WorkChoices red tape builds… Midas drama twist… Export goalposts moved… Rates rise on hold, for now… Power prices to jump… Corporate colour grab… Foster’s locks up chequebook

More red tape from WorkChoices

As the detail on the changes to WorkChoices is revealed, the red tape is piling up. Employers will have to provide fact sheets on the new fairness test to each of the nine million workers in the federal system – or face a $110 fine per worker.

Employers will have seven days to give new starters the fact sheet and three months to give it to existing employers after the new laws come into force.

A Senate report on the new legislation noted that the average time to process a workplace agreement – or get pre-lodgement advice – will be seven to 10 days.

There is still concern by some Senators that the new Workplace Authority will be under-staffed to check that agreements all pass the fairness test, despite the $370 million of extra funding that has been pledged to the agency.

– Jacqui Walker


Midas drama hots up

The Midas car care franchise has hit the news this morning with the Herald Sun reporting allegations from Midas Australia owner Philip Bonney that he is the victim of a nasty campaign, fears for his and his family’s wellbeing and is being forced to sell his business. The sensational story says the head of car-care company UltraTune, Sean Buckley, has been accused of being linked to the campaign.

Buckley, who is reported to be an associate of drug-smuggler Tony Mokbel, has denied having any involvement in the campaign, which includes an anonymous website that makes very personal, defamatory and damaging accusations against Bonney.

This story is just the tip of the iceberg. The Midas Car Care franchise chain has been under pressure not only from this website but from claims from several franchisees and former franchisees.

At least two franchisees have commenced litigation against the company in the Federal Court for misrepresentation and breach of contract, and another is also suing Midas in the Supreme Court alleging an unfair contract under the new Independent Contractors Act.

SmartCompany has also been told that complaints have been lodged against Midas with ASIC and the ACCC. One former franchisee, who walked away from their business, told SmartCompany this morning: “I am sure that any Midas franchisee you interview will tell you that Midas didn’t need any other company or website to ruin their business – Midas did it quite adequately by themselves.”

Bonney told the Herald Sun that he has been forced to sell Midas. But it has been rumoured that the planned sale of Midas Australia to John Pearson, the owner of Tyrecorp, has fallen through.

Bonney has denied this and advised his franchisees in an email on June 4 that: “We will continue to keep you abreast of further official developments, as well as the update in relation to the sale of the Midas Australia business. There will be a delay of approximately two weeks in relation to this announcement.”

As SmartCompany has previously reported, several franchisees and former franchisees who are in dispute with Bonney are concerned that if the sale goes through they will be unable to recover damages from his company.

Bonney told the Herald Sun that he has spent more than $100,000 investigating the website and trying to bring it down, and $600,000 on legal defences. “The business just can’t sustain it… It’s cost us $3 million over the past 12 months.”

Bonney had not returned SmartCompany’s calls by the time we published.

– Jacqui Walker


Export numbers are up?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is under the microscope again this morning: this time for changing the methodology on exports.

Since 2001, the Federal Government has pledged to double the number of exports by the end of this financial year – now barely two weeks away. But guess what? The ABS has changed the way it calculates exports. Trade Minister Warren Truss has admitted that it is almost impossible to judge if the target will be reached.

Without longitudinal data, how can the policies of the Government be judged and improved? It is very difficult.

As SmartCompany revealed last week, the ABS has also dumped the Characteristics of Small Business, which was a comprehensive look at the small business market. The reasoning was similar. The way of calculating the numbers has been refined and new ways to calculate data are going to be more accurate.

So what is next?

– Amanda Gome


Interest rates more likely going up than down. But when?

Since yesterday afternoon, economists and columnists have been pouring over Reserve Bank chief Glenn Stevens’ first public speech since the federal budget. The consensus seems to be that Stevens hinted that a July interest rate rise is unlikely because financial markets have slashed the chance of a rate rise next month from 24% to 4%.

He described the threat of inflation as a “medium-term” concern for the bank. His magic words? “As things currently look, inflation is more likely to rise during 2008 than to recede.”

– Jacqui Walker


Electricity prices on the rise

Small and home-based businesses in NSW will soon have to pay more for electricity.

In order to fund improvements to the network, businesses and households will pay an increase of between 7% to 8% a year over the next three years for regulated electricity. And Queensland and ACT businesses will learn whether they too are facing price hikes soon.

Meanwhile in a separate decision, the Australian Energy Regulator gave the go ahead for PowerLink Queensland to increase its spend on replacing aging assets and meeting increased demand.

The Energy Users Association of Australia’s executive director Roman Domanski was quoted in The Australian Financial Review saying he feared the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision was likely to create bad precedents for similar decision in other states.

But the regulator’s chairman, Steve Edwell, responded by saying that the increases were necessary “otherwise the lights go out, quite frankly”.


JB Hi-Fi goes mobile

Entertainment retailer JB Hi-Fi will be going head-to-head with Fone Zone and Crazy John’s now that it has signed an exclusive long term contract to become a Telstra mobile phone reseller. Fone Zone, Telstra’s largest mobile phone dealer, will be the one to beat.


Hands off my colour!

Big companies continue to fight to trademark colours, with BP being the latest case to be heard.

BP is fighting to register its colour green. But recently three court judges were not convinced BP should have a monopoly over BP green, instead saying it might be distinctive only when used with its yellow and its symbol.

The judges raised the issue that the colour green was an important colour for other purposes in the world, including its association with the environmental movement. Justice Kirby asked: “What about the services of the political party, Greens?”

All eyes will now turn to the Cadbury Schweppes barney with Darrell Lea over which can use the colour purple.

 And Aunty B has an opinion as well.


Too bad, says Foster’s

Want to improve your business? Take longer to pay your bills. The Australian Financial Review reported this morning that Foster’s will increase the time it takes to pay suppliers from 30 to 45 days, effective 1 June, to improve its cash flow.

A Foster’s spokesperson confirmed that the change would affect non-contract suppliers and that long term contracts for supplies of items like grapes and glasses would not be affected.

He added this was consistent with industry benchmarks. Apparently a letter to suppliers had a list of frequently asked questions including: “Can I be paid quicker?” Answer? No.


The good times will never end

Australian chief executives are strongly optimistic about the state of the economy according to The Executive Connection. “We’ve never seen a survey showing that only 4% of chief executives say that times are tougher now than 12 months ago,” says Mike O’Neill, TEC chief executive.

Almost a third expect the economy is going to improve further in the next year. Also training budgets are expected to increase significantly as the chief executives grapple with the skills shortage.

About 86% of chief executives believe that training helps retain staff and 94% suggest it has a positive affect on the organisational culture. In-house training such as mentoring programs were the preferred method with 52% of CEOs indicating they were currently developing a mentoring program or had one in place.


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