Successful workplace update sessions

We had over 180 owners, managers and HR professionals join us for the 2019 Workplace Updates in Tweed, Grafton and Ballina on 5 and 6 June. Employee relations and the compliance minefield continues to be one of the key challenges faced by growing businesses in the region. 

We were enlightened by Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors Associate Lillian Zhou on the latest focus areas for the Fair Work Ombudsman, as well as critical contract inclusions and the top seven policies that should be put into place for a cross section of businesses. 

I cannot encourage you enough to use your free advice line calls. If you have any concerns in relation to your everyday compliance challenges please call 13 29 59. Peace of mind and critical business support just a phone call away are both high value benefits for every business person.

The dust has settled, ministers are now in place, let’s get on with it

Nationally – it’s critical the Morrison government outlines a long-term vision for Australia.

We’re keen to see the government’s plan for growth and how it intends to ensure a diverse, competitive and balanced economy. The truth is, no one can talk sensibly about a long-term plan for Australia that doesn’t involve significant investment and the accelerated economic development of regional areas.

A good place to start would be some of the recommendations made by a parliamentary committee on regional development and decentralisation – the aptly titled “Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia’s Future”, from The Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation in June 2018.

The Select Committee suggested the government increase investment in infrastructure and connectivity, regional development plans be coordinated and regional universities get better support. These are all great ideas and the government has agreed with many of the proposals, so now it’s time to put them into action, starting with a comprehensive policy and planning process. Oversight could be provided by a joint parliamentary committee.   

The NSW Business Chamber is a strong believer in the potential of the Northern Rivers and the Northern Rivers has never been more ready to step up and live up to its capability. I’m looking forward to working with our local representatives to help businesses in our region to grow, employ and invest – and reach our full potential.

In NSW – the Berejiklian Government must accelerate the delivery of promised regional infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the rollout of Restart NSW has not achieved the targets set, with less than 20% of the promised 30% of funds invested in regional areas, according to the Report on State Finance prepared by the Audit Office. This means the regions have not shared in the full benefits of asset recycling and it is important the tempo of delivery is lifted.

Funding for key infrastructure projects, including the revitalisation of city centres such as Lismore, and improvements to the intra-region road network (critical for the movement of goods) are among the priorities nominated locally. 

Workers compensation review

Recently, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) announced an independent review into the NSW Workers Compensation System. It is a wide-ranging review, giving everyone an opportunity to raise their concerns, such as volatile premiums or poor claims management practices.

The Chamber is arranging a number of public forums so the review team can come face to face with employers and hear first-hand the problems NSW businesses have been experiencing over the past few years. We will be announcing dates and venues shortly.

If you are unable to attend one of these forums or would prefer to share your experiences (on a confidential basis) through the Chamber click on this link to access the form, to be completed and returned by 28 June 2019, so we can help fix the system.

Alternatively, if you would like to make a direct submission to SIRA, please click on this link to download the form. SIRA’s email address is on the front page of the form.

Transformation engagement

The NSW Business Chamber has for some time been undertaking a review of its model and structure. A consultation process is now underway, with the senior executive team and Board Directors travelling through NSW to consult with both Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) and Local Chamber of Commerce’s (LCCs).

So far, the feedback from RACs and LCCs in those regions where consultations have already occurred, is overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Once we have information finalised, we will communicate these exciting developments with all members.

The consultation on the New Chamber model for the Northern Rivers Regional Advisory Council members and Local Chambers will be during the first week of July and given the response so far, we very much look forward to hearing what the Board and senior executives have to say.

State Budget

Well another State Budget is done and dusted and it has to be said that it’s a good budget overall. There is a huge amount of infrastructure investment in the pipeline and this investment is being undertaken while the government maintains a surplus! That’s a big positive.

With respect to regional NSW, more than $1 billion will be spent to fix roads and bridges – important infrastructure commitments that benefit the community and can help to save lives.

We all know this infrastructure spend is vitally important for regional areas especially as business conditions remain difficult. We need as much investment as we can get. Regional communities are primed and ready for growth and just need that investment.

However, we acknowledge there are some headwinds facing the economy and with $93 billion of infrastructure investment already in the pipeline, there is a lot to get through. We will continue to work with all levels of government to ensure regional NSW gets the infrastructure and the investment it needs to grow, prosper and meet its full potential.

It’s fair to say we are a little disappointed the government didn’t extend the Jobs Action Plan rebate or bring forward the $1 million payroll tax threshold for regional employers.

The fact remains though, the government is delivering on payroll tax cuts on time and in full – and we are seeing plenty of action on the jobs and skills front. In particular, the government continues to build on its commitment to education and training, with a record $21 billion for NSW schools, early education, TAFE and vocational education and training.

This includes a commitment to provide 100,000 fee-free VET courses and funding to expand the highly successful Productivity Bootcamp youth training model to two new locations.

These initiatives are in line with, and help the government in its commitment to create 250,000 new jobs over the next four years.

I would love to hear from you

If any of the topics in this month’s newsletter spark your imagination on regional economic development and/or improvements to the business environment in the Northern Rivers, please email jane.laverty@nswbc.com.au

Yours in business

JLav  

Jane Laverty – Regional Manager Northern Rivers, NSW Business Chamber