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    GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ADDRESS UNPAID SUPER RIP-OFFS

    Seven months of doing nothing on unpaid super, despite a detailed report sitting on the minister’s desk for that entire time, has resulted in a media release from the Turnbull Government which only promises to take action on one aspect of the issue at some point later this year.

    In a response that can only be described woefully inadequate the Minister’s "announcement" doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to protect workers who will continue to miss out on billions of dollars in unpaid super payments each year.

    Unpaid super in a $5.6 billion problem which affects around 2.7 million workers across Australia, many of whom are on low incomes and are missing out on as much as $2000 each year which should be going into their retirement savings.

    In the time that Kelly O’Dwyer could have actually done something to address this super rip-off, a Labor instigated Senate Inquiry into unpaid super made 32 recommendations, one of which was to deal with the loophole which allows employers to reduce their compulsory super contributions when employees salary sacrifice into super.

    What's lacking from today's announcement is a comprehensive strategy to address unpaid super across the board including responding to the other 31 recommendations made by the Senate report released back in May.

    Labor is particularly concerned by recommendation 7 of this working group report, which in its application would reduce penalties for employers who do the wrong thing and not meet their super guarantee obligations.

    The Abbott/Turnbull Government tried to water down these penalties once before and it needs to immediately rule out adopting this recommendation which would make it easier for employers to do the wrong thing.

    The Minister needs to get serious about unpaid super and ensure that working people get paid the superannuation they have earnt so that it can maximise their retirement savings and relieve future pressure on the aged pension.

    Liberals can’t be trusted on super. Labor created super and it is something that we will always fight to protect.

    FRIDAY, 14 JULY 2017

    This is a joint release with Senator Chris Ketter, Chair of the Senate Economics References Committee.

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    TURNBULL GOVERNMENT FAILS ON NORTHERN AUSTRALIA INSURANCE

    Despite failing to meet her own deadline to respond to the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce (NAIP) Report by more than one year, Minister O'Dwyer is now attempting to shift the blame for her own failures and "do-nothing" approach to escalating insurance premiums in Northern Australia by blaming state governments and the insurance industry.

    The Minister received the Taskforce Report back in November 2015 and promised to “provide a detailed response by 30 June 2016.” (Kelly O’Dwyer media release 4 March 2016).  

    The response has never been provided despite the serious impact that escalating premiums are having on households and businesses in cyclone prone Northern Australia. In some cases people have had increases in their premiums of over 300 per cent.

    The Taskforce report found that over the past twenty years losses from cyclones in northern Australia totalled $2.4b, or $115 million dollars per year and that future losses could be as much as $285 million dollars per year due to the risk of much larger catastrophes. 

    Despite the Turnbull Government being fully aware of the risks and costs of cyclones including the impact that rising insurance costs are having on households and businesses in cyclone prone Northern Australia they continue to ignore the sensible recommendations of the Taskforce.

    Straight forward recommendations included such as increased investment for household mitigation strategies, further research into mitigation, education campaigns and the possibility of targeted assistance for low income households to undertake mitigation works are all recommendations that the Turnbull Government could be progressing.

    But instead of providing the promised response to the Taskforce report the Turnbull Government chose to point the finger squarely at the insurance industry and commissioned yet another review into the costs of Northern Australia Insurance premiums.

    Last week the Minister sought to broaden out the blame to not include not only the insurance industry but the state governments of northern Australia as well. 

    It’s well past time for the Minister to step up and take some responsibility here and focus on how best to help homeowners and businesses meet the costs of protecting themselves during natural disasters like cyclones instead of the petty finger pointing the Minister is currently engaging in.

    As a first suggestion, maybe the Minister could provide the Turnbull Government’s response to the Taskforce's report that is now more than twelve months overdue? 

    MONDAY, 10 JULY 2017

    This is a joint media release with Labor's Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Jason Clare MP.

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    GOVERNMENT MUST PROVIDE CLARITY TO VETERANS’ COMMUNITY

    Labor is growing increasingly concerned of reports Government changes to superannuation legislation will adversely impact a number of veterans.

    Labor has sought an urgent briefing from the Government on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Regulations 2017 and its expected impact on veterans.

    Whilst the Government advised during Senate estimates there were no military pensioners taking their pension as a lump sum at the time the change was announced, it is clear they have not taken into consideration how this change would impact those veterans’ who have since elected for this tax treatment and the financial circumstances which they now find themselves facing.

    Labor has previously expressed its concerns over the lack of clear information made available and the consequences of the Government’s disallowable instrument for veterans and ex-service personnel.

    It is clear this issue is causing distress in the veterans and ex-service community, with the government failing to address their concerns.

    We do not want to see our veterans left worse off by the Turnbull Government.

    It is incumbent on the Government to address these issues and provide clarity and transparency on this issue.

    The Government must engage in proper consultation with the veterans and ex-service community to work through these unintended consequences.

    This is a joint release with Labor's Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs Amanda Rishworth MP.

     

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    MALCOLM TURNBULL INCREASINGLY ISOLATED ON BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION

    Malcolm Turnbull is becoming increasingly isolated in his opposition to a banking royal commission following calls today from the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, for the Government to reconsider one as an option.

    The chorus of people calling for a royal commission continues to grow, including from some on Malcolm Turnbull’s own backbench, but the Prime Minister stubbornly continues to protect his banker mates over everyday Australians.

    Ms Carnell, who has recently inquired into bank lending practices to small business and found evidence of “unconscionable behaviour” today admits:

    “The government can’t keep putting the royal commission off the table, it may have to reconsider it as an option.” – The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 25 June, 2017.

    Malcolm Turnbull cannot continue to rule out a royal commission in the face of calls for one from experts, his own backbench and the majority of Australians.

    Labor has known for sometime that a Royal Commission is the only way to get to the bottom of the systemic failures and cultural issues within financial services sector, ensure that consumers are protected from the rip-offs and scandals of the past and that Australians banking and financial system remains strong, profitable and well led.

    Under Malcolm Turnbull the big banks will get a tax cut but under Bill Shorten they will get a Royal Commission.

    SUNDAY, 25 JUNE 2017

     

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    MALCOLM TURNBULL’S POLICY PARALYSIS ON ENERGY IS CRIPPLING SMALL BUSINESSES

    While the Turnbull Government is focused on fighting each other over energy policy, small businesses are literally paying the price of the Government’s inaction as energy prices escalate across Australia.

    Businesses in New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are set to pay up to 20 per cent more in just 10 days’ time.

    Small businesses across the country are already struggling to meet rising electricity and gas bills, and the continued policy uncertainty will do nothing to help them meet the escalating cost of running their businesses.

    The issue of rising energy bills is raised at every single small business meeting I attend around the country. Small business owners tell me that they will have to reduce staff, cut back on their business operations or close their business if something is not done to put downward pressure on energy prices.

    The concerns raised with Labor by businesses across the country are supported by the Council of Small Business and the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s public comments today.

    The Council of Small Business is right when it says “inaction will cost jobs” and failure to act will “destroy” mum and dad operators.

    Labor stands ready to work with the Government to deliver a solution to the current energy crisis in the nation’s interest and in the interests of small business and households.

    The Turnbull Government likes to pretend it’s the friend of small business but the reality is its continued failure to fix the energy crisis is crippling the small business sector.

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    THE CASE FOR A ROYAL COMMISSION REMAINS URGENT

    The Senate has today acted where the Prime Minister has been too weak to act by passing legislation that would establish a Commission of Inquiry into Australia’s Banking and Financial Services.

    In the House of Representatives this afternoon, Government members blocked the progress of this legislation. Shamefully, the Member for Dawson George Christensen – who claims to support an inquiry into the banks – sided with the Government.

    George Christensen talks a big game in Queensland, but as soon as he’s in Canberra he does whatever Malcolm Turnbull tells him to do.

    Malcolm Turnbull has George Christensen on a short leash – it’s so short, he can’t even cross the floor of the parliament to support a commission of inquiry into Australia’s banks.

    When Mr Christensen returns to Mackay this weekend, he should explain to his constituents why he did the exact opposite of what he promised.

    Labor maintains our position that the Turnbull Government should establish a Royal Commission into Australia’s banks but we have supported this legislation due to the complete failure of leadership from the Prime Minister to establish one.

    Labor will continue to do everything we can to get to the bottom of the systemic failures and cultural issues within financial services sector, ensure that consumers are protected from the rip-offs and scandals of the past and that Australians banking and financial system remains strong, profitable and well led.

    Under Malcolm Turnbull the big banks will get a tax cut but under Bill Shorten they will get a Royal Commission.

    On the Turnbull Government’s watch the list of scandals and investigations into the banks continues to grow. In the past year more than $300 million has been coughed up by the big banks in fines or compensation for fraud, misleading conduct, illegal conduct or breaching consumer protections.

    In the last month we have learnt that;

    • The Banking Executive Accountability regime will not protect consumers as it will be limited to poor prudential outcomes only – these new  powers would not have prevented the scandals that have ruined so many people’s lives in the past and it won’t protect them going forward.

    • The Government’s new ‘one-stop-shop’ complaints authority will not have any new or additional powers that existing disputes resolution bodies don’t already have. 

    • The banks are not adhering to unfair contracts terms legislation, with the Small Business Ombudsman finding that not one small business loan written by the big banks since November is compliant with these laws. 

    • The Small Business Ombudsman is now investigating potential systemic issues in relation to the takeover of Bankwest. 

    • ASIC has concerns about the delays in reporting potential breaches to the regulator by the banks 

    • ASIC has launched a special investigation into loan fraud.

    • ASIC is investigating insurers for false and misleading and unconscionable conduct in relation to add-on insurance products.

    • The Government is dragging its feet on new penalties and rules for bank bill swap rate rigging and looks set to miss the 2017 winter sittings timeframe for introduction set by the RBA, Treasury, APRA and ASIC. 

    • Other legislation has been delayed including reforms to Small Amount Credit Contracts (Payday Loans) an ASIC product intervention power,  and much needed credit card reforms

    • The Government has failed to update and finalise the ASIC Statement of Expectations which now hasn’t been updated since 2014. 

    THURSDAY, 15 JUNE 2017

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    WHO SUPPORTS LABOR’S PLAN FOR A DIRECTOR IDENTIFICATION NUMBER, TO CRACK DOWN ON PHOENIX COMPANIES?

    The list of organisations that support Labor’s proposed Director Identification Number continues to grow, with the Tax Justice Network signalling its support for this important measure to help catch dodgy directors of fraudulent phoenix companies.

    Supporters of a Director Identification Number now include:

    • Australian Institute of Company Directors
    • Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
    • Productivity Commission
    • Tax Justice Network
    • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    • Master Builders Australia
    • Australian Council of Trade Unions
    • Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association
    • Phoenix Project, comprising experts from Melbourne University Law School and Monash University Business School

    Alas, one body has still failed to signal its support for a Director Identification Number:

    • The Turnbull Government

    TUESDAY, 6 JUNE 2017

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    SMALL BUSINESS INTERNET SPEEDS LANGUISH UNDER TURNBULL’S GOVERNMENT

    The latest Akamai State of the Internet Report is a damning indictment on the Turnbull’s mismanagement of the NBN – with Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses enduring amongst the poorest average internet speeds in the developed world.

    At the 2013 election Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that he could deliver his inferior version of the NBN faster and cheaper with three key commitments:

     

    • Minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second to all Australians by the end of 2016.
    • A public expenditure limit of $29.5 billion.
    • A commitment that areas most under-served by existing telecommunications infrastructure would be prioritised in the rollout.

    (Source: Liberal policy document - Fast Broadband & an Affordable NBN)

    The unfortunate reality is that under Malcolm Turnbull’s stewardship the NBN has failed to meet any of the benchmarks he set for it.

    The Turnbull Government has only delivered average connection speeds of just 11.1Mbps to-date.

    That dismal result means Australia’s has the embarrassing global rank of 50th for internet speeds behind key trading partners South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the United States and New Zealand.

    Everywhere I go and speak to small business owners, I hear loud and clear that they are desperate for world-class broadband to assist with their business.

    That’s because they understand what Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t: That in order to compete in our highly competitive global economy Australian small businesses need access to world-class broadband to grow their business and sell their products and meet their customers expectations.

    Today’s report  along with the 2017-18 Budget proves beyond a doubt that the Turnbull Government has no answers for small businesses looking to compete in an increasingly competitive local, national and global environment.

     

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    SMALL BUSINESS MINISTER HAS QUESTIONS TO ANSWER ABOUT POLITICAL ROADSHOW

    Malcolm Turnbull's Small Business Minister, Michael McCormack needs to come clean on why the Government’s much promoted small business roadshows have been held almost exclusively in Liberal/National electorates. 

    90 per cent of the small business roadshows publicised on the Small Business Minister’s website have been held in electorates where the Government holds the seat with the local Liberal/National MP present as well as public servants from the Australian Tax Office, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and the ACCC.

    Only three Roadshows have been held outside of Liberal/National electorates and in none of those was the local member invited with the Minister instead preferring to bring along a neighbouring Government MP or Senator.

    Labor believes that the small business roadshow program is a good initiative but the fact that the forums have been held almost exclusively in Liberal or National Party electorates, supported by taxpayer funds and with the attendance of public servants, is deeply concerning.

    Ministers must act with integrity at all times, particularly when it comes to the use of public money and the public service.

    The Minister must provide a full explanation over why it appears that he has used his ministerial portfolio and taxpayer funds in a politically partisan way.

    The small business roadshow should be reaching out to all small businesses across the country, not just reaching out to those who voted for a Liberal or National MP in 2016. 

    THURSDAY, 1 JUNE 2017

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    AUSTRALIAN STORIES AT RISK FROM GOVERNMENT CUTTING TO THE BONE

    Reports that national cultural institutions are being forced to cut corners and their collections are at risk due to funding cuts again confirm the Government’s neglect of the arts sector.

    Years of neglect and cuts have meant Australia’s national and cultural institutions are finding it harder and harder to do their job of protecting Australia’s culture, heritage and stories.

    The small amount of funding the Government has provided for capital works simply isn’t enough.

    Labor has welcomed this funding but it doesn’t go anywhere near replacing the money that has been cut out of the budgets of these institutions. Labor’s policy was to not apply efficiency dividends to cultural institutions.

    While it is important government agencies improve efficiency and make savings by consolidating services where possible, for smaller agencies like Canberra’s National Library, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery, National Museum, National Portrait Gallery there comes a point where efficiencies cut to the bone.

    National institutions play a critical role in Australia and in Canberra, housing stories of Australian culture and keeping those stories alive for visitors now and in the future.

    It is vital we do not let these institutions wither away and only Labor can be trusted to properly protect the custodians of our national stories, history and physical treasures.

    “These cultural institutions are Australia’s storybook. Through objects, archives and art they house the stories of Australia.” – Tony Burke MP

    These institutions play a crucial role in supporting Canberra as the national capital as well as providing hundreds of jobs for Canberrans.“ -  Senator Katy Gallagher

    “Our cultural institutions are an essential part of Australia's social fabric. In an era of declining community engagement, it's critical that we properly fund our museums and galleries.” –  Andrew Leigh MP

    “We are not cutting into flesh; we are not cutting into bone; we are cutting into vital organs. And, once you start doing that, you have the potential for things to end, for our national story to be killed.” - Gai Brodtmann  MP

    This is a joint media released with Tony Burke MP, Andrew Leigh MP and Gai Brodtmann MP.

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