Agriculture underpinning economy, exports

Posted on 9 April 2020
Agriculture underpinning economy, exports

Colin Brinsden
(Australian Associated Press)

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has defended supporting exporters through a freight subsidy so that farmers can get their produce abroad, rather than keeping it at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The minister said Australia has a population of 25 million but produces enough food for 75 million people.

He said the crisis has produced an opportunity for Australian agriculture to showcase itself on the international stage through reliable supplies of good quality food and fibre

However, the reduction in international flights because of the COVID-19 crisis has meant freight costs have "skyrocketed".

"That is why we took the extraordinary steps to put up $110 million into a freight subsidy," Mr Littleproud told Sky News on Sunday.

"Not to pay for all the freight but to try and minimise the increase in costs for our producers to be able to send their produce around the world and continue to be able to take advantage of the free trade agreements we have put in place."

He said the agriculture and resource sectors are helping to underpin the national economy through the crisis.

"This is about profitability to our regional sectors," Mr Littleproud said.

"It will help our economy rebound quicker on the back of agriculture and resources."

The government announced temporary changes to backpacker visas on Saturday, which will enable them to stay longer to work on farms at a critical crop picking time during the crisis.

Posted in: News  

Scammers targeting superannuation in COVID-19 crisis

Posted on 6 April 2020
Scammers targeting superannuation in COVID-19 crisis

Scammers are now trying to exploit Australians financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis with new superannuation scams being reported to Scamwatch in recent weeks.

Scammers are already trying to take advantage of the Government's recent announcement that people suffering financial hardship can have partial access to their superannuation from mid-April.

"Scammers are cold-calling people claiming to be from organisations that can help you get early access to your super," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

"For most people, outside of their home, superannuation is their greatest asset and you can't be too careful about protecting it."

"The Australian Taxation Office is coordinating the early release of super through myGov and there is no need to involve a third party or pay a fee to get access under this scheme."

"Never follow a hyperlink to reach the myGov website. Instead, you should always type the full name of the website into your browser yourself," Ms Rickard said.

Since the Government's announcement in March, there have been 87 reports of these scams, but no reported losses.

In most cases the scammers are seeking to obtain personal information, including information that will help them fraudulently access the victim's superannuation funds.

"While older people are more commonly affected by superannuation scams, the new early-access scheme means a range of age groups are now experiencing these scams," Ms Rickard said.

"We also have reports of scammers offering to check if a person's super account is eligible for various benefits or claiming the new scheme will lock people out of their accounts."

In 2019, Australians lost over $6 million to superannuation scams with people aged 4554 losing the most amount of money.

"Never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you. Don't let them try to pressure you to make a decision immediately, take your time and consider who you might be dealing with."

"Be wary of callers who claim to be from a government authority asking about your super.  Hang up and call the organisation directly by doing an independent search for their contact details," Ms Rickard said.

If you have provided information about your superannuation to a scammer, immediately contact your superannuation institution. If you have provided personal or banking details, you should also contact your financial institution.

You can also contact IDCARE, a free Government-supported service which will work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.

More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

You can also follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.


Any suspicious behaviour relating to superannuation can be reported to ASIC through its online complaint form.

For more information on superannuation scams visit the ASIC's MoneySmart website.



Posted in: News  

Federal government tightens foreign investment rules

Posted on 2 April 2020
Federal government tightens foreign investment rules

(Australian Associated Press)

The federal government has tightened foreign investment rules after global fears about the economic impact of the coronavirus caused the value of Australian businesses to fall.

There are concerns cashed-up foreign predators could take advantage of the fall in asset values fuelled by a massive slump on the Australian Securities Exchange.

The temporary change, which came into effect late on Sunday night, would protect Australia's national interest, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced.

From now all proposed foreign investments, subject to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act, will require federal approval, regardless of value or the nature of the foreign investor.

"This is not an investment freeze. Australia is open for business and recognises investment at this time can be beneficial if in the national interest," Mr Frydenberg said in a statement on Monday.

The temporary change involves reducing to zero dollars the monetary screening thresholds for all foreign investments under the act.

"By temporarily reducing the foreign investment thresholds, the Australian government will ensure appropriate oversight over all proposed foreign investment during this time," Mr Frydenberg said.

The treasurer played down suggestions the measure was partially aimed at potential investment activity by Chinese state-sponsored firms.

"These measures are not directed at one particular country," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.

The Treasurer noted China was Australia's fifth largest investor last year with investments of around $13 billion while the US was the number one investor with investments of around $58 billion.

"Those thresholds that have previously been in place are not necessarily appropriate for right now because these are extraordinary times that we are living in," he added.

The government stressed the importance of foreign investment in helping many businesses to secure jobs and support Australia's economic recovery beyond the coronavirus emergency.

The measure will remain in place for the duration of the current crisis.

Posted in: News  

G20 unites amid global recession warnings

Posted on 30 March 2020
G20 unites amid global recession warnings

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)

The world's largest economies are urgently working together in a bid to ease the impacts of a looming global recession because of coronavirus.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg took part in a conference call on Monday evening with other financial leaders of G20 countries, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as central banks from across the world.

Mr Frydenberg said about 80 countries had asked for financial support from the IMF as the impact of the pandemic becomes acute on developing countries.

"The expectation is that global growth will be negative this year," he told AAP in a statement.

"All governments agreed that coordinated global fiscal action is required, including providing increased liquidity to financial markets and sharing experiences in domestic markets.

"There is a real sense of urgency which is being reflected in the large economic support packages being released."

G20 leaders including Scott Morrison and Donald Trump will meet for a virtual summit later this week as the world races to contain the virus.

The summit, called by this year's chair, Saudi Arabia, will be complicated by an oil price war between two members, Saudi Arabia and Russia, and rising tensions between two others, the United States and China, over the origin of the virus.

US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News his counterparts agreed to act to support their own economies, and coordinate internationally as needed. But he gave no specifics.

"This is a team effort to kill this virus and provide economic relief," Mr Mnuchin said.

The US government is struggling to win congressional approval for a nearly $2 trillion rescue package.

The IMF and the World Bank have both forecast the pandemic would trigger a global recession in 2020.

Argentina, whose debt has been deemed unsustainable by the IMF, warned fellow G20 members they must act decisively to "avoid a social meltdown" as the pandemic spreads.

Posted in: News  

Industry group expects year of govt help

Posted on 27 March 2020
Industry group expects year of govt help

Colin Brinsden
(Australian Associated Press)

The federal government should be prepared to maintain its assistance to business for as long as a year because it will take time for firms to get back to normal once the coronavirus crisis is declared over.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox also believes the impact of COVID-19 has exposed gaps in the economy that are too reliant on overseas supplies.

"My prediction will be that post this there will be a significant push towards doing more back in Australia," Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"I think self-reliance will become more of a mantra."

From the early stages of the crisis, supply chains broke down given Australia's dependence on Chinese imports, which more recently has been felt in medical goods, such as face masks.

The Morrison government has already legislated for tens of billions of dollars worth of financial support for business over coming months to help keep their doors open and their staff employed.

While thousands of jobs have already been lost as the hospitality industry shuts down in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, more are expected to be lost.

Mr Willox said businesses are trying to hang on to staff where they can because they know once they lose them they will be hard to get back.

"One day when this is over business won't just return to normal the next day, it is going to take time for business to get up and running again," he said.

"So whatever assistance is in place has to last maybe three to six months longer than this."

Despite all the doom and gloom, Australian shares rallied a further four per cent on Wednesday on hopes that a massive US stimulus will support the world's largest economy.

The Australian government has given up on its much-pledged return to a budget surplus this year in attempt to cushion the blow to the economy from COVID-19 and now looks set to run up massive deficits.

Westpac economists expect a deep recession the first in nearly three decades and a spike in the unemployment rate to 11 per cent by mid-2020, more than double the rate it is now.

As such they expect the budget position will deteriorate sharply over this year and next.

From a balanced position in 2018/19, they expect the budget will sink into a $90 billion deficit in 2019/20 and than $160 billion in 2020/21, which take into account the government's stimulus measures and the deterioration in the economy.

"We would caution that the situation is very fluid. It remains highly uncertain how long the widespread shutdowns and cancellations wreaking havoc on the economy will persist," Westpac economist Bill Evans said in a note to clients.

Posted in: News  

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