Feb 17

Verification II Tucker’d Out II Strike action II Innovation & affordable housing II Superannuation II


Content:  Verification II Tucker’d Out II Strike action II Innovation & affordable housing II Supeanuation – a time bomb II

This month’s blog will be brief and it’s early as am off to Thailand for a break.  

Verification – My January Blog received verification with the SBS broadcasting a piece on ‘Fake/Alternative’ news in last night’s bulletin at 6.30pm.  Trump[et] likes to make outlandish statements, often retracted at a later date. Journalists working on the 24/7 cycle have screens to fill and newspapers to publish, the repetitiveness however turns people off.  Australian writer Claude Miragliotta, says “the media harmonises with the negativity [which can infiltrate] our minds and this perpetuates pessimism.”  The Centrelink clawback program is still generating coverage with Centrelink staff to strike later this month.  On pollies entitlements,  the Gold Card for retiring pollies (except PMs) finally got the axe this week, and housing affordability and the budget deficit are current hot topics. More on Climate change and renewable energy next month.  

“Lipstick on your collar” Artist Glen O’Malley,        2013 courtesy of KickArts website

Tucker’d Out – Brian Tucker is an accountant who practises in Brisbane.  Since 1998 Mr Tucker has collected over 1000 pieces of contemporary Australian art.  The KickArts Collective housed at COCA in Abbott Street, Cairns are showcasing highlights from this fabulous collection. This is the first time that Mr Tucker has invited the public to view his private collection. Quoted in the Saturday Weekend Post Mr Tucker said “I’m delighted with it being open to the public,  Art is created to be seen…” Mr Tucker said he accidentally started collecting,  the exhibition was curated by Miriam Carter and will run until April 8,  don’t miss it. 

Centrelink staff to strike amid debt-recovery controversy

Centrelink staff will launch two weeks of rolling industrial action from February 13 in response to the Government’s controversial debt-recovery scheme.The ABC understands the strike action is expected to result in delays at Centrelink offices and call centres across Australia, but those working on robo-debt calls will be exempt.

From what .. striking?

The program has issued nearly 170,000 notices of potential overpayment. In some cases, welfare recipients have been forced to start repaying fortnight instalments to Centrelink despite continuing to contest their records. The Department of Human Services, which manages the Centrelink and Medicare programs, was informed of the strike action on Friday.  The strikes be held on February 13, 15, 17, 20, 22 and 24.  

This is not about the program,  its about more pay ! 

In March last year, it was reported in The Australian by journalist Sid Mayer that a claw back of $329 million had been achieved in the first six months of the operation. The government [last year] introduced further welfare compliance measures into parliament, including imposing an interest charge on debts, removing the six- year limit on debt recovery and preventing debtors leaving the country without clearing debts. Centrelink is also monitoring social media pages.

Innovation – Affordable Housing 

Last month I mentioned Brad Harris and Victoria Roads (Vic Roads) and their innovative plan to build mobile studio units (57 x $80,000) on disused allotments around Melbourne to aid the homeless.  Scott Morrison also went to the UK to investigate what was happening there with affordable housing.  Councils there have got back into building.  “More than a third of UK local authorities [councils] are setting up their own house-building companies which act like commercial developers.

Sheffield council has announced plans to build 2300 homes over 15 years, Croydon will deliver 1000 homes over three years, half for affordable rental and the other half for private sale. Barking and Dagenham have the biggest plans with 42,500 homes to be built over 15 years through a variety of joint ventures. 

Architect Paul Karakusevic has an Award winning architectural practice which works specifically on social housing projects for local authorities.  It is currently designing 3000 homes for 13 London councils.  “Mr Karakusevic has also written an optimistic book for the Royal Institute of British Architects, looking at the new wave of social housing.

Rather than partnering with developers,  councils can achieve around a third more affordable housing on each project” he said.  Source :  Oliver Wainwright, UK News, The Guardian Weekly 17 Feb 2017). 

“The REIQ has expressed disappointment in the State Government’s decision to NOT broaden the first home buyer grant to include established homes.  The REIQ’s lobbying efforts were supported by the Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (ROC).”   The problem here is that new house and land packages are $3-400K locally,  whereas a review of established units and houses reveal prices in the much more affordable range of $150-250,000, possible with both parties working full time.

Many young people in Cairns work in retail and tourism where jobs are contractual, casual or permanent part time, making it difficult to obtain bank loans and mortgages. Public housing is available only for the most disadvantaged which sees most public housing being awarded to indigenous or people with a disability.  So young people have to struggle to save from their wages.

It would be helpful if the first home buyer grant could be extended,  surely its better to have people buying rather than renting which is dead money.  Renting is insecure and as one’s working life ends, it is more difficult and can lead to further welfare dependency with ‘rent assistance’ needed via Centrelink.  If it was trialled for a 3 year period,  and construction on new houses monitored at the same time, this is at least an opportunity to see if housing affordability eases.  Give it a go.  REIQ and ROC are to be commended for advocating.

Superannuation – a time bomb

In December 2016, the Turnbull government put together a working group to examine superannuation following an Industry Super Australia report found that up to one in three Australians were being short-changed by their employers in their obligatory superannuation guarantee payments.  

The group which is chaired by the ATO with representatives from APRA, ASIC and the Dept of Employment and Treasury has failed to seek input from those working in the industry.    The ATO claims it does not have the wherewithal to estimate the extent of underpayments.  

Reporting in the Australian (Michael Roddan, Jan 26, 2017), ‘the issue of super guarantee non-compliance has been a high profile topic …since 2010.”  Relevant parties had not been informed of the new working group which was appointed by Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer (pictured).  Both the ISA and Cbus super fund analysis estimates $3.6bn was unpaid in 2013-14 alone.  The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia has put the annual figure at about $2.75bn affecting more than 650,000 Australians.  I would suggest this is the tip of the iceberg.  I myself am aware of young people who have not been paid their relevant super by employers.  

A final report is due at the end of March.  It is a common misconception that SG contributions are not payable to for contractors registered with an ABN.  However, where a contract is predominantly labour related an employer/employee relationship is deemed to exist for the purpose of SG contributions.  Watch this space.

Source Image :  ABC Q&A 

End of blog quote:  Yesterday is history,  tomorrow is mystery,  today is a gift – thank you to Yoga teacher.

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