Oct 18

Paid parental leave change welcome

On 1 March 2014 small businesses around Australia will breathe a sigh of relief when the responsibility, burden and stress of paying government entitlements for paid parental leave to staff will revert to Centrelink.

The paid parental leave scheme was introduced in January 2011 and provides for 18 weeks’ pay at the national minimum wage. The process seemed easy enough on paper for businesses to execute for its employees. However, delve further into the legislation and a raft of variables need to be taken into account, such as leave entitlements, the superannuation guarantee and when payments are received and made, just to name a few.

This year, the MYOB Business Monitor, found the paperwork burden topped SMEs’ lists when asked about policies that influence them to vote for a particular political party. Small business has continually voiced concerns regarding this burden; until now their concerns have largely gone unheard.

As an MYOB partner working with small businesses in regional NSW, I have seen first-hand the impact the legislation in its current state has had on operators who battle every day to make a living. In particular, I’ve worked with a small beauty salon that has had three staff take maternity leave since the scheme has been in place.

Going through this process wasn’t a pleasant one and the frustrations started from the outset when the owner attempted to download and install the Federal government’s Auskey program (the gateway to communicating with government agencies). In this example, just downloading the Auskey program took more than four hours, which included multiple futile attempts and phone calls to the technical help team, only to find the small business’s IT system was too old to cope with the installation.

Once a solution was found, the need to make significant changes to the accounting payroll system to cope with the intricacies of the payments had to be implemented. No leave accruals, no superannuation guarantee contribution, no payroll tax implication. Although the Department of Human Services provided an employers’ toolkit, it was a lengthy and often confusing document, leaving the business owner without the confidence needed to ensure she was making the payments correctly.

To add further confusion for the owner, one employee’s entitlement covered a period where there was an increase in the national minimum wage. This change meant further amendments to the setup of the payroll software as payments needed to be made to employees based on the receipt of funds from the government. Often these were paid in bulk, and ensuring the payments were correct and working out PAYG tax on each payment cycle became a burden.

Employees were also confused about how to apply for the paid parental leave payments. Some thought this was through their employer, which resulted in delays in their application being processed by the Family Assistance Office. The education process to both employers and employees was almost non-existent.

The time taken in reading, digesting and understanding all the material and implications of the scheme is exhausting. Each time a staff member becomes entitled to the payment the processes had to be revisited. Going through the process time and time again takes the attention away from the owner to grow and manage other parts of the business.

Due to the complexity of updating the paid parental leave system, many bookkeepers in Australia have been left confused on how to correctly align the payments within payroll and accounting products. I have assisted numerous bookkeepers around Australia and everyone I spoke with had similar experiences and stories to tell about how frustrated their small business clients were with the understanding and administering of these payments.

When business owners are struggling every day to maintain their business, employ and pay staff, keep necessary paperwork, account for GST and other government requirements and  try to make a profit, the tiresome burden of addressing more red tape as a government payment agency through this current scheme left them stressed and upset.

Administering the payments on behalf of the government has been a time consuming and at times a very frustrating process. I have no doubt that small business owners will be very happy to see the changes implemented on 1 March 2014, one less piece of red tape to cope with.

Leanne Berry is a consultant at LoveYourNumbers and a MYOB partner

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Oct 18

NSW health system ‘barely coping’, Labor says after Auditor-General releases audit

Australian Medical Association NSW head Brian Owler operates at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney. Photo: Janie BarrettAcute bed numbers fallingWestern Sydney ‘hammered’Concerns about new funding system

NSW Hospitals needed hundreds of millions in cash assistance and grants to meet their budgets last financial year, an audit has found.

The opposition says the report shows a debt-laden health system is “barely coping” under the strain of treating more people with fewer beds for the most unwell patients and inadequate funding.

But the government rejects this, saying improvements in waiting times shows patients are getting better care.

In the 2012-2013 financial year, more than half of the local health districts in NSW failed to meet their budgets or met them only because they were given extra funding, according to a report released by Auditor-General Grant Hehir on Wednesday morning.

It shows hospitals are also becoming increasingly busy, with “occupancy rates” (number of beds in use and therefore unavailable) increasing and well above levels doctors say are safe.

Australian Medical Association NSW head Brian Owler said capacity issues had long plagued the system and hospitals should not be operating above 85 per cent capacity.

“Hospitals aren’t struggling to get people seen and out the door in four hours … it’s getting people seen and into an inpatient bed,” he said. “The fact that we have been able to do as well as we have with the amount, in real terms, of falling bed stock, is a testament to the fact we have been doing things much more efficiently”.

Acute bed numbers falling

The Auditor-General has found the number of beds available for people admitted to hospital from emergency actually fell last year, despite increasing patient numbers. In 2013 there were 13,444 beds, down from 13,519 the year before. The overall number of beds, which includes those provided in people’s homes, as well as “treatment spaces” such as dialysis chairs and bassinets, has increased by 152 on last year and 599 since 2010.

Labor health spokesman Andrew McDonald said the system was “drowning, not waving”.

“It’s barely coping,” he said, adding many hospitals would be operating at 100 per cent capacity once “treatment spaces” were removed.

Dr McDonald said there were two areas of the report that were particularly concerning: the huge strain on western Sydney and the tens of millions of dollars spent on staff overtime.

The six staff members who worked the most overtime earned nearly $892,000 between them on top of their base salaries.

“These people must not be practising safe medicine, it’s impossible with those hours,” he said.

In addition, figures from December last year, when more than $8 million was spent on temporary staff, indicated the casual bill could be close to $100 million a year, he said.

Western Sydney ‘hammered’

Dr McDonald said it was clear from the figures that western Sydney was “being hammered”.

Western Sydney local health district alone had a $57.7 million deficit, despite receiving nearly $13 million in cash assistance. The district is home to Westmead Hospital, which the federal government revealed on Tuesday would no longer receive $100 million in budgeted funding over the next three years.

“This is a hospital that can’t cope now, and it’s all down to their being not enough budget to meet demand,” Dr McDonald said. “These people are over budget because they are being asked to do the impossible.”

But Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the report showed hospitals and the ambulance system had been given billions to help manage increased demand.

“This year’s health budget is a record $17.9 billion, with an additional $1.2 billion being invested to rebuild the state’s hospitals and health facilities,” she said. “All local health districts as well as NSW Ambulance have seen increases in their budget this year.”

She said the report showed there had been significant improvements in many areas, including treating all urgent patients on time for the second year in a row, fewer workers’ compensation cases and better invoicing, as well as a huge number of infrastructure projects running on-time and within budget.

“I am thrilled that half of the 16 major projects, valued at $50 million or more, are currently on track to be finalised a year before their scheduled completion date,” Mrs Skinner said.

Concerns about new funding system

However, the report also paints a picture of a system struggling to implement a new federal funding system that requires hospitals to log each and every activity in order to receive funding for it, rather than being given a so-called “block” payment.

The Auditor-General recommended the Ministry of Health conduct a formal activity-based funding “readiness review” before July and said a review of one district found in some cases errors recording patient treatment were occurring one-third of the time.

Because many hospitals are still unable to provide their services at the price the government has deemed they should charge, many are receiving “transition grants” to tide them over. These grants fell by more than $70 million this year but still sit at $168 million.

And three health districts, south-eastern Sydney, western NSW and far west NSW, will need even higher transition grants next year.

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Oct 18

Gift the SMH this Christmas: last days at 50% off

 Give your loved ones 3 months unlimited access to the SMH – it’s the gift for those you love, who love to know.

Find out more at smh苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au/xmas 

The gift for those you love, who love to know

This Christmas you can give a loved one a subscription to the SMH. Starting from $37.50 for 3 months access, our Tablet app inclusive packages provide:Full access to the SMH for iPad or Android tablet appUnlimited access to smh苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au on any digital deviceExclusive discounts, offers and invitations through the My Benefits rewards programOn demand access to new features including shortbooks, our collection of interactive ebooks. 

You can also subscribe for yourself from just $12.50 a month to enjoy unlimited access over the summer holidays.

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What are gift subscriptions?

Gift subscriptions are a way for you to give the gift of the SMH. There is a special Christmas 3 month subscription offer available as well as standard 6 month and 12 month gift subscriptions to choose from, and your one-time payment covers the full subscription period. If gift recipients choose to extend access beyond the gift subscription period, they will enter their own billing information and pay for continued service.

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Oct 18

Holden saga: Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces $100m package for workers

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has dubbed a $100 million package announced byPrime Minister Tony Abbott in response to Holden exiting Australian car manufacturing as “pathetic”, saying it shows a lack of empathy for soon-to-be displaced workers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the $100 million fund to help automotive workers in South Australia and Victoria to find new jobs on Wednesday, in the wake of Holden’s decision to stop manufacturing cars in Australia in 2017.

“Prime Minister Tony Abbott didn’t speak to Holden workers, didn’t speak to component manufacturers and their workers. He didn’t speak to South Australians,” Mr Weatherill said in a statement.

“This is manifestly inadequate help for workers making a transition into new jobs. The package is not available until next financial year and there have been no announcements on accelerating stalled infrastructure projects.”

The car maker’s announcement last week immediately prompted calls for the federal government to support the thousands of Holden workers affected and address the anticipated flow on to the wider economy.

On Wednesday, Mr Abbott said that he understood the Holden decision would affect the Victorian and South Australian economies, the two states where Holden employs the majority of its workers.

Mr Abbott said the $100 million fund would be used to “invest in potential employment generating projects in South Australia and in Victoria”.

Of the $100 million, the federal government will contribute $60 million and the Victorian government will give $12 million. The rest will come from the South Australian government, and ”our expectation is that Holden will make a contribution”, Mr Abbott said in a statement.

The Prime Minister, who refused to give more money to Holden when the carmaker was deliberating on whether to leave Australia, said he still held the view that industry assistance was not the right approach.

“No government has ever subsidised its way to prosperity,” Mr Abbott said in a press conference held at Parliament House.

Australia had a bright future in manufacturing notwithstanding the current troubles faced by the car industry, Mr Abbott said. The Prime Minister pointed to the boots he was wearing, saying they were made in South Australia.

Holden employs about 1900 workers in Victoria and 1760 in South Australia, according to the company’s report to the Productivity Commission. Many in the car industry and unions fear that Toyota could follow Holden out of Australia – a decision that would threaten a further 4200 jobs.

Victorian and South Australian Premiers, Denis Napthine and Jay Weatherill, had told Mr Abbott that their states would need significant help from the federal government to cover the lost jobs.

The Prime Minister had promised that he would do what he could to help affected workers “transition” to new jobs.

Former Labor industry minister Greg Combet, who was appointed by the South Australian government to be its automotive transformation co-ordinator, said he would try to save as many jobs as possible.

He was confident South Australia had moved away from its reliance on the automotive industry in recent years, but stressed the government would have to help those workers out of a job.

More than 50,000 Australians are employed in the automotive industry. As many as 250,000 further jobs depend on the automotive industry.

In 2012, the Gillard government gave Ford $34 million to continue its Australian production until 2016. In May this year, Ford confirmed its Australian manufacturing would cease in October 2016 with the closure of its Broadmeadows and Geelong operations would close.

The Gillard government and the Victorian government pledged a further $12 million in extra assistance for supply chain workers and another $39 million for a community assistance fund to deal with job losses.

Holden received about $1.8 billion of government assistance from 2001 to 2012. Most of the Coalition cabinet doubt whether the taxpayer assistance has been worth it.

The Prime Minister said he would chair a taskforce to shape Australia’s future in manufacturing – helping the country shift from “heavy industrial manufacturing to higher value-added production”.

Mr Abbott said his ”wide-ranging” initiative to fix manufacturing would include reviews of the South Australian and Victorian economies and development of a National Industry Investment and Competitiveness Agenda ”which will focus on our strengths, create jobs and exploit our competitive advantages”.

Two reviews of the South Australian and Victorian economies ”will commence immediately” and report to the federal government in February. Both reviews will be chaired by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. They will include MPs and industry leaders in the South Australian and Victorian business communities.

The $100 million fund would be spent ”on economically responsible projects . . . in accordance with the advice of those business committees”.

The fund will ”support business and research and development opportunities and will complement the direct support available to Holden workers as part of existing Commonwealth and Holden support schemes”.

Coalition response ‘cruel’

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the assistance package was ”too little too late”.

”The Abbott government will pay taxpayer money to shut jobs, but they couldn’t find any innovative policies to keep jobs,” he said.

”Holden did not have to close. There was no case for abandoning the car industry.”

And he questioned why the Abbott government was providing ”hundreds of millions of dollars in tax rebates for the mining industry”, but was letting car makers leave Australia.

Glenn Thompson, assistant national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, described the assistance package as “cruel”, accusing the Abbott government of chasing the car industry out of Australia.

“According to conservative estimates, this will tear $21 billion out of the nation’s economy,” he said in a statement.

“The decision could lead to 50,000 workers losing their jobs.

“And yet the government puts $60 million up – without consulting the industry, critical stakeholders, workers, state governments or relevant experts.

“This does nothing to support the broader manufacturing sector, which is crucial if auto workers are to find good jobs after their businesses close.”

Holden workers on December 11, moments after hearing the announcement that the Holden manufacturing plant in Elizabeth will be closing in 2017. Photo: KATE GERAGHTY

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews was quick to criticise Victoria’s $12 million commitment to the fund.

“Victoria’s car industry and manufacturing sector is worth more than a mere $12 million from Denis Napthine,” he said. ”Victoria needs a jobs plan not for the latest crisis but for a stronger future.”

with AAP, Lisa Visentin, Clay Lucas

Oct 18

Mark Hunt set to cash in as Silva tests positive

Payday: Mark Hunt, left, is set for a $50,000 windfall after his opponent in Brisbane earlier this month, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva, failed a post-fight drugs test. Photo: [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训学校Kiwi mixed martial arts hero Mark Hunt is set for a big payday after Brazilian heavyweight Antonio “Big Foot” Silva, who he fought in one of the year’s top Ultimate Fighting Championship scraps in Brisbane a fortnight ago, failed a post-fight drug test.

Silva, the fourth-ranked world heavyweight, tested positive for elevated testosterone levels after the December 7 fight at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

He applied for and received a testosterone replacement therapy use exemption for the fight but was ruled to be above the level deemed fair on the day, the MMAFighting苏州美甲美睫培训学校 website says.

Silva has been suspended from fighting for nine months and has had to forfeit his US$50,000 bonus for winning the fight of the night in the majority draw against Hunt.

Silva’s bonus will now be given to Hunt, meaning the Kiwi will receive a total of US$100,000 for the epic scrap.

The result of the fight will now be a non-contest on Silva’s record, while Hunt’s record will still show it as a draw.

The test is the second Silva has failed in his MMA career after he tested positive for the steroid boldenone in 2008.

UFC supremo Dana White described the bloody five-round Hunt-Silva fight as “the sickest heavyweight fight I have ever seen”, and was sighted last weekend wearing a T-shirt hinting at a rematch.

Hunt, who trained for the Brisbane fight in Auckland, suffered broken bones in both hands during the scrap and will be required to serve a six-month medical suspension before fighting again.

Fairfax NZ

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