THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell is pleased by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) proposal for improved transparency around the Australasian Performing Rights Association’s (APRA) operations, but says more needs to be done to ensure small business artists and venues are treated fairly.

“The ACCC has clearly heard our concerns over the lack of transparency with regard to APRA’s reporting obligations,” Ms Carnell said.

“We are encouraged by the regulator’s proposal to grant authorisation for a further five years with conditions that require APRA to be far more transparent about licence fees and the way it pays royalties to members.”

As part of the proposal, APRA would be required to publish information about how it calculates licence fees, produce a plain English guide to its distribution policies and to publish an annual transparency report with information on rights revenue, operating costs and payments to members.

“While these measures are a step in the right direction, we believe the requirements need to go further,” Ms Carnell said.

“APRA must also be required to disclose in detail exactly what licence fees cover, for example artists on streaming services are not necessarily covered by APRA’s licence.

“In our follow-up submission to the ACCC, we will again raise the need for comprehensive community radio coverage, so that emerging Australian artists whose airplay is mostly through alternative channels such as community radio, internet radio and other broadcasters are paid the royalties they are entitled to.

“We will also re-submit our view that APRA must ensure licence fees provided to venues are tailored for actual use, rather than capacity.

 “These and a number of other issues are critical to the future of Australian small businesses and need to be addressed before the APRA licence is re-issued.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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RESEARCH released today proposes low carbon gas policy incentives that could help efforts to decarbonise the nation’s economy.

The report, by energy consultant Energetics, will be launched at the Renewable Gas in Australia Symposium, jointly hosted by Energy Networks Australia and Bioenergy Australia.

Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said the research was a welcome contribution to work such as the National Hydrogen Strategy, exploring how to harness existing resources and new technologies to help reduce emissions.

The Renewable Gas Symposium will explore emerging innovations and research in hydrogen and biogas.

Delegates will hear about projects and case studies underway, the drivers pushing businesses to consider utilising low carbon gas and the injection and policy mechanisms needed to support it being blended into existing gas networks.

The event will also feature international presentations showcasing the lessons Australia could learn from other countries that have capitalised on low carbon gas opportunities.

Recent advice released by Energy Networks Australia confirmed that injection of hydrogen into the gas distribution network can be done under current gas legislation.

“Hydrogen can play an important role in not only helping Australia’s gas networks decarbonise but as energy storage,” Mr Dillon said.

“Flexible hydrogen production can help soak up excess renewable electricity on sunny and windy days, then fuel cells can generate emissions-free power on still evenings.”

As demonstrated in Energy Networks Australia’s Gas Vision 2050 report, hydrogen’s scope is impressive, with potential to widen customers’ power options, improve and increase renewable generation, provide options for mobility and even create a new energy export market.

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THE Queensland Electricity Users Network (QEUN) has slammed the current Queensland Government for inaction on creating a competitive energy market in Regional Queensland.

Queensland Electricity Users Network coordinator Jennifer Brownie claims the government is unfairly charging consumers for public services that do not exist.

“The Queensland Government plans to rip nearly $100 million out of regional Queensland next year by charging customers for retail competition that does not exist in regional Queensland,” Ms Brownie said.

“(The) announcement by the Queensland Competition Authority of a small reduction in regional power bills completely ignores the Queensland Government is adding around 10 percent to regional power bills for something that doesn’t exist.”

The QEUN claims that an average residence in the regions pays 25 cents extra for non-existent retail competition.

This is estimated to reduce $56 million from the regional economy, affecting primarily low-middle income residents.

Small businesses in regional Queensland are also impacted, paying approximately 28 cents per day, adding another $9 million.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimates it costs $48 to acquire and retain an electricity customer.

Ms Brownie also claims Ergon Energy holds a "near monopoly" over regional Queensland as a sole power provider.

“Ergon Energy Retail is a near monopoly and doesn’t have to fight to acquire or retain its customers," Ms Brownie said.

“This means the Queensland Government drains another $34 million from the regional Queensland economy.

“This $100 million should be in the pockets of regional Queensland homes and businesses.” She said.

Last year Ergon Energy Retail more than doubled its profits to $263 million, with $177 million being paid to the Queensland Government.

“This exorbitant profit caused businesses to sack staff and nearly 13,000 homes to have their electricity disconnected for non-payment.

“The QEUN urges the Queensland Government to support regional jobs and to reduce the cost of living by further reducing regional power bills.”

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THE Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has delivered some welcome and not entirely unexpected news to the market today, with the Board announcing its first rate cut in almost two years.

“The RBA has today decided to cut the nation’s official cash rate to the new historic low of 1.25 percent, marking the first rate cut since August 2016,” Mortgage Choice chief executive officer Susan Mitchell said.

“While today’s decision will no doubt bring relief to borrowers across the country, the question now is how soon, and by how much will the nation’s lenders pass on the savings to borrowers?

“Throughout 2018, the Reserve Bank made it clear that leaving monetary policy unchanged would be consistent with achieving sustainable economic growth and its inflation target of 2-3 percent. However, a weakened housing market, consistently lacklustre inflation and mixed messages from the labour market, may have encouraged the Board to shift its long-held stance on monetary policy.

“In the minutes of the May Monetary Policy meeting, the RBA Board said that if labour market conditions deteriorated, the Bank would be inclined to lower the cash rate. Given that the nation’s unemployment rate and underemployment rate rose month-on-month to 5.2 percent and 8.5 percent respectively, the RBA Board may have been pressured into lowering the cash rate in order to help stimulate the economy.

“Today’s cash rate cut is good news for the Australian property market which could see a boost from lower interest rates. According to the latest CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index, national dwelling values fell 0.4 percent in April and 7.3 percent annually," Ms Mitchell said.

“The Reserve Bank would be acutely aware that any cuts to the cash rate may serve to bolster overall activity in the property market and while I do not see dwelling values rebounding to their 2017 peak any time soon, monetary policy stimulus could help put a floor under falling dwelling values."

With the Board opting to trim the cash rate by 25 basis points, Ms Mitchell said all eyes will now be on the nation’s lenders.

“If recent history is anything to go by, the last time the RBA cut the official cash rate, few lenders actually passed on the full rate adjustment to borrowers, however lenders would be aware of the intense public backlash they would receive if they did not deliver some relief to borrowers," Ms Mitchell said.

"Financial markets are speculating that a second rate cut is on the cards in 2019, and some economists predict as many as three rate cuts by Christmas. Regardless of what the RBA has in store, I urge anyone looking to secure a home loan to speak to their local mortgage broker to ensure they are getting a good deal.

“Interest rates are already hovering at historic lows, and if lenders respond to the RBA’s move by slashing their interest rates, there is an even more compelling case for those with property buying plans to take action.

“Mortgage Choice brokers have access to a panel of over 25 lenders with varied lending policies and preferences catering to a wide range of borrowers so we can help borrowers get the most suitable deal, whatever the cash rate,” Ms Mitchell said.

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NOMINATIONS are now open for the 2019 APAC Food Safety Awards, the leading event that recognises and rewards individuals who have contributed to food safety in Australia and New Zealand. 

Hosted by global leader in integrated risk management solutions SAI Global (saiglobal.com), the Food Safety Award winners will be announced at the APAC Food Safety Awards Gala Dinner on August 21 in Sydney. The dinner is held as part of the APAC Food Safety Conference (August 20-22).

The APAC Food Safety Awards comprise three categories, with nominations closing on July 25. Entrants are shortlisted by an independent panel of recognised Australian food experts – with this year’s panel including:

  • · Andrea Currie, Coles Brand Manager Policy and Technical Standards
  • · Debbie Peters, wife of the late Ross Peters, the founder of the Ross Peters Award for Excellence in Food Safety
  • · Paul Holder, 2018 winner of the Ross Peters Award for Excellence in Food Safety
  • · Kimberly Coffin, SAI Global Head of Food, Retail and Hospitality – Assurance

The award categories are:

  • · Ross Peters Award for Excellence in Food Safety. This category is open to any individual who has made a notable contribution to food safety in Australia. They can work within any sector of the agri-food industry.
  • · Leaders of the Future – Food Safety Learning Scholarship. Applicants in this category must work within the food industry and have a junior quality assurance role or equivalent. They must have a background or experience that shows a unique perspective on food safety, a drive towards continuous improvement and leadership potential through vision. The winner will receive a scholarship to complete food safety courses with SAI Global to the value of $10,000.
  • · Innovators in Food Safety. This award recognises an individual or organisation that has developed best in class innovations in technology, process, procedure and training in relation to food safety. The winner of this award will have made a positive and influential impact on food safety through an innovative idea or product.

SAI Global Assurance CEO John Rowley said, “The APAC Food Safety Awards is an annual event that publicly recognises the achievements of food safety professionals. Their commitment to the industry should be celebrated and rewarded, as there are many individuals in the industry who work tirelessly to ensure the safety of our food supply and the minimisation of any potential harm. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we continually strive to the challenges and changes within the food industry.”

Jessica Kelly, winner of the 2018 APAC Food Safety Award for ‘Leaders of the Future – Food Safety Learning Scholarship’ said, "It was very exciting and humbling to have been recognised for an APAC Food Safety Award last year, so early into my career. Winning this award has provided me an opportunity to expand my presence in the industry and explore new networks, career directions, skills and mentor opportunities. I highly recommend anyone thinking about entering to apply as early as possible to demonstrate their skills, passion and commitment in being a part of a strong future for the industry."

Nominations for the APAC Food Safety Awards close at 5pm, July 25, and finalists will be announced on August 14 . Award winners will be announced at the APAC Food Safety Awards Gala Dinner at Doltone House, 48 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, Sydney on August 21.

For more information on the APAC Food Safety Awards and to nominate yourself, visit www.foodsafetyapac.com/award-nominations.

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