Joe Hockey


New app pokes fun at Government’s proposed work for the dole policy

8:02AM | Thursday, 14 August

A new app allows job seekers to spam politicians with job applications in response to the Government’s proposed work for the dole policy.   Founder Bowz Chapman told StartupSmart the idea for DoleBludger came to him after Joe Hockey handed down the Abbott government’s first budget.   Since then, the government has released plans of to force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month in order to be eligible for the dole. DoleBludger hopes to work around the proposed policy – as well as poke fun at it – by spamming politicians with job applications via email.   “I’ve been on welfare between jobs so I know what it’s like,” Chapman says. “As an individual, there’s not a lot you can often do. This is the one policy issue I cared about and could actually see a way of doing something against just by flipping it on its head.”   The app also gives the user the opportunity to attach a resume and select or filter out parliamentarians based on categories such as their state or party. According to Chapman, the app has sent out 5000 applications in just two days.   “As much as it is a joke – it honestly is a joke – I hope people will use it to show the government how stupid this policy really is,” he says.   The 27-year-old, who is based in Western Australia, says this is his first app – however he has a background in IT. While the app is only available on Google Play at the moment, Chapman says a desktop and iOS version are currently being developed.   “I just thought, if I’m going to do this, I need to get out there as soon as possible so it gets traction while the issue is current,” he says. “It was just easier with the Android than it was with the iPhone.”   Since the Government announced its proposed job-seeker policy, a range of apps have sprung up as ways to get around having to manually apply for 40 jobs a month. Smartphone app AppApp trawls through employment websites on behalf of the user. Meanwhile, SpamBludger automatically emails job applications to businesses while CCing employment minister Eric Abetz.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

It’s time to educate our politicians about tech

8:41AM | Thursday, 14 August

In mid-2003 I put an employment ad online for two computer technicians. I was expecting a healthy response as it was the depths of the computer industry’s depression following the tech wreck two years earlier. A healthy response is what I got. Two thousand job applications came in; it took me a week to wade through them.   I was reminded of that story with the federal government’s recent thought bubble requiring those on unemployment benefits to apply for 40 jobs a months.   Like most of the business community I was appalled at the thought of being buried under hundreds of pointless job applications that served nothing but to fulfil a Liberal Party staffer’s ideological fantasies.   Within a week, an Adelaide grandfather had come up with the idea of a jobseeker app that would automate the task, which shows just how far out of touch both sides of politics have become with the modern world, particularly the digital economy.   The lack of understanding of technology among Australia’s political class has been on painful display over the last week with the federal government’s fumbling over proposed data retention laws; one gets the impression George Brandis needs other people to use the toaster for him, let alone be trusted to use a computer without assistance.   This incomprehension of what’s driving the modern economy among our political leaders is no longer a joke – when the Prime Minister himself proudly states ‘I am not a geek’, it’s clear this nation is being led away from having any serious role in the 21st century.   In fairness, this is not the fault of any single party or individual; it’s the result of Australians – particularly Australian businesses – voting like sheep for the blue team or the red team at every election.   As a consequence, Australian politics is now dominated by comfortable, arrogant and somewhat dim careerists who have little in skills beyond being able to float to the top of the shallow, fetid sewers that are the party political machines.   This is our fault and it is where Treasurer Joe Hockey is right in bemoaning how business won’t stand up and strongly lead the nation’s reform agenda.   Unfortunately for Joe, a true reform agenda is about making the nation more competitive in an era where the world’s economy is radically changing. The old ‘ship out resources and watch your property go up in price’ model that has sustained the Aussie economy is not a recipe for long-term success.   If Australia is going to compete in this century then we are going to have to invest in modern training, education and capital equipment while putting in the tax and social security systems that reward genuine entrepreneurs and job creators over property speculators and corporate ticket clippers.   Right now, Joe and his friends in both the Liberal and Labor parties are doing exactly the opposite.   Joe’s right. We need to voice our concerns loudly. We also need to demand our politicians at least take the time to understand the basics of the technologies that are radically changing today’s world.   Next time you see a politician, of either colour, try to get five minutes of their time to explain how technology is changing your business. Hopefully it might make them pause before the next thought bubble.   Paul Wallbank is the publisher of Networked Globe, his personal blog Decoding The New Economy charts how our society is changing in the connected century. This story first appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Budget 2014: Innovation Investment Fund and Commercialisation Australia to go

5:19PM | Tuesday, 13 May

The 2014 budget delivered the news that many startups were expecting, with the abolition of the Innovation Investment Fund and Commercialisation Australia.   Speaking on budget night, Treasurer Joe Hockey said that the government would be abolishing a range of industry assistance programs and would “refocus our effort on innovation and self reliance.”   “Businesses should stand or fall on their ability to produce goods and services that people actually want,” Hockey said.   The government will instead establish a single business service to deliver a Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Program, which will supply $484.2 million over five years.   The government claims it will achieve a saving of $845.6 million over five years by ceasing both CA, IIF as well other programs including the Australian Industry Participation, Enterprise Solutions, Industry Innovations Councils, Enterprise Connect and Industry Innovation Precincts.   According to information released on budget night the new program will focus on supporting the commercialisation of good ideas, job creation and lifting the capabilities of small businesses, the provision of market and industry information, and the facilitation of access to business management advice and skills from experienced private sector providers and researchers.   In a statement, Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane said industry policy would no longer be an “overlapping plethora of small grants and entitlements.”   “The new programme will bring research and business together to develop and commercialise home-grown ideas and equip small to medium enterprises with the management and business skills to lead change and expansion,” Macfarlane said in a statement.   Shoes of Prey founder Michael Fox responded to rumblings around the abolishment of Commercialisation Australia, prior to the budget announcement, when the grants were frozen until the budget was released.   “That’s already been incredibly frustrating for us. We put in an application for a grant in November,” he told Private Media.   Fox says applying for funding from Commercialisation Australia had been a “huge amount of work”.   “It took two or three weeks full-time for me as the chief executive and that much time again from other people in the business to prepare the application,” he says.   At the time he said it would be very disappointing if Commercialisation Australia was cut.   Since its inception, Commercialisation Australia has invested over $213 million in 503 companies (as of February 2014) and was responsible for helping a number of Australian success stories like

CeBIT opens to a mixed response as NSW Deputy Premier puts startup funding case to Hockey

5:06PM | Monday, 5 May

CeBIT Australia, billed as our biggest tech conference, opened its doors on Monday at its new Olympic Park, Sydney, location with mixed reviews.   It seems that its special train service to the venue ended at 9.41am, with only three trains in the morning and another three in the afternoon, a source of contention for BRW deputy editor Caitlin Fitzsimmons who tweeted that she wouldn’t be back if the conference was held there again next year. Finally reached my destination at #cebitaus. I won't come back to Olympic Park if it is here next year. — Dame Caitlin (@niltiac) May 5, 2014 Fitzsimmons also alluded to low numbers, but all were not in agreement. @CeBITAus vibe great so far - massive turnout which I was thrilled to see being at this new space. Congratulations! #CeBITAus — Tony Hollingsworth (@hollingsworth) May 5, 2014 There were about 100 startups as part of a concerted effort by the organisers to attract more to the event. A Startup Alley was erected with one attendee saying, ”It feels like ‘Startup Alley’ was a good way to fill up dead conference space, but it does feel like SXSW trade show... With less booze!”   They also noted that CeBit was good for startups who can sell to B2B, but less appropriate for people who sell direct to consumers. There were the usual event complaints around logistics like Wi-Fi, but when you’re a tech conference your audience can be less forgiving of these things.   With recommendations by the Commission of Audit to cut federal funding for startups fresh in the minds of many, New South Wales Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner called on the federal government to support the industry. Speaking at CeBit, Stoner had some advice for Treasurer Joe Hockey: “No new taxes, back our innovative startups in the digital area.”   “An ecosystem based on innovation and new technologies has the potential to raise GDP by $37 billion by 2024,” Stoner said. Here are some of the Twitter highlights (those that weren’t tweets asking everyone to “visit us at ”) from the conference: "I'm not a cyber expert" says the man in charge of AFP's High Tech Crime Operations unit. #cebitaus — James Hutchinson (@j_hutch) May 5, 2014 James Deverell paints a startling picture of how a cyber attack could disable our energy grid during a heatwave #CeBITAus #Cybersecurity ^SK — CSIROevents (@CSIROevents) May 5, 2014 Cebit 2014 is truly international. I am loving all the different languages around the world under 1 roof #cebit2014 — Mellissah Smith (@marketingeyeaus) May 5, 2014 Hope all the startups are killing it in the #CeBit exhibition hall, shame it overlapped with #StartupAsia conference dates. — Mat Beeche (@matbeeche) May 5, 2014 And of course there were the few #cebitselfies: #CeBITAus — Nitin Verma (@nitinv97) May 5, 2014 @CeBITAus the coolest mofos here! :) @MarcKeegan #CeBITAus thanks Lee — Sunny Singh (@Social_Sunny) May 5, 2014

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple reports jump in net profit, seven-for-one stock split and share buyback

4:06AM | Thursday, 24 April

Apple has reported a 7% jump in net profit, along with a seven-for-one stock split and a share buyback during the March quarter.   The iPhone maker beat analysts’ forecasts by reporting quarterly revenues of $US45.6 billion, up from $US43.6 billion year-on-year, while net income grew to $US10.22 billion from $US9.55 billion for the March quarter last year.   The company also announced it sold 43.7 million iPhones, beating analysts’ predictions of 38.2 million units.   Along with the strong results, the company announced a seven-for-one stock split in June, an increase in its share buyback scheme from $60 billion to $US90 billion, and an increase in its capital return program from $US100 billion to $US130 billion.   Facebook’s quarterly net income nearly triples   Facebook has released its first quarter results, announcing its net income has tripled year-on-year to $US642 million.   The social media giant’s quarterly revenues hit $US2.5 billion, up 72% from the same quarter last year, with advertising revenue contributing $2.27 billion, with 59% of ad revenue coming from mobile users.   Its total subscriber base grew to 1.28 billion monthly active users, up 15% from a year earlier, while mobile monthly active users grew by 34% to 1.01 billion.   Hockey foreshadows pension cuts, tax cuts   Treasurer Joe Hockey used a speech in Sydney to reveal the May budget will increase the number of means tested payments, introduce co-payments for medical benefits and slash government spending, while also providing tax cuts.   Hockey defended providing tax cuts while slashing benefits to pensioners, saying bracket creep would “have a serious impact on Australia’s economic growth prospects” without tax cuts.   The Treasurer also foreshadowed co-payments for GP visits, a means-test for Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, tighter eligibility rules for family tax benefits and the age pension, as well as a welfare crackdown.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16501.6. The Aussie dollar is down to US92.89 cents.

Commercialisation Australia freeze has negative impacts beyond limiting available capital

4:14AM | Thursday, 10 April

The freezing of the federal government-backed venture capital grants has been met with widespread concern in the startup and ICT community, but the full impact of the freeze goes beyond the decline in available capital for Australian startups, according to a partner at the One Ventures fund.   Anne-Marie Birkill told StartupSmart the Australian startup ecosystem could see a reduction in the rigour invested in business planning and reporting that is required when applicants submit funding proposals to Commercialisation Australia’s grants program, which has been suspended ahead of the May federal budget.   “We all hope the grants will be reintroduced in some form as they provide an incredibly important leveraging factor,” Birkill says. “We’re very strong in our views that we’d like to see Commercialisation Australia continue.”   The biggest issue for Birkill is the removal of a major business planning opportunity. She says even the process of writing the applications can bring insights to a business they’ll use for years to come.   “The process really does help bridge another part of the early stage commercialisation gap in terms of access to mentoring, knowledge and skills but, critically, it also makes you reflect on your business, plan your projects and think about which targets you can hit and by when,” she says.   As a venture capital investor, Birkill says having a good business plan is essential to any business’s viability.   “One of the myths we need to explode is the idea of the static business plan. You don’t just write it and leave it there; you need to be constantly working on it. It’s a fluid and malleable document,” she says.   In response to a number of comments made in a submission to the Financial System Inquiry by the Federal Department of Innovation, Birkill says the Australian venture capital scene has improved in recent years but is far from fixed.   “Companies need less capital to launch and the relative explosion of incubators, accelerators and syndicated angel networks means there is much more capital available, but the pipeline does get broken at series A and beyond.”   Birkill’s comments come as the peak body of the ICT industry, the Australian Information Industry Association, has published an open letter to Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Treasurer Joe Hockey calling for urgent revision of the freeze.

Leading tech alliance calls for urgent action to unfreeze Commercialisation Australia

4:58AM | Thursday, 10 April

The Australian Information Industry Association has written an open letter raising urgent concerns about the freezing of Commercialisation Australia to Minister for Industry Ian MacFarlane and Treasurer Joe Hockey.   Commercialisation Australia is a venture capital initiative of the Federal Government. Over the last five years, they’ve invested over $200 million in early stage companies.   A freeze on the grants and review was announced in late March.   AIIA is the peak representative body and advocacy group for the ICT industry in Australia. It includes over 400 tech company organisations.   Here is the letter from CEO Suzanne Campbell in full:  It is with urgency that I write to you on behalf of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) in relation to the current review of Commercialisation Australia funding. AIIA has been active in advocating the need for a supportive national eco-system to facilitate innovation and encourage and support new business development – particularly in light of the increasingly competitive global digital economy. Commercialisation Australia, together with arrangements such as Employee Share Options, R&D tax incentives, venture capital and crowd sourced funding initiatives are critical to this eco-system. With uncertainty across many of these issues at present, business confidence in Australia’s innovation and business support system is at serious risk. Commercialisation Australia plays a critical role in supporting the growth of Australia’s future business capability.  The support it provides through funding and access to business and mentoring networks is a key element of the business building process for Australian companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors looking to commercialise innovative intellectual property. In the last four years, Commercialisation Australia has assisted some 503 Australian companies.  On average, for every dollar of grant funds invested in the program, two dollars of private sector capital was invested subsequent to companies being awarded a grant. The leverage effect generated by the program and, in particular, how Commercialisation Australia has provided critical mass deal flow to both domestic and international investors looking for early stage opportunities is clear. Without the support of Commercialisation Australia, companies that have attracted funding would not have been able to commercialise their intellectual property and attract investment. While Commercialisation Australia is important in assisting businesses from all sectors, the fact that some 50 per cent of companies supported by them over the last 4 years were utilizing ICT in their new product and service development is of particular relevance to the ICT sector. The role of ICT driven businesses, especially new, innovative companies that have the potential to drive Australia’s export capability and international competitiveness is imperative to Australia’s ability to compete in a global economy.  Commercialisation Australia is a critical element of the overarching eco-system that Australia needs to drive innovation and business growth.  The future of Commercialisation Australia must be guaranteed to maintain the confidence of existing and aspiring early entry businesses. Members have advised that as of March 2014 Commercialisation Australia is not accepting new applications or requests for funding extensions. I understand this includes requests formerly accepted by Commercialisation Australia for assessment prior to March 2014, and that the decision to review all grant spending across the Department of Industry was made last year. Notwithstanding this decision Commercialisation Australia has continued to canvas for new project submissions until, as recently as February 2014.   As a consequence members have outlaid considerable time and expense preparing submissions for grant assistance and developing commercialisation plans.  In planning for their growth in this way and to manage their limited resources they have forgone shorter term business opportunities.  The fact that no public announcement was made by the Government that grants were suspended has created unnecessary pressure for entrepreneurs who have applied significant investment in good faith, to a process Government had already decided to suspend. This damage will be multiplied across the business eco-system overall should Commercialisation Australia cease to operate. I am seeking open and transparent assurance from the Government that it remains committed to the continuing operation of Commercialisation Australia and that this includes the full scope of activities and support it currently provides.   Yours sincerely, Suzanne Campbell chief executive officer Australian Information Industry Association

THE NEWS WRAP: G20 targets 2% additional global growth

2:23PM | Sunday, 23 February

The G20 finance ministers meeting has wrapped up, with the forum agreeing on a global growth target 2% higher than current forecasts over the next five years.   “In a major step forward, the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors have decided to put a number on our aspiration,” Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey says.   “We are committed to implementing policies that aim to lift our collective GDP by more than 2% above the trajectory implied by current policies over the next five years.   “Put differently, our policies could deliver over $2 trillion more in real economic activity and tens of millions of new jobs.”   BHP Billiton boss still bullish about the Australian economy   BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie says he remains confident about the state of the Australian economy, despite auto manufacturers ending Australian production and the closure of Alcoa’s Point Henry smelter.   “To be pro-Australia for a moment, I wish [the closures] hadn't happened … but I have a global perspective, I see what happens elsewhere in the world and I still think Australia has an awful lot going for it,” Mackenzie told Channel Nine.   “'I think examples like Alcoa and other industries around there just simply underscore the importance of the whole country to get behind an agenda of competitiveness and productivity.   “I think we have got to all remember that the world economy is still growing quite well, Australia is still growing and growing a lot better than Europe, so please keep that up because that is one of the bets we are making, that you are going to continue to grow a bit better than Europe.”   David Jones still open to a Myer takeover – at the right price   David Jones is set to have discussion with Myer in a fortnight to further discuss the possibility of a merger between the two iconic retailers.   Senior executives at David Jones are saying they are not opposed to a merger or takeover in principle, although are warning any deal with Myer will have to properly value their company.   “It's not a merger of equals, it's a takeover, and in any takeover they have to pay a premium. What we can bring to the table is very valuable and that should be fully recognised in the value,” a David Jones source told Fairfax.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16103.3. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.85 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Kickstarter hacked

2:20PM | Sunday, 16 February

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter has posted a security notice revealing hackers gained access to its customer database and is urging all users to immediately change their passwords.   In a post on the company’s official blog, chief executive Yancey Strickler says the hackers did not gain access to credit card information and the vulnerability used by the hackers has since been closed.   “While no credit card data was accessed, some information about our customers was. Accessed information included usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords.   “Actual passwords were not revealed; however, it is possible for a malicious person with enough computing power to guess and crack an encrypted password, particularly a weak or obvious one.   “We set a very high bar for how we serve our community, and this incident is frustrating and upsetting. We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.”   Branson lobbies federal government not to financially assist Qantas   Virgin founder Richard Branson has taken out full-page advertisements in News Corp papers telling Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “think twice” about providing financial assistance to Qantas.   “Should the Australian taxpayer be forced by the Australian Government to prop up the Qantas Group, as Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is suggesting, business people worldwide should think twice about investing in Australia for fear of such intervention in their sectors,” Branson says.   “Qantas has gone to its shareholders on numerous occasions over the last few years to wage its capacity war against us.   “Now that shareholders have turned that tap off, the company is turning to the Australian taxpayer to try and bail it out.”   Overseas quantitative easing might be boosting the Aussie dollar   Reserve Bank assistant governor Christopher Kent has warned the Australian dollar might be overvalued as a result of the money printing programs of major overseas central banks.   “The fact that these expansions have been occurring for some time suggests that they may have been placing some upward pressure on the Australian dollar in the years following the onset of the global financial crisis,” Kent says.   “The fact that they are still playing out may have continued to provide some support to the Australian dollar beyond the time at which the terms of trade and the interest rate differential had begun to decline.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up to 16154.4. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.59 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hockey identifies $130 billion in assets for privatisation

2:28PM | Thursday, 13 February

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has identified up to $130 billion in state and federal government assets that could be privatised in order to find new infrastructure investments.   “We need to facilitate private-sector investment in infrastructure and in Australia in particular, because mining investment is coming off,” Hockey told Fairfax.   “We've got to recycle precious capital – taxpayers’ capital. It's not a case of selling the family jewels, it's asking another member of the family to buy the jewels so that we can then go down the road and buy some more.   “We're not selling assets particularly to reduce debt, we're selling assets to allow us to put money into other things that are going to build the economy of tomorrow.”   Unemployment hits 6%   Australia’s unemployment rate has hit 6%, its highest level since July 2003, with 3700 jobs lost in January, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.   The figure shows 7100 full-time positions were cut, while 3400 were added, as the participation rate remained steady at 64.5%.   Victoria, traditionally a manufacturing state, recorded an unemployment rate of 6.4% – its worst since January 2002, while Western Australia saw a seasonally adjusted jump in its unemployment rate from 4.6% to 5.1%.   Tasmania recorded the worst unemployment rate at 7.6%, although this is down from 8% earlier this year.   Victorian Premier hailed as a hero for $22 million SPC Ardmona pledge   Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has announced it will chip in $22 million to refit SPC Ardmona’s food processing plant, with parent company Coca-Cola Amatil chipping in a further $78 million.   The deal specifies at least 500 staff will have to be employed at the plant for a minimum three years, and the cash payment will be repaid by the company if it leaves Shepparton within the next five years.   “This co-investment will deliver a bright future for SPC Ardmona. It is a great day for jobs in Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley, a great day for SPC Ardmona, a great day for our fruit growers and fruit industry and a fantastic day for Victoria,” Napthine says.   Australian Workers Union state secretary Ben Davis praised the state Liberal government for the pledge.   “Denis Napthine has done what Tony Abbott should have done, and there is a real lesson in this for the Abbott government – this is how you support businesses that are doing it tough,” Davis says.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 5319.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US89.9 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Russian authorities declare bitcoin crackdown

2:28PM | Sunday, 9 February

Russian authorities have deemed crypto-currency bitcoin illegal, claiming the virtual currency could be used to finance money laundering or terrorism.   “Systems for anonymous payments and cyber currencies that have gained considerable circulation - including the most well-known, bitcoin - are money substitutes and cannot be used by individuals or legal entities,” the Russian Prosecutor General's Office says.   “Citizens and legal entities risk being drawn - even unintentionally - into illegal activity, including laundering of money obtained through crime, as well as financing terrorism.”   Tony Abbott planning royal commission into union finances   Prime Minister Tony Abbott is set to announce a royal commission into union finances this week, which is set to focus on how members’ fees are used.   While the royal commission is partly in response to the AWU slush fund affair, it is unlikely to look at the broader issue of trade union corruption.   “I think it would be, frankly, irresponsible for the government not to respond to that growing demand in a very thorough way,” Attorney-General George Brandis says.   Unsurprisingly, the royal commission has been attacked by the opposition.   “The idea that we need to have an expensive multi-million-dollar political royal commission, rather than give those scarce resources to our hardworking police, means the wrong priorities,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.   Obama backs Hockey’s calls for IMF reform   The US has backed calls by Treasurer Joe Hockey to reform the International Monetary Fund to allow emerging economies to have a greater say in the organisation.   “To secure global economic stability into the future, the United States must support IMF reform now,” Hockey says.   “Failure to reform means that we risk a shift away from the IMF and the multilateral system towards bilateral or regional approaches and an international financial architecture that's fragmented and misaligned.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up to 15,794.08 points. The Aussie dollar is down to US89.6 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Major ANZ glitch forces $70m in refunds

1:31PM | Wednesday, 29 January

The ANZ Bank has refunded $70 million to 235,000 home loan customers, with some errors dating as far back as 2003 and leading to the bank to review all its home loan, savings and small business accounts.   “Part of our ongoing program of work at the moment is to make sure that all of our accounts are performing in accordance with the terms and conditions documents that are out there,” ANZ’s Australian head, Phil Chronican, says.   “When you discover an issue of this nature, you want to be 100% sure that you haven’t got anything else of that nature in your business, so we’ve been reviewing all of our products.   “We literally are going through every product, every terms and conditions booklet, and checking the systems against the products against the terms and conditions.”   Hockey’s hard line on SPC Ardmona   Treasurer Joe Hockey has taken a hard line on any federal government bailouts of struggling food company SPC Ardmona, which is asking for $25 million in assistance.   “If we're asking the Australian people to help the government to live within its means, then corporate Australia must also follow," Hockey said.   “The parent company of SPC Ardmona, Coca-Cola Amatil, which is an Australian company, in the first six months of this year had a profit of over $215 million, for six months, and yet there is a request for $50 million of taxpayers' money.   “I think you can understand why we are being very cautious, very careful about handing out taxpayers' money to companies that are profitable let alone companies that aren't profitable.”   Abbott pressures Shorten over ABCC reintroduction   Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reiterated calls to reintroduce the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).   In a stinging attack on Labor, Abbott questioned whether opposition leader Bill Shorten supported law-abiding citizens or was “on the side of people with a tendency to break the law”.   “Are they [Labor] on the side of getting to the bottom of this or do they want to support a culture of cover-up?” Abbott says.   “And this is a very serious question for the Leader of the Opposition and obviously he'll have the chance to answer it to pretty soon.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 15,7606.6 points. The Aussie dollar is down to US87.34 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hockey warns business on taxpayer handouts

1:23PM | Tuesday, 14 January

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned that taxpayer subsidies won’t be paid to companies that fail to fix their problems, The Australian reports.   He told the newspaper that taxpayer funds won’t be used to shore up dividends or to continue poor industrial practices.   “The government should not be subsidising poor workplace practices,” he said.   “It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to prop up unprofitable companies.”   ANZ eyes acquisitions and divestments in Asia   ANZ bank could consider divesting some assets while on the lookout for acquisitions in Asia.   The Australian reports ANZ chief executive Mike Smith indicating he was open to acquisitions and divestment of its stakes in Asian banks.   “I have always been patient. Something will happen at some stage,” he said.   “I still believe that some of the European bank assets will have to be sold off.”   US data suggest strong economic growth   US retail sales rose in December in a sign the economy gathered steam at the end of last year and is poised from stronger growth, Reuters reports.   The Commerce Department said retail sales gained 0.2% last month.   "The surge in sales in December means the momentum will continue into the first quarter of the new year. 2014 is shaping up to be pretty good from where we sit," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York.   Markets   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.71% at 16,373.86 points, while the Australian dollar is buying US89.6 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Joe Hockey warns community to prepare for budget cuts

12:24PM | Tuesday, 17 December

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned the entire community will have to accept government spending cuts as Australia heads for an economic trough as the budget deficit deepens and federal debt on track to hit $667 billion.   Hockey says harsh measures will be needed to prevent deficits from continuing for a decade, The Australian reports.   “Every area of government expenditure is being examined, not just for its immediate impact, but for its sustainability as well. I think that is a key issue," Hockey said.   Holden workers to hear assistance package   Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to announce an assistance package for Holden workers who face losing their jobs as the car maker prepares to stop production in Australia in 2017, the ABC reports.   It says Abbott has indicated he wants to help workers move into new jobs by focusing on the existing strengths of communities affected by the closure.   The aim will be to reskill and retrain the workers with a view to keeping them in the sector, the ABC reports.   Holden’s decision to quit manufacturing in Australia will see 2900 workers lose their jobs in South Australia and Victoria.   Saputo raises offer for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter   Canadian dairy giant Saputo has raised its offer for takeover target Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, taking the company’s value to as much as $538 million.   The move came after the Takeovers Panel said the offer put in place arrangements that were complex, created uncertainty and “were most undesirable”.   As a result, Saputo added a condition whereby investors would receive $9.40 per share, on the provision it won acceptances of 75%, and $9.60 per share with 90% approval, The Australian reports.   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.1% at 15,875.26 points while the Australian dollar is at 89 US cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: “Twiggy” Forrest backs decision to block GrainCorp takeover

12:24PM | Sunday, 1 December

Mining tycoon Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has publicly backed a controversial decision by Treasurer Joe Hockey to block the takeover of GrainCorp by US agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.   In a speech to the Australia-China Senior Business Leaders' Forum, Forrest pointed out that of 130 foreign takeover bids reviewed since the September election, the GrainCorp takeover was the only proposal rejected.   “In the case of GrainCorp, the decision was necessary given the concentration of power in a near monopoly situation.   “The upshot is whenever you have got such concentration of market power there, consideration needs to be given to more than one set of stakeholders, the shareholders.”   ANZ hit with massive class action over bank fees   ANZ has been hit with the largest consumer class action in Australian history, with law firm Maurice Blackburn taking action over excessive bank fees.   Andrew Watson, the head of class actions at Maurice Blackburn, says the bank’s fees don’t accurately reflect the costs of minor transgressions.   “The fees range, but $25 to $35 is the sort of range for fees that are imposed, so you might be a dollar over on your account or a day late in your payment and the banks will slug you with a fee that's out of all proportion to what it costs them for that minor transgression," he said.   "We think it's worth [in total] about $50 million, but overall we're running a case for 170,000 bank customers against eight major banks, and that's worth about $220 million."   Virgin attacks federal help for Qantas   Virgin chief executive John Borghetti has called for Virgin Australia to receive the same support from the federal government as its arch-rival, with Treasurer Hockey refusing to rule out using public funds to prop up Qantas.   “There have been media reports that the government offered comfort letters to Qantas’s credit rating agencies, prior to our capital raising,” Borghetti says.   “I would also note that if Virgin Australia had been afforded the benefit of such a letter, it would have enabled us to achieve superior outcomes from both the recent debt bond issue undertaken in the US market and the capital raising that is underway.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5314.3. The Aussie dollar is up to US91.36 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: GST-free threshold to stay until at least March

11:29PM | Wednesday, 27 November

A decision on whether to lower or abandon the GST-free threshold on overseas purchases has been delayed until March next year, following a meeting between Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey and his state counterparts.   The move means Australian consumers will still be able to enjoy GST-free imports over Christmas.   However, following strong lobbying from retailers, NSW Treasurer Mike Baird says there is a growing consensus among state treasurers that the rule needs to change.   “I don’t expect to win a popularity contest on the back of this, [but] it is fair for our local retailers. The tax system needs to be brought into the modern age and we’re prepared to argue for it,” Baird says.   Bitcoin crosses $US1000   The price of bitcoin has crossed $US1000 on Wednesday, hitting a high of $US1073 on the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox exchange.   The increase has been credited to a US Senate hearing last week, which advocates say granted the digital currency more legitimacy, as well as increased acceptance from the general public.   "It isn't just the bitcoin community saying that bitcoin is used for good things and there's a lot of great potential, we have members of Congress and government agencies who all agree," Bitcoin Foundation spokeswoman Jinyoung Lee Englund says.   Murray Goulburn launches legal challenge over Saputo bid for Warrnambool   Dairy giant Murray Goulburn has lodged an application with the Takeovers Panel attempting to block Saputo from processing acceptances to its bid for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.   Saputo originally promised WCB shareholders a franking credit of up to 50 cents a share, but replaced the offer in its most recent bid with a 20 cents a share bonus payment if Saputo gains 50% of the stock in WCB.   Murray Goulburn alleges this contravenes “truth in takeover” legislation, and is also seeking orders restraining Saputo from varying its bid.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16102.23. The Aussie dollar is at US 90.80 cents.

Joe Hockey scraps inherited tax changes: The good, bad and the ugly for business

11:29PM | Thursday, 7 November

Businesses are now able to act with certainty as the fog over Australia’s taxation landscape clears.   Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday made clear the Coalition’s intentions with the 92 unlegislated tax changes.   He announced several major taxation changes would be dumped, including the proposed cap on self-education tax deductions, the change to the treatment of fringe benefits tax on cars and a tax on super earnings above $100,000.   Hockey and assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos also confirmed the government will alter Labor’s proposed international profit shifting package, opting not to proceed with the so-called “25-90 deductions”, which will effectively make it easier for Australian businesses to expand offshore.   Sinodinos has set a December 1 deadline to resolve the remaining unlegislated changes.   Business groups Australia-wide were pleased with the announcement, despite the cutting of the unlegislated changes resulting in a further $2.4 billion loss to the federal budget.   To overcome this loss, hefty spending cuts are expected to be announced in May next year.   Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said in a statement the announcement would boost business certainty and confidence, “by clearing the decks of a number of recent piecemeal changes.”   “The backlog of tax measures announced but not legislated in recent years underscores the consequences of pursuing ad hoc tax measures across a number of fronts without comprehensive processes and a coherent framework for tax reform,” she says.   “In particular, the BCA is pleased that the government will not proceed with the repeal of section 25-90 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 under the thin capitalisation changes announced in the budget earlier this year. This would have generated significant compliance costs for many companies.”   EY tax policy leader Alf Capito agreed, saying in a statement the decision is “good news” for Australian businesses seeking foreign investment.   “It will have a significant positive impact on the competitiveness of Australia’s tax regime and attractiveness as a destination for global investment,” he says.   “The decision will also reduce compliance costs and red tape for businesses.”   The proposed cap on self-education tax deductions was one of Labor’s more controversial policies, and its scrapping has been warmly greeted by business, individuals and education groups.   The General Practice Registrars of Australia, the group behind the popular Scrap the Tax campaign, welcomed the announcement.   “The $2000 cap on self-education expenses was an ill-conceived and hastily put together tax on learning that had broader implications for Australia’s productivity. We commend the Coalition for reviewing this policy swiftly and abolishing it within their first 100 days,” GPRA chief executive Amit Vohra said in a statement.   The campaign attracted an alliance of 90 peak industry bodies and associations representing over 1.6 million professionals.   GPRA board director David Townsend said in a statement the campaign demonstrated the power of social media for “developing a groundswell of support within the Australian community.”   However, University of New South Wales Business School associate professor Dale Boccabella was critical of the decision.   “The government’s justification for dumping the former government’s cap proposal was in part based on there being ‘no credible evidence of substantial abuse of this deduction’,” he said in a statement.   “This may be true, but the former government claimed some tax payers are deriving a significant benefit from their self-education expenditure, and that the general body of taxpayers should not have to carry this. Travel on first class air fares and taxpayers staying in five star accommodation was expressly mentioned by the previous government.”   Boccabella says the former government had a sound basis for arguing for the cap, given the “steady stream of tax cases involving claims for overseas and interstate travel…”   While the changes have been broadly applauded, Industry Super Australia is urging the government to retain the low income-earners super contribution which was ditched.   In an attempt to sway the government, the super body has proposed an alternative solution which would allow it to be kept.   ISA’s proposal would see the Paid Parental Leave Scheme adjusted and the super co-contribution scheme removed.   The low income-earners super contribution rebates up to $500 into the super accounts of all Australians earning less than $37,000 whose marginal tax rate is 15% or less, benefiting approximately 3.6 million Australians.   The ISA estimates the removal of the rebate will diminish the savings of those affected by $27,000.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ireland aims for 2000 new jobs from tech start-ups

10:39PM | Wednesday, 30 October

The Irish government’s investment agency has outlined an ambitious plan to create around 2000 jobs through tech start-ups over the next two to three years.   The announcement was made at a tech summit in Dublin, as nine tech companies announced the creation of 330 new jobs.   “Ireland continues to be a global magnet for tech start-ups and I'm confident they will play a large part in shaping the future of the internet,” said Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny.   Huawei NBN decision will impact free trade talks with China   The Coalition’s ban on telecommunications giant Huawei bidding for NBN contracts is putting the prospects of a free trade agreement with China in jeopardy.   “The decision on Huawei will no doubt have an impact on the free trade agreement with Australia,” a Chinese diplomat told Fairfax.   ''Why should we allow Australian companies better access to China when Australia stops one of the most respected Chinese companies from doing business here?''   Joe Hockey’s tough stance on auto giants   Treasurer Joe Hockey says auto manufacturers will have to wait until a Productivity Commission inquiry into the sector is released next year before agreeing to any new assistance for the troubled sector.   “I'm not in the business of ruling things in or out. Let's have a proper process,” Hockey says.   “But we don't negotiate when it comes to taxpayer's money with a gun to our heads, we won't do that.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.39% to 15618.76. The Aussie dollar is up to US 94.87 cents.

Joe Hockey set to repeal small business tax concessions

10:47AM | Tuesday, 29 October

A suite of business tax measures is to be repealed, but the Coalition government’s move is headed for a hostile Senate and Treasurer Joe Hockey needs ALP support to get his measures passed before July 2014.   The moves will wind back Gillard government changes that increased the threshold for asset write-offs and retrospective tax claims.   And incrementally increased super contributions for all employees will have a two-year pause in their introduction. A government co-contribution to the super of low-income earners will also be scrapped.   The measures were tied to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, which Hockey has a mandate to scrap.   The Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong said COSBOA had advised Hockey prior to the election not to repeal the tax breaks, because they were “good”.   “You don’t want confusion, because that impacts confidence. The best thing they can do is say the MRRT has to go through Parliament, but these measures will stay,” he said.   The reforms introduced in 2012-13 aimed to step-up super contributions from nine per cent to 12% by July 2019. The mandatory contributions have already risen to 9.25% but Hockey’s changes will delay their next step up to 9.5% until 2016.   “Any reductions in businesses’ overall wages bills would lower their operating costs, while employees could also receive more take-home pay in the near term,” the draft document states.   The bill also aims to repeal loss carry-back or the ability for businesses to claim up-to $1 million as a tax deduction on past years when they paid tax. Depending on tax rates and earnings, the move allowed loss-making companies huge rebates.   Another sweetener, which let businesses write-off assets up to $6500 and the first $5000 of vehicles in the financial year they were purchased will be dramatically pared down. Hockey has scrapped the vehicle write-down and made assets worth up-to $1000 deductible in the first financial year. Any others would be depreciated 15% in the first year and 30% each year after that.   Hockey said in a media release yesterday that the suite of changes would save the government $13 billion.   “The former government linked a number of spending measures to the failed MRRT. These came at a significant cost to the budget, to the point where the government is borrowing money to pay for these commitments,” he said.   CPA Australia backed Hockey’s repeals, saying they had been “telegraphed” prior to the election.   "There are certain initiatives that we like and that business likes – such as the $6500 instant asset write off for small business – but given the budget challenges, tough decisions need to be made," a CPA spokesperson said.   The exposure draft of the legislation is open for comment until October 31.   The legislation is to be introduced in federal Parliament in November.   Greens leader Christine Milne has said her party would not support the repeal of the MRRT.   “We should be making the [MRRT] more effective by increasing the rate and fixing up the loopholes created when Labor caved in to the big miners,” she said.   An official at ALP Leader Bill Shorten’s office said the party’s intentions would need to be debated at shadow cabinet, but they were opposed to a cut in the government’s contribution to low-income earner’s super.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Access to Asian investors for Australian start-ups set to be boosted

9:42AM | Thursday, 19 September

Moves to free up investment flows between Australia and its Asian neighbours have been welcomed as an opportunity to attract overseas investors to Australian start-ups.   Newly sworn-in Treasurer Joe Hockey is expected to sign statements of intent for improved financial access with Singapore and South Korea this week as part of the Asian Region Funds Passport scheme, which is designed to simplify investment relationships and boost investment flow from Asia.   The Australian reports South Korea and Singapore are ready to sign, and there is speculation Japan and Taiwan may follow suit.   Dilip Rao, president of the TiE network which runs a Go Asia program to encourage Australian start-ups to focus on Asian markets, told StartupSmart this was a fantastic development for start-ups.   “This is targeted and the connections will start at the big end of town, with infrastructure and private equity. But it opens up the visibility of Australia as a market to all of those countries,” Rao says. “The connections and investment will trickle down as the people who run big companies are connected to start-up ecosystem as investors or mentors.”   Rao says a significant benefit of this step will be increased visibility for Australian companies and start-ups.   “The visibility and direct connections at the private equity or angel end is what opens up the market for Australian entrepreneurs, both to enter new markets and a source of funding, will be fantastic,” Rao says.   He adds Australian start-ups were increasingly comfortable pursuing opportunities in Asia and should increasingly look to regional neighbours than the United States.   “As entrepreneurs locally build connections to Asia, such as India, China and South-East Asia, we see a lot more comfort working with Asian countries. Frankly a year ago, no one would talk about Asia so it’s changing,” Rao says. “We see more of America and its culture in everything and all the success stories we hear about are in America. We forget about these huge Asian markets next door.”   Several start-ups were recently encouraged to pursue Asian markets at a pitching competition held by the Sydney chapter of TiE, an international not-for-profit entrepreneurial network.   “There has been a lot of interest from the Asian chapters, and while these entrepreneurs need to make the commitment to make the trips, they’ll have a warm reception,” Rao says.   TiE is running another start-up pitching competition at its national conference in October.