Here comes the ‘Greentape’… Chinese imports price hike… Court opens way to GST rebates… MyHome struggles… Mining needs women…

‘Greentape’ to hit SMEs

Medium-sized businesses in manufacturing and transport could be forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year having their carbon emissions audited under legislation currently being drafted by the Federal Government.

The proposal under consideration would require businesses that emit 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year across all their operations, or 25,000 tonnes per year from a single site, to report audited results to the Federal Government, The Australian Financial Review reports today.

The requirement for businesses to have carbon emission audits is the first step in implementing the carbon trading scheme outlined in the report of the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Emissions Trading in June 2007.

Cheryl Bowler, principal consultant at environment and sustainability consultancy Energetics, says the 50,000 tonne threshold could catch medium-sized businesses with multiple sites in energy intensive sectors such as manufacturing and transport.

She gives the example of a national food manufacturer with sites in every state as a company that would be caught by the scheme.

“If you were talking gas usage, on a single site 25,000 tonnes of carbon emissions would equate to about $3 million worth of gas a year, or for a transport company with multiple sights they would need to spend about $25 million on diesel a year to reach 50,000 tonnes, so they’re quite large numbers,” Bowler says.

It costs $5000 to $30,000 for a carbon audit depending on the size of the business and the degree of accuracy required, environment industry consultants say.

The legislation is set to be introduced into Parliament later this year with a view to coming into force in July 2008. The emissions audit threshold will be phased in over three years, with those emitting 125,000 tonnes caught in the first year, 87,000 tonnes the second year and 50,000 tonnes the third year after the scheme commences.

– Mike Preston


Price increases on Chinese imports

Retailers can expect more than 7% price rises across the board on products sourced from China.

China announced in late June it will cut tax rebates on exports of clothes, shoes and other goods in an effort to slow the growth of its huge trade surplus amid rising threats of punitive action by US lawmakers, reports US NewsFactor Business report.

Claude Lombard, MD of food packaging supplier Lombard the Paper People, told Inside Retail magazine a Chinese Government decision to cut rebate levels for exporters from 1 July will lead to price rises on clothing, footwear, furniture and general merchandise.

Chinese exporters have been able to claim a 13% rebate on a 17% value-added tax, but the rebate will be cut to just 5% from 1 July and Lombard says manufacturers will be forced to increase prices. “Given the level of product sourcing out of China by Australian retailers, there will be an inflationary impact on prices here in virtually all categories,” Lombard says.

The move also is meant to slow exports of cement and other goods deemed too energy-intensive or polluting, the News Factor website reports.

The Chinese Government has imposed a string of measures to slow the growth of both China’s trade surplus and resource and energy-intensive industries such as steel production. Despite these, China’s trade surplus in May rose to its third-highest monthly level on record, up 73% from the same month last year at $22.5 billion.

– Jacqui Walker


Court ruling puts GST rebates on the table

Businesses that have paid GST on security deposits forfeited by customers may be able to claim a refund from the tax office following a recent Federal Court ruling.

A Victorian company took the tax office to court claiming that it did not have to pay GST on a $297,500 deposit it was paid on a land sale that fell through. After losing at first instance, the Full Federal Court upheld the company’s claim on the basis that there had been no “supply” to which GST could be applied.

Any business that uses contracts with a security component could be in a position to seek a refund if the decision stands, with businesses in real estate and development likely to benefit the most.

The decision could open the door for hundreds of businesses that have paid GST on forfeited security deposits to seek a refund from the tax office, according to HLB Mann Judd partner Peter Bembrick.

“It would certainly apply retrospectively. You can amend your BAS statements up to four years after lodgement, so any business that had paid GST on a forfeited deposit in that time would want to have a look at doing that and seeking reimbursement,” Bembrick says.

But, he says, businesses keen to turn the tables on the tax office should cool their heels for the moment – the tax office could well seek to appeal the decision to the High Court, he says, leaving the legal situation up in the air for months or years to come.

– Mike Preston


MyHome floundering

The Microsoft and PBL Media-backed property website MyHome is failing to meet its traffic and advertising budgets, reports The Australian Financial Review. The site, which cost about $10 million to build, was aiming for about 700,000 unique browsers in May, rising to one million by August. But the site attracted a peak in April of 480,000 and fell to 372,000 in June.

It’s lagging well behind rival (3.6 million) and Domain (1.8 million). MyHome wasn’t charging advertisers for the first three months, but real estate agents now have to pay $175 a month. The owners have pumped a reported $7 million into marketing the site in the first year.

– Jacqui Walker


Mining industry needs women

The image of the macho mining industry must change if Australia’s mining industry is to sustain boom times.

The Minerals Council of Australia reports that the minerals sector needs another 70,000 workers over the next decade, equating to one in every three new workers.

Given that only 12% of the mining workforce are women, it is obvious where the growth must come from. The industry is taking action, launching a five year plan to increase female participation.

– Amanda Gome


Economy round-up

A whopping 31,964 people became insolvent in 2006/07, 16.9% higher than in 2005/06, according to new figures from Insolvency and Trustee Services Australia.

The number of debt agreements entered increased by an even bigger 34.4% on 2005/06. Debt agreements are a less formal method of dealing with personal insolvency.

Consumer bankruptcy, primarily people unable to service bulging credit card debts, was responsible for 80% of all bankruptcies.

The number of job ads in newspapers and online decreased by 0.8% in June to 249,915, according to ANZ data released today. The slight decrease was expected after May’s bumper 10.3% increase and still indicates a tight job market, with the number of ads up 36.1% on this time last year.

“We had expected some easing following the exceptionally large increase in May, however the fall of 0.8% is inconsequential and shows that demand for labour remains at record highs,” ANZ head of Australian economics Tony Pearson says.

In the US, unemployment remains at 4.5% after 132,000 new jobs were created in June, slightly higher than the 125,000 forecast. US Department of Labour figures also show wages grew by 3.9% in the year to July, well down from their peak of 4.9% in December, The Australian Financial Review reports.

At 12.30pm the S&P/ASX 200 is up 0.6% to 6390.2 and the Australian dollar is trading at US85.75c, slightly down on the most recent Sydney closing price of US85.80c.

– Mike Preston



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