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May 12, 2008

Australian Government Budget 2008-09

The 2008-09 Budget Papers will be available after 7:30 pm, Tuesday 13 May 2008 from www.budget.gov.au and from Department of Finance and Deregulation, Australian Taxation Office, australia.gov.au and Parliament of Australia.

Treasurer Wayne Swan's interview with Laurie Oakes yesterday foreshadowed the following announcements:

  • the tax on luxury cars will increase from 25 per cent to 33 per cent;
  • a comprehensive review of our tax system. "We'll look at personal taxation. We'll look at the transfer payment
    system. We'll look at how that affects individuals, how is affects
    families, how it affects retirees. We'll look at the company tax
    system, and we'll also look at all of the implications, say, of an
    emissions trading system for taxation as well...Federal, local government taxes and state government taxes – a comprehensive review of  the relationship between all of those...we have ruled out any broadening of that base of the GST  or any increase in the GST rate...we've  ruled out any change to tax-free super "
  • an increase in the threshold at which the Medicare levy commences.

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Posted 12th May 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning, Tax

May 8, 2008

Productivity Commission Report on Consumer Policy: consumer protection law and product safety

The Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Chris
Bowen MP, has released the Productivity Commission's
final report of the Review of Australia's Consumer Policy Framework
.

The Productivity Commission's key recommendations include:

  • a single national generic consumer law, based on the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA), which would apply in all States and Territories;
  • identifying unnecessary or costly consumer regulation that only applies
    in a few States and Territories, or to one industry, and either
    removing them or, if justified, introducing nationally consistent
    rules;
  • transferring regulation of credit providers
    and finance brokers to the Australian Government, with the Australian
    Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as the regulator;
  • national laws to tackle unfair terms in consumer contracts;
  • a national approach to product safety laws and enforcement; and
  • new redress and enforcement powers for consumer regulators, including
    the ability to seek redress for non-parties, civil pecuniary penalties,
    banning orders and substantiation notices.

The Commission also recommended an enhanced role for the Australian Government in consumer policy.

The Government will consider the recommendations and, as agreed by the Council of
Australian Governments (CoAG), respond formally at the end of October
2008.

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Posted 8th May 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning, Compliance, Financial Services

National Rental Affordability Scheme – technical paper released

The National Rental Affordability Scheme is due to commence on 1 July 2008. The Government has released a Technical Discussion Paper on the planned
operation of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS)
.

The Technical Paper outlines the key features of the Scheme including
tenant eligibility, roles for all levels of Government and potential
participants in the Scheme and the assessment criteria for tenders.

The Scheme will provide incentives to institutional investors to build
50,000 affordable rental properties by 2012. If market demand remains
strong the Government will deliver a further 50,000 incentives from
2012 onwards.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme offers annual incentives for a period of ten years. The two key elements are:

  • A Commonwealth incentive of $6,000 per year refundable tax offset or grant; and
  • A State or Territory incentive of $2,000 per year in direct or in kind financial support.

Submissions close on 31 May 2008.

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Posted 8th May 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning

May 2, 2008

April 2008 podcast

In this month's podcast (click here to listen) I discuss 2 topics:

  1. Directors' duties in times of economic uncertainty (see also section 180(2) Corporations Act)
  2. Nikolich's case and the effect of HR policies

The podcast goes for 9 mins, 23 seconds and is 8.62mb.

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Posted 2nd May 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning, Corporate Governance, Corporations Act

April 30, 2008

Legislation to remove same-sex discrimination

The Attorney-General Robert McClelland has announced that the government will introduce legislation to remove same-sex discrimination from a wide range of
Commonwealth laws .

This reform follows the 2007 report of HREOC, Same-Sex: Same Entitlements,
which focussed on financial and work-related legislation.  On coming to
office, the Rudd Government commissioned an audit of Commonwealth laws,
which identified other areas of discrimination.

Areas where discrimination will be removed include tax,
superannuation, social security, health, aged care, veterans’
entitlements, workers’ compensation, employment entitlements, and other
areas of Commonwealth administration.

The Rudd Government will begin introducing legislation in the Winter
Sittings of Parliament. Most reforms will commence soon after the
legislation is passed. In some areas (such as social security, tax and
veterans’ affairs), the reforms will be phased-in to allow time for
couples to adjust their finances, and for administrative arrangements
to be implemented. All of the changes are expected to be implemented
by mid-2009.

The changes will not alter
marriage laws.

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Posted 30th April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning, Financial Services, Insurance, Workplace

April 24, 2008

Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business – Manufacturing & Distributive Trades

The Productivity Commission has published an issues paper to assist those preparing submissions to its
review of regulatory burdens on manufacturing and the distributive
trades.

Schedule B lists the areas of concern in its last review. These include:

  • Food
  • Therapeutic products and medical devices
  • Pharmacy
  • Plastics and chemicals
  • Superannuation
  • OHS
  • Workers compensation
  • Skills mobility and licensing
  • Immigration
  • Employment reporting
  • Taxation
  • Environment

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Posted 24th April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning

April 23, 2008

Change to foreign investment policy for the development of commercial land

The Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and
Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen MP, has announced that the Rudd
Government will change the foreign investment policy to extend the
timeframe for the development of vacant commercial land from 12 months
to 5 years.

At present foreign investors can purchase vacant commercial and
residential land.  However, under existing policy it is a condition of
approval that foreign investors commence continuous substantial
construction on any vacant land acquisitions they make within 12 months
of receiving purchase approval.

Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines

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Posted 23rd April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning

April 21, 2008

Australia 2020 and regulation

The first priority from the Economy stream at the Australia 2020 summit was:

This stream advocated a fundamental commitment to creating a seamless national economy and single national markets in major areas of economic activity (for example, labour, energy, water, transport and communications). The goal should be to minimise overlaps and bottlenecks and improve competitiveness. They will require clarification of roles, responsibilities and accountabilities between different levels of government. At present, however, Australia’s economy in major markets is highly fragmented: the COAG national reform process has identified more than 25 areas in which Australia has eight sets of different State and Territory regulations. In addition, we have multiple education and accreditation systems. A country of Australia’s size cannot afford this.

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Posted 21st April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning

April 9, 2008

Regulation of private equity in Australia

The Minister for Superannuation & Corporate Law has given a speech outlining the Government’s views on  balancing
the key objectives of investor protection, prudential integrity and
high quality domestic markets, while maintaining and promoting
Australia as an attractive investment destination for private equity and hedge funds.

In respect of private equity, he referred to the The Council of Financial Regulators 2007 report on private equity which assessed that existing Australian regulatory frameworks
were sufficiently well established to manage each of the identified
issues.

The Government considers that the Council presented a balanced
review of the economic contribution of private equity and its risks.
However, regardless of the recent decline in new buyout activity, we
will closely monitor the corporate developments as a way of validating
those assessments.  We will also continue to develop our policy
approach to private equity...

On the whole, the reviews have concluded that the industry is
adequately regulated and contributes to the economies in which it
operates.

See also Senate Standing Committee on Economics report

RBA Review

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Posted 9th April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning

April 7, 2008

Register of Lobbyists

Cabinet Secretary, Senator John Faulkner, has released an exposure
draft of the Lobbying Code of Conduct
. The Code will underpin the
operation of the Register of Lobbyists.

The
proposed Register will allow Ministers and other Government
representatives who are approached by lobbyists to establish whose
interests the lobbyist represents so informed judgments can be made
about the outcome they are seeking to achieve.

This will be the first  formal lobbyists register ever adopted by a Federal Government.

Comments on the
exposure draft are requested by 16 April 2008.

The Government intends that registration will commence
after Cabinet approval of the Code following consideration of comments
received.

Time will be allowed for provision of the
required details for the Register. From the commencement date,
lobbyists who represent third party clients will need to be on the
Register or they will not be able to lobby Government representatives.
It will not, however, confer a right to access by lobbyists to
Ministers and other Government representatives.

The Register
will be administered by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet and will be hosted on the Department’s web site.

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Posted 7th April 2008 by David Jacobson in Business Planning
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