Carbon trading coming?… Retail up … Rates likely to hold … Vista speedhump … Beating big business bullies …

Business costs could rise as carbon trading more likely

Concerns grow that carbon trading schemes could raise the costs of doing business. Prime Minister John Howard has indicated today that Australia is likely to be involved in a carbon trading scheme as part of its plan to tackle climate change.

Market mechanisms, including carbon trading, will be integral to any long-term response to climate change, he says in reports this morning.

He added that Australian workers and industries would not be disadvantaged if there was a price on carbon.

However Greens leader Bob Brown warns that emissions will not fall if the carbon price is too low. The debate that will erupt over who will bear the brunt of any increase in price caused by carbon trading will further complicate efforts by the Government to present carbon trading as one of the answers to climate change.

— Amanda Gome


BCA talks fairness, but what about small business?

Many small businesses feel under pressure from big business bullying, but this problem did not rate a mention in Business Council of Australia chief executive Katie Lahey’s speech about corporate social responsibility this morning.

In her speech to the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Lahey said big business should harness their competitive strengths to bring sustainable social benefits to the community. But she did not refer to the responsibility to treat small businesses fairly, whether they are a supplier, lessor or creditor to big business.

The most recent Sensis Business Index, which surveyed 1800 small businesses, found almost 5% feel unfair pressure from big business.

“The number of small businesses who report a problem with some unfair competitive threat remains quite high,” report author Christena Singh says.

Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia chief executive Tony Steven says corporate responsibility to the community should include small business.

“Many small businesses have to cope with an uneven playing field. A good example is the power big landlords have over small retailers, who not only require tenants to supply audited books, but also big business’s rent concessions,” he says.

“On many issues the ACCC doesn’t have enough teeth, so we have to fall back on the social responsibility these big businesses have to small businesses to act ethically.”

SmartCompany contacted the Business Council of Australia for comment, but a response was not received before publication.

Click through to read about your rights against big business bullies.

— Mike Preston

Retail sales up in December

Seasonally adjusted retail sales increased by 0.3% in December 2006, to $18.454 billion, according to figures released this morning by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This follows an increase of 0.2% in November 2006 and a revised increase of 0.8% in October 2006.

Across the states and territories, increases were: New South Wales (+0.7%), Victoria (+0.3%), Western Australia (+0.7%) and the Northern Territory (+1.7%).

Compared to a year ago, turnover was up 5.1% in December 2006 compared to December 2005. Chains and other large retailers increased by 5.9%, while “smaller” retailers rose by 3.8%.

— Jacqui Walker

Interest rates steady

Interest rates are unlikely to rise when the Reserve Bank meets tomorrow. The financial markets believe there is almost no chance of a rate rise following the easing of inflation in the last part of 2006, thanks to falling petrol prices.

Domestic demand has cooled as we are still absorbing the three rate rises of last year, and credit growth slowed during the latter part of 2006.

— Jacqui Walker

IT news

More barriers for the Vista juggernaut — this time created by Apple telling its iTune users not to upgrade until a new version is available. Apple has recommended that users of its iTunes software avoid upgrading to Windows Vista until a new version becomes available, according to IT newsletter, ITwire. It asks “Will the popularity of its iPod players be enough to stall the Vista upgrade?

Problems Apple says Vista users can experience include an inability to play tracks purchased from the iTunes store, inability to synchronise calendars, random changes to iPod settings and occasional complete corruption of the device.

Apple offers a few crumbs of advice: unauthorise your existing iTunes account, uninstall iTunes, and perform a clean install rather than an upgrade. If that doesn’t help, Apple is also offering a repair tool for Vista users that helps reauthorise purchased songs and videos.

— Amanda Gome


ALP to dump Howard’s tech college plan

The Federal Government’s new trade high schools are likely to be handed over to the states if a Labor government is elected. Education and training spokesman Stephen Smith told The Australian Financial Review that a Labor government would probably dump the policy, which was a centerpiece of the Coalition’s skills policy from the 2004 election campaign.

Only five of the promised 25 colleges were functioning last year, but this will increase to 21 in 2007. Smith says he sees no sensible rationale for the Commonwealth setting up a technical system when the states have primary responsibility for secondary schools and TAFE.

— Jacqui Walker


Economic round-up

Mixed messages about the ecomony this morning.

The ANZ monthly job ads survey reports a small decline in employment growth, with online job ads falling 0.1% and newspaper ads 1.2% in January.

The housing industry is also experiencing a flattening, with building approvals falling 1.1% in December, today’s ABS building approval figures show.

But the ABS reports a seasonally adjusted 0.3% increase in turnover for the retail and hospitality services sector for December, a 5.1% (unadjusted) increase on December 2005.

Meanwhile in the US, the benchmark S&P 500 reached a six-year high yesterday, while the ASX/S&P 200 was strengthened without reaching the record highs of late last week.

— Mike Preston


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