global economy up to $2.7 trillion USD equivalent.

[Editor's note: March 16 saw the largest single day drop in the value of the Australian Stock Market since the crash of 1987: The All Ordinaries dropped 9.5 percent and the ASX 200 dropped 9.7 percent for a day of overall losses in the A$165 billion range. Later in the day in New York, the industrials-heavy Dow Jones index dropped 2,998 points – 12.9 percent – in what has been described as its day of heaviest falls since the 1987 Black Monday crash. The S&P 500 dropped by 12 percent and the tech-stock Nasdaq fell 12.3 percent.

[According to the US CBS News, more than 3,700 people have now tested positive for the new COVID-19 disease in the US and, as of March 16, 74 had died. CBS said globally, the death toll was just over 6,500 on Monday. The previous weekend had seen a spike in fatalities in European nations grappling with aggressive outbreaks. More than 170,000 people had caught the virus around the world, almost half had already recovered, and yet the vast majority of cases remain mild medically.].

Market growth down significantly…

Projections for 2020 market growth are already well down compared with 2019 figures. Expected OECD economic growth forecast sees a reduction from nearly 3 percent in 2019 down to 2.4 percent with some countries seeing a greater projected reduction, particularly Japan, Italy, Germany and the UK.

These countries are looking at a reduction of 50 percent or more in projected year on year growth and this has the capacity to stall those economies.

Not forgetting the lives that have been lost and those deaths that are sure to come, the coronavirus has the potential to be the biggest economic meteor to hit Earth in recorded economic history.

Global travel down, airlines struggling and tourism dropping …

The international and domestic travel sector comes with immense overheads.

Reductions in travel, bought on by the fear factor and travel restrictions, means overall demand is down and tourism has ground to a halt in many tourist hot spots throughout the world.

This is also heightened by the number of travel-bans now in effect globally with more likely to follow.

Not just limited to China or Asia, this reduction is having an effect on both large companies as well as millions of small business providers within this sector.

Many nations rely heavily on tourism to maintain adequate income and GDP and this reduction may equate to billions of dollars for markets.

Factories in China grind to a halt, clearing pollution …

One of the few good things to come out of the coronavirus in China is the massive reduction in pollution.

With factories closed pending coronavirus containment and minimal numbers of cars on streets, the skies have begun to clear.

Unfortunately, this shutdown of production is having a major impact on the Chinese economy as well as the global market.

Importers of Chinese made goods are struggling to source adequate stock in many instances and, as millions go into containment, China itself is not importing foreign made goods. This will have an extensive flow-on effect to other economies and sectors.

The strain on health systems globally …

Hospitals in Wuhan are well known to be full and bursting at the seams. Health professionals work round the clock to help those infected.

Similar scenes are arising in Italy as well as other places and even those countries with minimal infection numbers have begun to mobilize health teams and resources.

This is costly and national budgets will be thrown out of whack, even in the face of the impact we have seen today.

Australia’s response …

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently addressed the public at the AFR Summit in Sydney with respect to the coronavirus issue.

With a stimulus and support package announced so far and expected to be worth in excess of A$17.6 billion, the Australian Government is proceeding seriously.

There is already talk less than a week after that announcement that the Federal Government is prepared to spend more on resolving this crisis than it did during the GFC: potentially more than A$50 billion.

"When the economy bounces back, our budget will also bounce back. The stronger the recovery, the stronger the economy, the stronger the budget,” Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister went further to indicate the importance the Federal Government was placing on the safety and wealthfare of Australians:

“We now have one goal in 2020: to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians through this global crisis, and to ensure that when the recovery comes, and it will, we are well-positioned to bounce back strongly on the other side.

"It is important to remember the problem is only a temporal one, not structural, and learn the lessons of the global financial crisis", Mr Morrison said.

WHO to listen to about the virus…?

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on March 9 that matched sensible strategy with hope against fear.

In the media announcement, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced:

“We are not at the mercy of this virus.

“All countries must aim to stop transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19, whether they face no cases, sporadic cases, clusters or community transmission.

“Let hope be the antidote to fear.

“Let solidarity be the antidote to blame. Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat."

 The economic prognosis…

COVID-19 has the potential to cause greater financial damage than the 2009 Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

Markets may take such a tumble that we will see massive changes in the economic landscape.

Those companies reliant upon consumer spending, confidence, retail spending or tourism may struggle to survive if trends of the coronavirus continue as they have.

Not forgetting the lives that have been lost and those deaths that are sure to come, the coronavirus has the potential to be the biggest economic meteor to hit Earth in recorded economic history. 

For now, communities must stick together, act with caution but work in earnest to maintain our economies safely while those on the front line fight the virus. 

 

Dan Hadley is a British/Australian economist and business management consultant for JLB based in Adelaide, South Australia. 

Contact Us

 

PO Box 2144
MANSFIELD QLD 4122