THE LATEST Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)  data shows that the rate of strikes and illegal stoppages in the construction industry has doubled, accounting for almost half of the entire Australian total, according to Master Builders Australia.

“Today’s data is clear and independent evidence that the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) must be retained to tackle the worsening behaviour from building union bullies,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said. 

“It’s the community that pays the price,” she said. 

“Just when people are feeling like the cost of everything is going up constructions unions are forcing them to pay up to 30 percent more for their schools, hospitals and roads,” Ms Wawn said. 

“The construction unions’ culture of bullying is getting worse which is exactly why we need the ABCC,” she said. 

The construction industry had the highest number of working days lost due to industrial disputation over the December quarter 2018 (13,200) – accounting for 43 percent of all days lost to disputes – and almost double the amount in the previous quarter (6,900). 

While this is lower than the average days lost when the ABCC was abolished (around 20,000), it remains far higher than the average when the ABCC first existed (6,700). 

“Days lost to strikes in construction have doubled, and we now represent almost half of the national total across all sectors,” Ms Wawn said. 

“There is no hiding from the fact that strikes and disputes in construction are getting worse, with building unions showing no sign of wanting to change culture and play by the rules just like everyone else.

“This shows that while the ABCC is making a positive impact, it still has much work to do tackle the culture of building union bullies who appear to believe they are above the law,” Ms Wawn said. 

“The ABCC must be retained until building unions learn to obey the law like everyone else."

 www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has today expressed its shock and dismay at a change to Western Australia’s regulations that will significantly affect tobacco retailing across the state from next week.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA said the ARA was advised late on Wednesday night of the changes, which will require price boards in retailers to be reduced from one square metre to an A4 sheet size. The changes also require as new graphic images to be placed next to price boards.

“Our members will always comply with new regulations; however, they require reasonable time frames to make changes. These changes have been poorly managed, and have been implemented without proper consultation and notification,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Retailers across the state are waking up to the news this morning that they have just a few days to implement the changes and are scratching their heads as to why they weren’t consulted or advised of the changes through proper process.”

The ARA has written to Roger Cook MLA, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, urgently requesting clarification to ensure retailers are not slapped with non-compliant notices, and unnecessary fines from Monday – especially given the uncertainty of what the fines are at this point in time.

“It is beyond my comprehension how significant changes of this nature can be passed without any consultation. I don’t see what the purpose of reducing price boards are, and how this can be justified in the realms of good public policy,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Mr Zimmerman’s letter to WA's Deputy Premier and Minister for Health can be found here: ARA Minister Roger Cook WA Tobacco Regulation Letter

About the Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $320 billion-dollar sector, which employs more than 1.3 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,800 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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EARLIER this week, the Seafarers International Union (SIU) of Canada president James Given concluded a successful trip to Australia, where he brought a message of solidarity and support for Australian seafarers, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)

During his visit, president Given participated in demonstrations against government inaction to protect domestic maritime jobs, an MUA spokesperson said.

SIU president Given’s visit came on the heels of Canadian seafarers "demonstrating in solidarity with their Australian brothers and sisters".

In February, over 100 SIU of Canada members rallied outside of the Australian embassies in Ottawa and Toronto, calling on the Australian Government to strengthen important cabotage laws which are crucial to protecting jobs.

“The SIU of Canada along with international resources through the International Transport Workers’ Federation are unwavering in their support for Australian Seafarers,” said Mr Given, who is also chair of the International Transportation Workers’ Federation (ITF) cabotage taskforce.

“We are mobilizing across the globe to combat this negligence,” Mr Given said.

During his trip to Australia, Mr Given addressed members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which has been  working tirelessly in Australia to prevent further layoffs and strengthen domestic labour protections. SIU president Given solidified the international maritime union community’s commitment to Save Australian Shipping.

“The leadership of the MUA has initiated a strong local campaign but the Global Union movement must now flex our muscle to assist," Mr Given said.

The SIU of Canada is calling for a world day of action to support Australian seafarers.

“The time has come for a coordinated action across the globe in order to highlight the blatant disregard for Australian seafarers,” Mr Given said. Further, the ITF will remain active in Australia and continue its efforts to strengthen Australian cabotage law. At home, the SIU of Canada is committed to continuing its efforts with Canada Steamship Lines to get Australian seafarers up to the gangway.

“When we support our brothers and sisters, our industry becomes stronger. It is our duty as maritime leaders to protect our workers and protect our industry,” Mr Given said. “The whole of the global union federation is watching Australia right now, and we will not back down.”

 

About the SIU of Canada

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) is affiliated with the Seafarers’ International Union of North America serving unlicensed sailors since 1938. The most important sailors’ union in Canada, the SIU represents the majority of unlicensed sailors working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, on the East and West Coasts.

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THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics will hold its final public hearing in Canberra on Tuesday March 26, 2019 for its inquiry into the implications of removing refundable franking credits.

The chair of the committee, Tim Wilson MP, said, "The committee continues to gather evidence about how the removal of refundable franking credits would affect investors, particularly senior Australians whose financial security could be compromised."

Appearing at the hearing, the Self-managed Independent Superannuation Fund Association has called the ALP’s proposal regressive and inequitable, stating that it "goes against the progressive nature of the income tax system". 

Associate Professor Geoff Warren, who will also appear at the hearing, has said the proposal may cause adverse effects by "singling out a particular group within the context of a broader policy agenda".

The Australia Institute and Industry Super Australia will also give evidence at the hearing. The Australia Institute argues the proposal will mainly affect wealthy Australians and "could save the government around $35 billion per annum by the end of the forward estimates".

Similarly, Industry Super Australia argued "the vast majority of retirees will be unaffected by the proposal and the wealthy are the beneficiaries of most of the refunds of franking credit for non-pensioners".

Mr Wilson said, "The hearing will also provide an opportunity for Australians impacted by a change to refundable franking credits to address the committee directly with a three minute statement, and we welcome their contributions and participation."


Public hearing details:

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 1pm–4.40pm
Venue: Main Committee Room, Parliament House, Canberra

Program

1.00pm The Australia Institute
1.30pm Associate Professor Geoff Warren, Australian National University
2.00pm Self-managed Independent Superannuation Fund Association
2.30pm Break
2.40pm Industry Super Australia
3.10pm 3 minute public statements
4.40pm Finish

The hearing will be webcast live.

A number of submissions have been received and are available on the committee’s webpage at: www.aph.gov.au/economics. Further submissions are currently being processed and will be published over the coming weeks. Submissions can still be made online or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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AUSTRALIA's shipping industry is in crisis, putting the nation’s economic, environmental, and national security at risk, but urgent government reform could address the issues and deliver a multi-billion dollar benefit to the economy, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

The union today presented a detailed proposal to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into the Australian shipping industry in Melbourne, including recommendations that the Australian Government:

  • provide tax incentives to support investment in ships, ship-related infrastructure, and local seafarers;
  • reform the seafarer visa system to improve maritime security and support skills investment;
  • reform legislation and regulations governing coastal trading;
  • create a national strategic fleet to guarantee fuel security and enhance the nation’s economic security;
  • develop a strategic approach to maritime workforce development; and
  • introduce better ship safety and pollution reduction measures to protect Australia’s coastlines, tourism industry and oceans.

“There’s no question that Australian shipping is in crisis,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

“Since 2013, we’ve lost more than half our remaining coastal fleet, leaving the country with just 12 large trading vessels to carry our growing coastal cargoes.

“With the right political leadership and policy settings, this dramatic decline can be arrested and our shipping industry can be rebuilt.”

Mr Crumlin said ongoing political inaction was causing a serious drain to the nation’s economy.

“Each Australian vessel that is lost is replaced by foreign ships that don’t pay tax here, don’t employ local seafarers, and don’t support local maintenance and service businesses,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The result is a major drain on the economy, with the use of foreign vessels to transport Australian resource and agricultural exports, along with coastal cargoes, estimated to be costing the nation more than $8 billion a year.

“Our research suggests that current coastal cargoes are sufficient to sustain between 50 and 60 additional Australian ships, but we need the political will and right policy settings if Australia is to once again become a shipping nation.”

Mr Crumlin outlined the union’s vision to save Australian maritime industries through both reforming cabotage laws and creation of a new national strategic fleet.

This would be achieved by expanding on the nation’s expertise and innovation in a range of maritime sectors, including:

  • offshore oil and gas exploration, construction, production and transportation;
  • opportunities in the emerging offshore wind farm sector;
  • defence shipbuilding arising from the Federal Government’s existing $80 billion investment in the sector;
  • civilian shipbuilding, particularly aluminium hulled ships;
  • expedition cruise shipping and other forms of marine tourism; and
  • marine and oceanographic research.

This would result in a maritime cluster that would be a significant economic boost to the nation, the MUA reported.

“At its core, government policy must aim to maintain and grow Australian maritime skills,” Mr Crumlin said.

“As an island nation, we depend on maritime skills to operate our ports, our regulatory and safety agencies, our freight and logistics sectors, tourism, and offshore oil and gas industries.

“This must include industry incentives that encourage investment in modern and efficient ships that are owned and operated by Australians.

“The introduction of purpose-built Australian ships would create a more productive freight network for Australia, delivering businesses greater flexibility, reliability, efficiency and productivity.

“This national strategic fleet will also protecting our environmental, fuel, and national security by providing greater control over the vessels that operate in our national waters.

“But before any of this can be achieved, we need clear vision and leadership from government.”

www.mua.org.au

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FOUNDED in 2017 by comedian and entertainer George McEncroe, women-only ride-sharing service Shebah has since recorded growth of 190 percent, turning over $1.8 million in 2018, up from $500,000 in 2017.  

The company began its equity crowdfunding campaign two weeks ago aiming to raise $3 million. The capital raised will enable the company to grow its geographical footprint in Australia, launch into New Zealand and further develop the user experience on the app since its rapid growth in 2018.

So far the investment campaign has made history raising close to $1 million of which 95 percent has come from female investors. This is significantly higher than the average 17 percent that capital funding platform Birchal has seen on its platform to-date.  Majority of the company’s new investors are becoming shareholders for the first time having experienced the Shebah service first-hand.

According to CEO George McEncroe,"We wanted to offer the fruits of our future success to the women who helped us grow, so we went out to the community of drivers and our passengers first.  We were mindful that on average less than 3 percent of VC investment goes to female-led businesses in Australia and New-Zealand, a statistic we hope to see change. So starting with our loyal base made sense as they believe in our core purpose and in potential to grow."

A recent Forbes and TINYPulse report showed that, startup companies with female founders at the helm almost universally outperformed and are the fastest growing companies. Investors are starting to recognise this and growth in female-led businesses is set to increase.

The company’s founder also acknowledged the diversity within its new investor group and the reasons behind investor support.

"We seem to have started a social movement of sorts, something that women in particular feel strongly about and a service they believe is needed. Our investment group is incredibly diverse, including politicians, experienced investors (male and female) and mothers throughout Australia."

The exclusive community-only investment period has now closed and investment is open to the public, with only 18 days remaining.  The company aims to reach its goal of $3m in the coming weeks, at which point it will embark on an accelerated growth phase for the coming years.

The Australian rideshare industry is worth $290 million and the taxi industry is worth $6 billion, with the market growing at 14 percent year-on-year, this is forecast to continue for a decade.

www.shebah.com.au

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MORTGAGE CHOICE chief executive officer, Susan Mitchell, has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision today to maintain trail commissions on new loans and undertake a review in three years. 

In his statement today the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said abolition of trail won’t proceed in 2020 because the government is concerned about the adverse effect on competition in mortgage lending market. He also conceded that abolishing trail would be “a free kick to the banks”.

The government will review trailing commissions in three years time, as well as the feasibility of continuing upfront commission payments. The review will be conducted by the Council of Financial Regulators and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Treasurer Frydenberg acknowledged that mortgage brokers and small lenders are “absolutely critical in the mortgage lending market”. 

Ms Mitchell said, “I wholeheartedly support Treasurer Frydenberg’s announcement to maintain trail commissions. It is clear that abolishing trail would have an adverse effect on the home lending market and would be detrimental to competition.

"Australia’s 17,000 mortgage brokers will applaud the Government’s common sense decision to keep trail commissions. ASIC’s 2017 Review of Mortgage Broking Remuneration Report did not identify trail commissions as directly leading to poor consumer outcomes, nor recommend the removal of trail commissions.

“The figures speak for themselves. The latest data shows that 59.1 percent of home loans originate through the mortgage broking channel, yet Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) data for the month of November 2018 revealed that of 6,522 complaints against financial service providers,  only 29 related to mortgage brokers. This is less than half of one percent of reported complaints.

“Furthermore, brokers drive competition in the lending market. Proof of this can be seen in Mortgage Choice residential settlement figures, which show that in the past two years the big four banks have lost 10 percent of market share to smaller lenders.

“Maintaining competition in the mortgage industry is of the utmost importance to every borrower in Australia. Mortgage Choice brokers have been helping Australians realise their property ownership goals for 27 years.

"We believe that maintaining trail commission will ensure a strong mortgage broking industry and allow brokers to continue to guide Australian borrowers through what may be the most significant financial commitment of their lives - buying their home,” Ms Mitchell said. 

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THE Federal Government should use next month’s Budget to advance policy commitments to help the financial services sector to get rid of old, substandard legacy products that do not benefit consumers, Financial Services Council CEO Sally Loane said today.

Ms Loane said the FSC had asked the government in its pre-Budget submission to deliver on a commitment to slash the red tape hindering the rationalisation of legacy products right across the financial services sector.

“Many FSC members have legacy products in managed investment schemes, life insurance, and superannuation,” Ms Loane said.  “The FSC has estimated there are at least 600 legacy structures, each of which may contain multiple products, disadvantaging an estimated 2.44 million consumers.

“Our members have modernised their products over time, but customers with older products cannot easily be transferred into newer products. This is for several reasons, including significant tax liabilities triggered by shutting down legacy products, and a ‘better off’ test that is complex and expensive to apply. We have offered solutions to these barriers in our submission.

“Product rationalisation was a recommendation of the Financial Services Inquiry in 2014, which the government accepted. The problems with legacy products were also highlighted this year by the Royal Commission and in the Productivity Commission’s (PC) inquiry into superannuation. The PC estimated about $160 billion in superannuation assets alone were in legacy products in 2017.

“Consumers should not be worse off due to any transition to a newer product and will most likely be substantially better off in modern products with lower fees, better customer service, and improved accessibility.

“The FSC believes a rationalisation scheme should involve a test to ensure a rollover is in the interest of consumers as a whole, and removal of any taxes on the rollover.”

In its Budget submission, the FSC is also continuing calls for the government to implement a zero rate of non-resident withholding tax on Asia Region Funds Passport payments.  This would bolster the success of Australia’s participation in the Funds Passport which started on February 1.

“The Funds Passport allows eligible managed funds to be marketed to retail investors in participating countries, however tax reform needs to take place to maximise its potential,” Ms Loane said.

“The Australian tax regime for managed funds is complicated, with high tax rates and many exemptions – creating the impression our funds are highly taxed even though a very small amount of revenue is raised from the funds. Addressing our complex, uncompetitive tax system will enable the Passport to promote the exports of Australian funds.”

The FSC pre-budget submission also calls on the Federal Government to:

  • Negotiate a tax treaty with Luxembourg and Hong Kong; address any financial services issues in existing tax treaties; and ensure that all new Free Trade Agreements are accompanied by a tax treaty.
  • Pursue a cut in the overall corporate tax rate to 25 percent, preferably to 22 percent. Prioritise meeting existing commitments to address outstanding Investment Manager Regime (IMR) issues, extend the attribution regime to Investor Directed Portfolio Services, and fix outstanding issues with the Taxation of Financial Arrangements.
  • Abandon the proposal to remove the CGT discount at fund level and replace it with a measure targeted at any investors that are inappropriately accessing the CGT discount. If any unfavourable changes to the Offshore Banking Unit (OBU) regime occur, offset the adverse effect of this by abandoning the proposed change to the CGT discount at fund level and proposed changes to the AMIT penalty regime. 

The FSC’s 2019-20 Budget submission can be access here.

About the Financial Services Council

The Financial Services Council (FSC) has over 100 members representing Australia's retail and wholesale funds management businesses, superannuation funds, life insurers, financial advisory networks and licensed trustee companies. The industry is responsible for investing almost $3 trillion on behalf of more than 14.8 million Australians. The pool of funds under management is larger than Australia’s GDP and the capitalisation of the Australian Securities Exchange and is the fourth largest pool of managed funds in the world. The FSC promotes best practice for the financial services industry by setting mandatory Standards for its members and providing Guidance Notes to assist in operational efficiency.

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THE Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), in partnership with publishing and media firm, Momentum Connect, has transformed its digital hub into a world class, multijurisdictional content platform.

In 2015, the IPA acquired its UK based peer, the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), creating the IPA Group which has become the largest SME focused accountancy organisation in the world.

In doing so the organisation vowed to introduce a raft of new communication mediums to engage with its members and prospective members, and the new digital platform forms a part of that pledge.

“We wanted a modular digital content platform that can stand the test of time, delivering a vast content range while enhancing user engagement,” says the IPA Group’s chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“The new site will deliver features from the IPA and IFA print magazines, local content and shared global content, on the basis of where a person is geographically located.

“When making content-related decisions, we will consider the needs and interests of our audiences. Our research shows that this goes beyond the day-to-day accounting profession.

“For example, we will put a special emphasis on articles exploring health and wellbeing, which we have previously recognised as a top priority for our readers in the small business community,” Mr Conway said.

Momentum Connect director, Phillip Tarrant, said that the new platform is fresh, exciting and in tune with the latest technological developments.

“The news industry is constantly evolving and we are following the trends. When it comes to content that is both engaging and interactive, you cannot ignore the digital space,” Mr Tarrant said.

“While the initial focus of the new platform is on Australia and the UK, we have designed and constructed it to grow with the addition of other jurisdictions that the IPA Group may expand to in the future.

“Besides keeping members and prospective members up to date on the latest news from the accounting industry, it will also offer engaging weekly blogs, features and a monthly podcast with industry professionals,” Mr Tarrant said. 

www.publicaccountant.com.au 

publicaccountants.org.au

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WOMEN on Boards (WOB) has welcomed the NSW Premier’s $120 million commitment to make before and after school care available to public primary schools by 2021.

The co-founders of Women on Boards, Claire Braund and Ruth Medd, said the commitment by Gladys Berejiklian over the weekend could be a game changer for women and a break-through in the thorny issue of closing the gender pay gap.

"This announcement by the Premier is significant and very welcome. Lack of before and after school care has been a major irritant for parents and carers - mothers in particular - for way too long," Ms Medd and Ms Braund said in a prepared statement.

“Many families have struggled with the 9am-3pm school hours and the lack of appropriate on-site childcare for even an hour or so either side of school drop off and pick up times.

“In most cases, something has to give - and usually it’s the women’s job that is either scaled back to part-time or given up entirely, with the consequent impact of reduced job prospects, fewer opportunities for promotion, lower pay and less retirement savings.”

The WOB duo said they, alongside the National Foundation for Australian Women, had been actively advocating for many years for more supportive before and after care services, including making submissions to the Productivity Commission and lobbying politicians.

They said such a policy would be a boon for struggling parents and economically significant for the state of NSW and women for many reasons:

  • Boost worker numbers in a state with the lowest unemployment rate in Australia.

  • Result in more hours in more senior roles worked by women - fueling economic growth and assisting to close the gender pay gap.

  • Provide women and men with better and more secure job prospects while their children are at school.

  • Deliver a more structured arrangement for care for children will reduce family anxiety and stress and increase well-being.

Ms Medd and Ms Braund said that, depending on its design and execution, the NSW Liberal policy commitment would enhance female workforce attachment at a time when there has been slight slow-down in women’s workforce participation.

“Labour force data shows women with dependent children tend to work part time until the youngest child has left primary school," the joint statement said. "This continues over their life span - in fact the rates of full-time work for Australian women have not increased at all in 40 years.  And for women of child rearing age it has declined slightly.

“In the meantime women continue to take an unequal load in caring duties - preventing them from returning full time to work until children are older; by which time their employment prospects are diminished relative to their peers; hence exacerbating gender pay gap into perpetuity.”
 
Ms Medd and Braund said the next major challenge was in the provision of appropriate support care for shift-workers or those working non-standard hours.

KEY FACTS

NSW Premier's $120million before and after school care plan could:

- Boost worker numbers in a state with the lowest unemployment rate in Australia.
- Result in more hours in more senior roles worked by women - fueling economic growth and assisting to close the gender pay gap.
- Provide women and men with better and more secure job prospects while their children are at school.
- Deliver a more structured arrangement for care for children will reduce family anxiety and stress and increase well-being.

About WOB

Women on Boards (WOB) has been working for more than 10 years to address gender inequity in the boardroom and across leadership roles. WOB is a recognised leader in the ecosystem of organisations and networks promoting and supporting women; dedicated to breaking down barriers to entry into leadership and onto boards. WOB has a track-record of success and is known for its strategic and practical events and programs. WOB's aim is to have 40 percent of these roles occupied by women by 2025. Targets are essential and quotas will sometimes be necessary to achieve WOB's goal. As strong advocates for women, WOB works across organisations and sectors and with government on a meaningful and strategic policy and cultural change agenda for gender equity.

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RESOURCES sector companies are focused on building stronger bonds and delivering even more returns to local communities, as part of recognition of the challenges facing business, government and institutions when it comes to trust. 

The Queensland Resources Council’s (QRC) latest quarterly State of the Sector survey has found the sector is working with communities even closer to bring them to the heart of day-to-day decision making.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the survey of resource chiefs reinforced the wider view across other industries that the private sector must act to prevent losing trust with the public.

“Across corporate Australia, government and institutions, there is a clear message that the public is watching and wants businesses to be an active part of their communities,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Companies are listening to this community feedback and responding to the challenge, increasingly focusing their time and resources on their social licence to operate.

“Close to three quarters of resource companies surveyed said community and social performance was embedded in their day-to-day business decision making and 84 percent of CEOs estimate they spend about the same or more time on community and social aspects of their business as they do economic and technical.

“Over the next 12 months an overwhelming majority expect to invest more on working with local communities, with 68 percent of companies surveyed committed to increasing or significantly increasing community and social capability.”

"As an industry, we need to be strengthening our linkage with our communities and local stakeholders," Mr Macfarlane said. "Mining offers so much locally - yet we are not doing a great job in reinforcing these links."

Mr Macfarlane said the December quarter survey also highlighted the growing risks around the sector’s ability to retain and attract skilled employees.

“The survey found the scarcity of skills was now in its third quarter as a top concern for CEOs as the sector continues to grow employment after a significant and lengthy downturn,” he said.
 
"Attracting and retaining capable leaders and engineering candidates are key issues. Finding skilled labour, particularly statutory qualified personnel in the underground industry, is a significant challenge."

There was some good news on the outlook for the 316,000 men and women supported by the sector with the expectation of another record year of coal and LNG exports in 2019 driven by Asia’s insatiable appetite for Queensland’s resources.

www.qrc.org.au

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MANSFIELD QLD 4122