THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell welcomed the Joint Standing Committee report on access to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and urged bi-partisan support for key recommendations.

“The proposed centralised ‘single trade window’ of resources would help SMEs to tap into some of our largest trading markets,” Ms Carnell said.

“There are a number of FTAs and each has different requirements, paperwork and processes, which can be quite daunting to an SME owner, particularly smaller businesses.

“We support the continued use of specific SME chapters in FTAs, including an e-commerce focus, and encourage additional SME user-friendly guidance and support for stepping into the business of exporting.

“Despite our existing trade partnerships and the new partnerships with 10 countries through the Trans Pacific Partnership, SMEs have not experienced the same growth in exports as has big business.

“This report acknowledges that Australia has so much to offer in the exporting of goods and services by SMEs.

“Recommendations around reducing the complexity of overlapping FTAs and trialling a grant program in regional areas will open up doors for trade and investment, and new growth opportunities.

“By realising the key recommendation in this report, SMEs would be in a better position to weigh up their options and potentially chart a way forward for their business overseas.

“The review of Export Market Development Grants and the role of Efic is also welcomed as access to adequate finance for exporting SMEs remains a significant issue.

“The signing of the landmark FTA with Indonesia today will provide many more opportunities for Australian SMEs.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has commended Western Australia’s (WA) State Government on their efforts to approve an additional four hours of trading for general retail shops situated within the Perth metropolitan area, for both the Labour Day and Easter Monday public holidays.

The announcement made by the State Government means that larger retail shops will now have the opportunity to trade any time between 8am until 6pm on Labour Day and Easter Monday, instead of the previous 11am to 5pm trading hours.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA said the decision put forth by the WA State Government is a positive step towards creating a level playing field for retailers who are competing in a 24/7 marketplace. 

“We now live in an age where everything is so readily available and with online retailers offering the convenience of around the clock purchasing of products and services, customers have the option shop to whenever and wherever,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“While this is convenient choice for consumers, it is placing an immense amount of pressure on local retailers’ capacity to compete in the highly saturated retail market. Therefore, the decision made by the State Government should provide some relief for WA retailers and offer them the chance to compete alongside their competitors which should assist in reducing the strain.”

As the retail industry employs more than 1.2 million people, the ARA believe the extended trading hours will greatly benefit retail staff, as retail employers will now have the option to roster extra staff on these public holidays.

“With public holidays such as Easter being a busy time for retailers, employers will be looking to roster or hire extra staff to work during this period to accommodate for the rush of customers who will be preparing for the celebrations,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“As the number of jobseekers in Australia continues to increase, the extended trading hours put in place by the State Government will provide these prospects with the opportunity to earn extra wages if they so please.”

With the latest December retail trade figures recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicating that  WA had recorded a 1.23 percent year-on-year growth, its strongest since July 2017, the ARA believes the extended trading hours will be a positive contribution to retail trade and assist in strengthening the retail industry.

“The December trade figures produced some commendable results for year-on-year growth across the States and Territories and WA was one of the States that showed improvement throughout 2018,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“The decision made by the WA State Government is a promising lead for retail trade in 2019 and should alleviate   some of the pressure on retailers operating within the metropolitan region and stimulate the overall local WA economy.

"The ARA would like to formally thank the WA State Government on their decision and encourage them consider reviewing trading hours across the whole year."

 

About the Australian Retailers Association:

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 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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THE Queensland Resources Council will meet with the Palaszczuk Government next week in a bid to arrest the further decline in the State’s attractiveness for resource investment. 

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Canadian-based Fraser Institute global survey of mining companies found Queensland’s investment attractiveness fell from 12th to 13th of 83 jurisdictions around the world. 

“It means Queensland is becoming less attractive for mining companies when they decide to invest.  The world is watching,” he said.

“For Queenslanders, the less attractive we are for new investment is the less potential to create jobs, grow exports and earn royalties to pay for services and infrastructure.  A strong resources sector is a strong foundation for the quality of life for Queenslanders.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the QRC annual lunch in November last year that her government would work with the QRC to promote existing initiatives and explore new opportunities to:

  • expand the availability of land for mineral and energy resource exploration and development;
  • strengthen our export partnerships, create new resource export markets and increase development of advanced manufacturing and renewable energy in Queensland;
  • identify and develop the skills and training needed for our resources industry and opportunities for diversity of employment by increasing the number of women and Indigenous Queenslanders in the industry.

Mr Macfarlane said QRC would meet with the government, including Trade and Investment Queensland, "to ensure we redouble our combined efforts to sell a strong Queensland message". 

“Now is not the time for mixed messages on resources.  We need to speak with one voice — we want the investment to deliver the energy mix, infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and expansion of renewable energy, electric vehicles and batteries around the globe,” he said. 

“These survey results are a further warning that a number of projects in an estimated $70 billion of resource projects might not proceed.  These projects take many years to get to a final investment decision.”

Mr Macfarlane said while the Fraser Institute survey found Queensland was 12th for mineral potential, it was marked down for uncertainty for environmental regulation (49th), regulatory duplication and inconsistency (48th), and uncertainty concerning the administration, interpretation and enforcement of existing regulation (39th).

The Queensland resources industry supports more than 316,000 jobs across Queensland or the equivalent of one in eight in the state’s workforce, according to the QRC. 

The sector also contributed more than $62 billion of the State’s gross domestic product or the equivalent of one in every six dollars, as well as more than 80 percent of the state’s exports with overseas sales of Queensland coal, metal and petroleum increasing to more than $60 billion, propelling Queensland exports to a record $81 billion in 2018.

www.qrc.org.au

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AS PART of Valuing Australia’s Teachers, community forums will take place around Australia next week.

A Federal Parliamentary committee has been asking about the status of the teaching profession, and as part of its work, plans to hold meetings in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Rockhampton next week. Details of venues and times are included below.

Chair of the House Education Committee, Andrew Laming MP, explained that the inquiry is about what it takes for Australia to have a world-class education system.

"Australia’s teachers inspire, engage and challenge students to be the best they can. Although there are more teachers in Australia than ever, the attrition rate from the profession is rising," Mr Laming said.

"We are looking at building better career structures and pathways for teachers to ensure that the profession remains fulfilling and rewarding for educators. We are also hoping to hear about ways to support teachers more generally, in and outside the classroom, to reduce the amount of time spent on out-of-hours work," Mr Laming said.

"We also want to overcome constraints such as inflexible curriculum delivery; reporting and assessment practices; lack of evidence-based research and readily available classroom applications; as well as time pressures and a lack of support for principals to develop professional autonomy," Mr Laming said.

"We have had submissions from around Australia, and had to make some early decisions about who we could speak with first. I hope that this important work can be continued regardless of any election result – it’s important public policy for Australia. In announcing these first hearings, we hope to keep the discussion going, and learn from teachers at the coal face, about what they want and how their expertise and their profession can be better valued," Mr Laming said.

All hearings will be streamed live via the Parliament’s website.

4 March Brisbane
8am – 11.15am, Commonwealth Parliament Offices Boardroom
Level 36, Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle St, Brisbane

4 March Bokarina (Sunshine Coast)
3pm – 5pm, Lake Kawana Community Centre, Lake View Room
114 Sportsmans Parade, Bokarina

5 March Sydney
10am – 1.15pm, Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Meeting Room, Level 21
1 Bligh Street, Sydney

6 March Melbourne
9.30am – 1.15pm, The University of Melbourne, Dean’s Boardroom
Level 12, 198 Berkeley Street (The Spot Building), Carlton

7 March Adelaide
10am – 12pm, Old Parliament House, Watarru Room, 1st Floor
North Terrace, Adelaide

8 March Rockhampton
10am – 12pm, Rockhampton Leagues Club
Cambridge Street Rockhampton

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ENERGY Networks Australia has welcomed progress towards a National Hydrogen Strategy, with the release today of a discussion paper for public comment.

CEO Andrew Dillon said support from both sides of federal politics for hydrogen and its potential as a low or zero-emission energy source to back up renewable power was important to support the transition to a clean energy future.

“Hydrogen can be produced carbon free from excess renewable energy, storing this energy in a clean way for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind isn’t blowing,” he said.

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

“This technology is already being embraced around the world for domestic and commercial use in gas networks and to fuel passenger and freight trains.”

Mr Dillon said while the potential for export was enormous, one of the most exciting properties of hydrogen was its potential to serve as a large-scale battery, utilising existing gas networks.

“Funding support for research and development, backed by bipartisan national support, will drive the ultimate commercialisation of hydrogen technologies,” he said.

“Energy Networks Australia supported the CSIRO on the National Hydrogen Roadmap and has worked with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who is now leading the development of the National Hydrogen Strategy.

“Our gas networks are undertaking significant hydrogen related projects throughout Australia, trialling hydrogen in gas networks and for use in domestic appliances.”

www.energynetworks.com,au

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FIVE regional Queensland women who work in the state’s resources sector have been awarded travel grants to attend one of the biggest International Women’s Day events in the state.

The grants, awarded by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) enable them to attend the QRC/Women in Mining and Resources Queensland International Women’s Day Breakfast and Inspire!Convention on March 8 in Brisbane.

The grants were funded by the Queensland Government’s Advancing Women in Business initiative.

“I congratulate the government on this initiative, which will enable women who otherwise would not have been able to attend the events to take part in valuable professional development and networking,” said QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane.

“The Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer will present the awards along with QRC President Rag Udd and WIMARQ Chair Maria Joyce.

“These events are an important part of our sector’s endeavors to improve the gender balance in our workplaces.

“The breakfast also includes the 14th annual Resources Awards for Women, which celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of women in our sector.

“We also welcome to the breakfast about 50 girls from our Queensland Minerals and Energy (QMEA) schools, along with 20 girls who have been selected for the inaugural QRC/WIMARQ Girls Mentoring Program, and three finalists in the QMEA Exceptional Student award.
 
“These girls are part of our future. If we are to attract the technologically skilled people our industry needs, it’s important that we don’t miss out on the talents of half our population.

“It’s good to see we have attracted about 800 people, with about 400 more watching via webcast in Moranbah, Blackwater, Century Mine, Mount Isa and Rockhampton, and at many smaller events.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the green light for Arrow Energy’s $10 billion Surat Gas Project which will create around 1000 jobs during construction and operation.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the decision to grant 14 petroleum leases would be a welcome addition to the state’s economy and a significant local boost for the Western Downs.

“Every new resources project in Queensland means more jobs, and more royalty taxes paid to benefit all Queenslanders,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Through the bipartisan foresight more than a decade ago to develop Queensland’s gas industry, we are now reaping the benefits of an industry that supports more than 39,000 jobs and injects $8.2 billion into the Queensland economy.

“The go ahead for Arrow Energy’s project in the Surat is a significant commitment of confidence in the Queensland gas industry and is a sizeable investment from the private sector.

“More gas being produced is good news for all gas customers, both domestic and export. 

“The development of our state’s gas industry is in stark contrast to the inaction of other states, where opportunity for investment and jobs is being squandered.

”With a go-slow on gas development in NSW and a blanket ban on some types of gas projects in Victoria, what the Southern States are really saying is they’re not prepared to support local jobs and local industry.

“The ongoing strength of our resources sector will lock in economic gains for all Queenslanders.

“But we cannot take this success for granted.  The Arrow Energy project is a welcome addition to our state’s diverse resources sector, but we must ensure more projects are developed across our full range of commodities, including gas, coal, metals and other minerals.

“Only stable and predictable policy with a clear set of rules will ensure investment in exploration leads to new investment, new jobs and new exports for Queensland.”

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Financial Services Council (FSC) has welcomed today‘s release of the fourth edition of the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations.

FSC Policy Manager Jane Macnamara, who is the association’s representative on the ASX Corporate Governance Council, said the new edition reflected Australia’s growing focus on strong culture, values and accountability in business.

“The FSC and its members recognise the importance of good corporate governance to maintain trust in business and ensure business practices are sustainable over the long term,” Ms Macnamara said.

“The FSC is also pleased to see new standards for diversity in organisations and increased recognition of environmental and social risks facing business, including climate risk.”

In addition to supporting the Corporate Governance Principles, the FSC promotes high standards of governance in member organisations through standards and guidance, including Australia’s first Asset Stewardship Code for investment managers and asset owners which commenced in 2018.

The FSC’s standards are available here.

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said today the long-term future of the coal industry would ensure ongoing jobs for Queensland workers and investment in regional communities.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the coal industry employs 215,600 people directly and indirectly, out of the 316,000 employed across the state’s resources sector. The majority of those jobs are in Central and North Queensland.

“Resources jobs are jobs of the future.  Queensland’s coal employees work in one of the most important sectors for our economy,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“And it is the hard work of Queensland’s coal employees which puts money in the bank for the Palaszczuk Government.

“Without those workers, the Palaszczuk Government wouldn’t have the money to pay for Cross River Rail, it wouldn’t have the money to help North Queensland rebuild after the recent flood disaster, and it wouldn’t have the money to pay public servants’ wages.

“It’s wrong to suggest Queensland coal workers won’t have a long-term future. In fact, those jobs will be critical to ongoing development in Australia and around the world.

“Treasury estimates Queensland coal royalty taxes will be worth $4.26 billion to the Palaszczuk Government’s budget this year. 

“QRC estimates based on current values that amount could go even higher with an extra $30 million on top, as the market for both types of Queensland coal remains strong," Mr Macfarlane said.

"Figures from the Office of the Chief Economist’s December update showed that if the six major coal projects in the Galilee Basin were to proceed they would create 13,900 construction jobs and 12,803 jobs during operations. 

“Those jobs create an opportunity that regional Queenslanders are ready to grasp, especially given mining jobs are typically high-skilled and high-paying.

“The global demand for coal is strong, and coal is forecast to remain at about 40 percent of total power generation in the Asia Pacific by the year 2040 under a scenario modelled by the International Energy Agency.

“We welcome the focus of the Queensland Parliament on the resources industry and coal jobs.

“But that focus should be because Queensland is a resources heavyweight which delivers benefits for every single Queenslander and will do so in the future.”

www.qrc.org.au

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THE House Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee inquiry into automated mass transit is holding hearings this week in Melbourne and Sydney as part of its inquiry into automated mass transit.

The Committee will hear from a range of witnesses from government, academia and industry on the way forward to a cleaner, greener, safer, more efficient transport system using automation and new energy sources.

Committee chair John Alexander said the Committee is keen to learn about the potential for automation and new energy sources to improve economic, social and environmental outcomes.

"The integration of different transport modes into a single seamless transport system should be the goal of governments and industry, and we need to fully investigate the role that automation can have in facilitating this," Mr Alexander said.

"We have the technology. We need the policies and plans to effectively implement automated transport and new generation fuels. Cooperation across jurisdictions and coordination between government and industry is essential."

In its submission, Infrastructure Victoria highlighted the potential benefits of automation, noting that on-demand public transport and mobility as a service (MaaS) "could make significant improvements to how we travel" and, alongside integrated planning and payment for multi-modal trips, could "supplement existing public transport services and pave the way for introducing on-demand automated vehicles".

They "recommended incorporating on-demand and Maas into the public transport mix in preparation for automation".

Leading infrastructure provider, Transurban, emphasised the need for policy coordination, stating that "it will be critical for new policies and regulations to be consistent across states and territories, and structured in such a way as to encourage innovation while ensuring public safety".

Melbourne public hearing details: 8.30am – 4pm, Wednesday, 27 February 2019, Room G6, Parliamentary Annex, 55 St Andrews Place, Melbourne

8.30am: National Transport Commission

9.10am: Infrastructure Victoria

9.50am: Transurban

10.50am: Monash University & Monash University Accident Research Centre

11.30am: Centre for Disaster Management – University of Melbourne

12.10pm: La Trobe University

12.50pm: Break

1.50pm: Arup

2.30pm: Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering

3.10pm: Transdev Australasia

4.00pm: Close

Sydney public hearing details: 9.30am – 4.10pm, Thursday, 28 February 2019, Meeting Room 1, Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Level 21, 1 Bligh St, Sydney

9.30am: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

10.10am: Standards Australia

11.10am: iMOVE

11.50am: Uber

12.30pm: Break

1.30pm: Planning Institute of Australia

2.10pm: Rail Tram and Bus Union

2.50pm: Committee for Sydney

3.30pm: AECOM

4.10pm: Close


The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live

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THE FEDERAL Government's 10-year, $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative is aiming to deliver game-changing works to drive productivity and efficiency gains across Australia's key freight routes, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

 “The Roads of Strategic Importance initiative will deliver rolling packages of upgrades, which will improve the standard of priority corridors over a 10-year period,” Mr McCormack said.

“By targeting our investment on priority road corridors used by agricultural, mining and other industries, we will ensure upgrades delivered through the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative will provide more reliable infrastructure to improve connections across the supply chain and access to ports, airports and transport hubs.

“We have already allocated $400 million for the Bass Highway and other priorities in Tasmania, $100 million to improve access from regional NSW to the Australian Capital Territory via the Barton Highway and $220 million for the Bindoon Bypass in Western Australia,” he said.

“The government will be looking for other strategic corridors so our investments can support regional economic growth, support the expansion of local industries including the visitor economy, while also improving safety on these key roads.”

The $3.5 billion ROSI initiative is an important component of the Liberal and Nationals Government's $75 billion infrastructure investment pipeline, announced in this year's Federal Budget.

Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport Scott Buchholz said as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to developing northern Australia, $1.5 billion has been earmarked for projects in the north.

“This investment of $1.5 billion for projects in the north acknowledges the importance of this region to Australia's economy and building on the benefits already being delivered through the Australian Government's Northern Australia Roads Program and Northern Australia Beef Roads Program,” Mr Buchholz said.

“I look forward to meeting with local organisations across the north in coming weeks as part of a wide consultation process.”

http://investment.infrastructure.gov.au/key_projects/initiatives/roads_strategic_importance.aspx

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