THE Queensland Resources Council has welcomed the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to upgrading the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line and reducing rail charges as a new driver in investment, exports and jobs from the State’s North West Minerals Province.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the announcement ahead of the Budget by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad of $380 million over five years to upgrade the line and reduce user charges by $20 million per annum was a commitment of confidence in the resources sector, particularly copper, zinc and lead.

Mr Macfarlane said the investment built upon the work, which QRC has been engaged in with Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham and State Development Minister Cameron Dick, to prepare a blueprint for the North West Minerals Province.

“The potential for the North West is enormous. Already resources – mining and mineral processing – contributes $1.7 billion or more than a third of the region’s economy and supports almost 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs or almost three-quarters of the region’s workforce,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“By reinvesting in the rail line, the Government can work with industry to create more wealth, more exports and more jobs for Queenslanders. It will create opportunities in the North West through to Townsville and the Port as well as to supplying businesses across the State.”

“We are keen to work with the Government on the staging of the upgrade to securing the return on this investment for all Queenslanders as soon as possible.

“Through the Blueprint and the draft North West Queensland Economic Diversification Strategy the Government has identified the importance of common user infrastructure to the region’s development.”

The Government has stated: “Common user infrastructure provides the opportunity to drive down development costs for individual projects, with multiple users contributing and benefiting from infrastructure such as road, rail and port, electricity, gas and water or mineral processing infrastructure.”

Mr Macfarlane said the importance of the commitment to upgrading the rail line was highlighted by the recent devastating flooding.

“We have seen Queensland Rail just complete an outstanding job. As a result of a 11-week QR operation, the line re-opened ahead of schedule and has resulted in reduced transport times by around 50 minutes,” he said.

“This rail line is a key transport corridor for Queensland’s metals industry which contributed $9.3 billion to the State’s economy last financial year, supported more than 50,000 full-time jobs and paid $1.3 billion in wages.”

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed plans by the Victorian Government to establish a $250 million Business Growth Fund to help small and medium businesses access capital, and looks forward to seeing further details about the fund.

“I’m supportive of any initiative that gives SME operators access to funding at a time when they are being heavily impacted by tightening requirements by lenders,” Ms Carnell said.

“We know that the biggest barrier to SME growth is access to finance.

“While we understand the design of the fund has yet to be finalised, it should be focused on long-term funding solutions for SMEs.

“Ideally, the fund would allow SMEs to access amounts between $250,000 and $5 million, with terms up to seven years.

“The involvement of superannuation funds in providing an initial pool of capital is also something we have previously recommended.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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QUEENSLAND PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has reaffirmed the importance of the resources sector and its role in renewables as a recipe for regional resilience and prosperity, according to the Queensland Resources Council.

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the Premier’s speech to CEDA, with former US Vice-President Al Gore in Brisbane today, made it clear there was a strong future for the resources sector in Queensland and the benefits to regional communities from it.

“In the Premier’s words – ‘in Queensland, we are and we will continue to be a State where minerals continue to sustain human existence are dug up from the ground’,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The QRC, our members and the 315,000 Queensland men and women working in the resources sector are committed to delivering the resources – the coal, the metals, the gas – for the everyday needs of people living across the State, across the nation and around the globe.

“The QRC and the resources sector embraces renewable energy, not only as a supplier of electricity for operations but as a market for the coal and metals we mine. Advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles and battery storage are all markets for our mining companies," he said.

“The future is not a choice between resources or renewables.  The future is a commitment to resources and renewables.

“Queensland can be the energy superpower of the future, including a renewables superpower, while at the same time building on our strengths in coal, gas and other minerals.

“Queenslanders don’t want to be lectured by visiting activists from interstate and overseas, whether it is Bob Brown or Al Gore. They want their efforts, their hard work, their investment and their futures supported.  The Premier has done that today.”

Mr Macfarlane said QRC was committed to working with the Premier, her Government and all Members of Parliament to ensure there was stable and predictable policy to allow the resources sector to invest, grow, employ and export more. 

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell has welcomed the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) proposed exemption to collective bargaining for small businesses.

“This proposal is good news for small business.” Ms Carnell said.

“It is broad-ranging and in line with our submission to the ACCC regarding this issue.

“The proposed exemption allows most small businesses to collectively negotiate with their suppliers and processors, without having to seek ACCC approval first.

“Franchisees in particular will see tangible benefits as they band together to bargain for better outcomes on pricing and contract terms.

“This proposal makes it simpler and cheaper for eligible businesses and franchisees to collectively negotiate if they choose.

“It’s another important step towards levelling the playing field for small business.”

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THE LATEST Federal Court judgement handing down over $130,000 in fines sees the total penalties against building unions for breaking workplace laws now exceeds four million dollars – this financial year alone – according to Master Builders Australia.

"Building unions have now racked up over $4 million in fines for bullying and illegal conduct on building sites in just one financial year alone" said Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia. 

"This high amount over such a short time gives four million extra reasons why the ABCC is essential to ensure everyone plays by the rules on building sites," she said. 

Within the judgment (ABCC v Richard Xavier Hassett, Kevin Harkins and the CFMMEU) the Federal Court found that two building union officials had committed serious safety breaches and broke Right of Entry of laws, representing six separate contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 and resulting in penalties of almost $140,000. 

In handing down the penalties, Justice O’Callaghan said that the officials conduct was a: 

 "serious breach of [the Fair Work laws]… because it was very dangerous, which [the official] must have known, and it was serious because [the official] gained entry to the site purportedly in respect of safety corners – only to place the crane operator and others potentially in harm’s way."

The Court went on to find that the dangerous conduct: 

"…was made all the more serious by the fact that when he was told to get off the crane, he refused." 

His Honour also noted the same official had committed similar breaches of safety and workplace laws on multiple occasions in the past, and referenced the conduct of the union more broadly noting it was: 

“a large organisation with significant financial resources which exhibits apparent willingness to contravene the [Fair Work Act] in a serious way to impose its will”. 

"Building unions need to stop thinking that the laws don't apply to them and play by the rules like everyone else," Ms Wawn said.  

"This is exactly why the ABCC is so crucial in protecting workers and small businesses."

 

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