Migrant worker pay equality… R&D proposal rejected… Our bank fees world’s highest… Agri tax break chop on hold… Aging population opportunities…

Business calls for migrant worker pay equality

Foreign workers brought into Australia under s457 visas should be paid according to the same industrial instruments as Australian workers, not the higher migrant worker minimum salary level, recruiters and business groups say.

Businesses are required by law to pay workers imported under s457 visas at the legislated minimum salary level, which is calculated on the basis of Australian average weekly earnings rather than the award or Australian Fair Pay Commission standards that apply to domestic workers.

Although designed to protect pay levels of Australian workers, the regime means businesses can be prevented from hiring the staff they need to grow because of the higher cost of migrant workers.

Immigration minister Kevin Andrews is reported to have rejected calls by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the recruitment industry for migrant workers’ pay to be determined on the same basis of domestic workers.

David Young, a director of recruiting and skilled migration company Australian Recruiting says Australian businesses will be driven offshore if they can’t access the staff they need.

“As much I support Australians in work, for a long time we’ve been seeing clients having to go offshore because they haven’t been able to get labour – so why shouldn’t we protect businesses and bring cheaper labour here rather than send the whole lot offshore, ” Young says.

He says in industries where the migrant minimum salary level is significantly higher than the legal minimum, businesses are being left without access to competitively priced labour.

“We had a company call the other day looking for chefs. They tend not to be especially well paid in some areas, and Australian chefs were getting less than the minimum salary level, so that really meant the company couldn’t justify getting a skilled migrant to come and they couldn’t find a domestic worker. It’s a Catch-22 really.”

– Mike Preston


R&D proposal rejected

Recommendations by the Productivity Commission to overhaul research and development tax concessions has been rejected by the Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

Yesterday the Productivity Commission, in its report “Public Support for Science and Innovation”, recommended that the 125% tax concession be limited to small firms. The report says that a lot of commercialisation would be carried out by larger companies without the need for concessions and that it was a waste of the public purse.

Macfarlane rejected the proposals, pointing out that large companies would stop locating their R&D in Australia if they were implemented. Business groups also slammed the proposal, saying it would cut out valuable R&D by medium-sized companies.

– Amanda Gome


Australian bank fees world’s highest: report

Australian banks charge some of the highest fees in the developed world, according to a new report by JP Morgan and Fujitsu Consulting.

The report found Australian consumers pay between $150 and $170 a year more in banking fees than their counterparts in comparable economies such as Canada and Britain.

Mortgage, transactional account and credit card fees in particular are higher in Australia that overseas, according to the report.

– Mike Preston


Agriculture tax break investors given 12-month reprieve

The axing of upfront tax breaks on agricultural managed investment schemes has been delayed by a year to July 2008, Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo announced yesterday.

The tax office’s February announcement that it planned to abolish the tax break was met with dismay by rural businesses reliant on the schemes. They claimed the short time they had been given to prepare for the change would mean millions of dollars in capital investment and hundreds of jobs could be lost.

The decision to grant a 12-month reprieve follows intense managed investment scheme industry lobbying of Coalition backbenchers, many of whom hold rural seats that will be affected by the abolition of the tax break for investment in producers of non-forestry products such as olives, nuts and pearls.

Welcoming the announcement yesterday, Federal Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton said the change “will give industry time to consider their financial arrangements and plan for the future”.

– Mike Preston


Opportunities abound in aging population

Any entrepreneur who likes to study trends and identify opportunities will be interested in the Intergenerational Report due out next week.

The first Intergenerational Report in 2002 changed government policy as the news was driven home to Australians that a shrinking tax base was going to be forced to support a growing wave of retirees. The baby bonus, changes to superannuation and the creation of the Future Fund was just some of the policy changes resulting from the report.

– Amanda Gome


IT news: Vista success?

Microsoft has been busy issuing press releases celebrating the early sales of Vista, but some sceptics are asking questions. ITWire reports that Vista sales are slower than early XP sales in 2001.

Microsoft claims it has sold 20 million Vista licences since launch. But some observers are arguing that figure actually reflects the number of components distributed dating backing to October 25 2006, including sales to OEMs and free upgrades for existing XP users who bought computers last year.

Analysts point out that there were not even 20 million PCs sold throughout the world in February.

Economic roundup

Figures showing a strong 3.9% lift in new housing in February pushed the Australian dollar through the US81 cents barrier for the first time in 10 years yesterday.

The dollar has come back to earth again this morning, but was still trading strongly at US80.70 cents at 12.15pm.

The S&P/ASX 200 hasn’t followed the dollar’s volatility, lifting just 0.1% by 12.15am to sit at 5969.4.


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