Governments need to do their part in disability employment

Vision_Australia_CEO_Ron_Hooton_740x460

At Vision Australia, we know that in order to affect change, we need to not only to talk the talk, but also walk the walk. That’s why one of our company KPIs is to have a workforce engagement rate for people who are blind or have low vision of more than 15%. And I can proudly say that in January 2018, we were sitting at 14.8%.

I know firsthand that people who are blind or have low vision are no different from their sighted peers in that they make passionate, committed and efficient employees. Yet, despite this, research shows us that more than 50% of people who are blind or have low vision, and who want to work, are unemployed.

One of the ways all the governments across Australia can help decrease this percentage is through the mandating of Australian Standard EN 301 549, for the procurement of accessible Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

AS EN 301 549 was formally adopted in December 2016 as a part of the Federal Government’s procurement policies for ICT and serves as advice for state and local governments. It’s an incredible document that can be used to assess the accessibility of any technology that is acquired and requires suppliers to identify how they meet this standard when asked.

Unfortunately, the standard is voluntary, except in NSW where in December 2017 they made it compulsory. We’re advocating for the remaining state governments and the Federal Government to legislate that all departments must procure ICT that is truly accessible to increase the employment opportunities available to people with disability, across Australia.

Ron Hooton
CEO
Vision Australia

The parents of 765,000 school children are watching with interest

The Federal Government has just released the Terms of Reference for its review into the way it calculates funding for non-government schools.

The review of the socio-economic status (SES) score methodology – by the newly minted National School Resourcing Board – will be significant for the Catholic sector, the largest non-government provider of schools in the country. One in five Australian children attend a Catholic school.

At stake is a foundational principle of Australian public policy – school choice for parents.

The NSRB therefore needs to produce a more accurate way to assess the capacity of families to contribute to the running costs of their schools – the basis on which the Commonwealth decides how much public funding each non-government school receives.

We all want a fairer system; the current system assigns each non-government school an average SES score based on factors such as parents’ postcodes and their educational level. The problem with this approach is that it treats high and low income families at the same school as though they are able to contribute equally.

The 2011 Gonski report highlighted the shortcomings of this methodology. Even the architect of the model, Professor Stephen Farish, has said it’s not working and needs to be made fairer.

The Commonwealth is the major funder of Catholic system schools and therefore the main reason our schools are able to provide quality, affordable education for most families. Catholic school parents, therefore, have a major stake in the outcome of the review.

The parents of Australia’s 765,000 Catholic school children will be watching with interest.

Dallas McInerney
CEO
Catholic Schools NSW

The importance of sustainability in travel and tourism

The travel industry needs to ensure sustainability in all its practice.

At the very heart of it, we understand that travel matters; it allows us to explore the world and gain a deeper understanding of each destination, its history and culture, through enriching experiences. But we have a responsibility to help protect the places we visit and take care of the world around us.

The Travel and Tourism industry have a vital role in protecting the world’s natural habitats, cultural heritage sites and communities. We need to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities. These principles should be extended through to guide all actions with external partners, whether at a regional level or when taking guests around the world. We must be dedicated to bringing the industry together with a shared goal of benefitting the environment and to empower generations – leading by example via Social Responsibility (SR), continually working to further embed the principles of sustainability into the core of any business.
Our industry has to take leadership on this responsibility to ensure travellers tread lightly today and always.

John Veitch
CEO Australia
The Travel Corporation

It’s time to remove the regulatory black cloud

Commercial asset finance brokers association david gandolfo

As well as running a substantial Commercial Finance Broking firm with my partners, I have an industry role as the President of the Commercial & Asset Finance Brokers Association of Australia (CAFBA).

Over the last two years in that role, I have needed to make submissions to the ASFBEO Enquiry into Small Business Credit, The Ramsay Review into External Dispute Resolution (EDR) Schemes, the ASIC Enquiry into Flex Commissions, various submissions on the Point of Sale Exemption for motor vehicle dealers, the ASIC Enquiry Broker Remuneration, the Sedgewick Enquiry Broker Remuneration, an ASIC Report into the behaviour of motor insurance providers at the Point of Sale, the Enquiry into Codes of Conduct for Industry Associations, another ASIC Report into investigation of broker fraud, and The Productivity Commission Enquiry into the financial system – among others!

The overarching theme of these enquiries is to determine whether small to medium sized businesses need “consumer” protections when running their businesses.

While I uphold the right of every consumer and every business to be protected from unjust practices and to have ready access to fair remedies, a distinction must be made between the needs of consumers and businesses when seeking to borrow money.

In 30 years of commercial practice I’ve never had a client ask me for extra forms to fill out or more hoops to jump through. They just want to be able to get on with running their businesses, and to be left alone.

At the same time, I constantly have regulators looking into how much I get paid and looking for flaws in the processes I follow, but I’ve never been asked about the outcomes I provide, or how much money I’ve saved my clients, or how much easier I’ve made it for them.

We know that finance is an enabler and that regulation should assist rather than hinder the ability of businesses to expand and grow. Unintended consequences have to be avoided, and any amended or new regulation has to be specifically targeted to areas that actually require improvement, rather than applying broad based “remedies” that simply impose more processes and cost rather than outcomes.

The risk is this big regulatory cloud that constantly hangs over ourselves and banks, is creating an environment where banks over-compensate for the risks of non-compliance, they standardise processes because there are so many codes they have to comply with. That closes gaps and niche markets – and it follows that they become more risk averse and less willing to lend.

Individually these issues don’t mean much, but collectively they are restraining small business owners’ ability to fund their aspirations to grow their businesses and create wealth.

The irony is that the regulatory bodies who are charged with improving conditions for business owners are contributing to the impediments they are meant to be removing, with an exponential risk to the greater economy.

David Gandolfo
Director, Quantum Business Finance
President, Commercial Asset Finance Brokers Association (CAFBA) Ltd
Deputy Chair, Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) Ltd

A new beginning for the Newcastle Jets

We’ve enjoyed an amazing start to the season here in Newcastle, with success on the pitch and stability off it. Throughout the off-season we’ve worked hard to build a unified club, encompassing not only football, but the entire Hunter community.

We have re-established our management of the Jets’ Westfield W-League side, as well as the Newcastle Jets Academy – with 11 teams from U/13 to U/19 – and are the only Hyundai A-League club to run a girls Academy program.

In the community, we are taking great strides to reconnect with fans and attract new ones through community engagement and our connection to local football. This community-based approach can only reap positive results for the club and for our fans, as we take the entire City of Newcastle on our journey to success.

Within our back office we have recruited experienced football personnel across the board – spearheaded by A-League Head Coach, Ernie Merrick – that have allowed our current results on the pitch to reflect the positivity around the entire club.

We’re lucky to have strong leadership from our owner, Martin Lee, of the Ledman Group. Since taking ownership of the club, Martin has been unwavering in his support of our work within the community as we rebuild the Jets’ brand and develop strong footballing pathways within the club – securing our future and fostering long-term success.

Overall, the work we have been putting in throughout the off-season, and over the last 12 – 18 months has been about creating strong partnerships to help take this club forward and return it to a powerhouse of Australian football and I think we are well on the way to achieving that.

Lawrie McKinna
CEO
Newcastle Jets Football Club

 

 

Red tape is costing households almost $20,000 every year

Red tape costs the Australian economy $176 billion every year.

That’s a concerning enough number on its own but it’s even more worrying in the context of the broader Australian economy.

$176 billion a year equates to 11% of Australia’s gross domestic product. That’s a larger share of the economy than any single industry. Mining is our largest primary industry at 7%. Manufacturing is 6%, and agriculture is 2%.

At $176 billion red tape costs every household in Australia just shy of $20,000 every single year.

And it’s not just a problem because of foregone economic output. This overwhelming regulatory burden strangles businesses and individuals. Every layer of bureaucracy makes it harder for individuals to make choices about their own life. And it kills entrepreneurialism and opportunity.

According to the latest figures from the 2016 Competitiveness Index released by the World Economic Forum in October places Australia 80th in the world for burden of government regulation. Every other Anglosphere country is way out ahead of us – United States (12), New Zealand (21), United Kingdom (32), Canada (38). We have got a long way to go before we can even think about catching Singapore at number 1.

Important research conducted by the IPA’s Daniel Wild recently also highlighted the fact that business investment as a percentage of GDP is now lower than it was under the Whitlam government. His analysis found that red tape is one of the biggest constraints on investment, and that removing this significant constraint would lead to a faster growing economy.

The key message out of all of this is straight-forward: cut red tape to unleash prosperity.

Simon Breheny
Director of Policy
Institute of Public Affairs

The changing face of Rugby Union

Canterbury Rugby League CEO Nathan Godfrey

The Canterbury Rugby Football Union is a legacy-driven organisation, established in 1879 it has a reputation for producing world class players and coaches. In my first year as CEO, I’m proud to walk past a trophy cabinet that now includes the Super Rugby trophy, and both the Men’s and Women’s NZ Championship cups.

My leadership philosophy is based on the Japanese proverb – Kaizen – which simply means continuous improvement. Our high performance culture is built around trusting our succession plans. This starts at academy level where 92% of our talent is converted to the professional environment, many going on to wear the All Black jersey.

Rugby has always enjoyed a lofty position in NZ society, but the game is preparing for a paradigm shift as it seeks to reflect the changing needs of a diverse population. After a number of high profile incidents last year, NZ Rugby conducted a Respect & Responsibility review which has challenged the culture of the game. As a young Chief Executive, I certainly view this transition as an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the future direction of rugby including a strong focus on gender diversity and inclusive leadership. This starts at governance level, evident in the CRFU Board recently approving my recommendation for the appointment of our first Female official in 138-years to the position of Vice-President.

Earlier this year we also launched the ‘We All Bleed Red’ anti-discrimination campaign, supported by a number of high profile individuals, and in doing so we became the first rugby union in NZ to tackle an important societal issue that transcends the game of rugby. Having worked across 3 codes including the AFL and A-League, I’ve certainly experienced first-hand some of the positive work being done in Australia to not only call out this behaviour but more importantly celebrate diversity.

My team have also been tasked with developing and commercialising alternative game products that appeal to the next generation. This thinking is based on a series of focus groups conducted with millennial students, who want to see more ‘pop-up’ style festivals and social connection as part of their rugby experience, replacing the structure of traditional Tuesday/Thursday training and Saturday afternoon game.

I’m honoured to lead Canterbury Rugby, but ultimately we are all just custodians, and my goal is to hand this torch over with a brighter flame than when I received it. I read a book recently called Legacy which shared a few insights into the All Black culture, and the message was that peak performing organisations change when they are on top. That time is now… fortunately I’m a change agent!

Nathan Godfrey
CEO
Canterbury Rugby Football Union

Why People and Company Culture Are the Most Important Assets a Business Has

Wood_And_Grieve_CEO_Jose_Granado

We hear a lot of where the future of technology is headed, but what does this mean for businesses right now? What role can organisational culture play to ensure flexibility and adaptation in a rapidly changing space. In my opinion, culture and people are the most important assets a business has, and play a crucial role in ensuring continued success and profit.

The key challenge for business in the age of disruption is to cultivate and maintain a workplace culture that embraces change, led by fearless innovators who are open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and breaking new ground. This type of forward-thinking can only be achieved within an organisation when there is an established workplace culture where everyone is valued for their contributions, autonomy is the accepted norm, performance is rewarded and work-life balance is visible.

A strong and healthy workplace culture enables ideas to be shared, heard, evaluated and implemented into the business. Employees are empowered to make decisions and progress new initiatives without red tape, giving us the leading edge in a crowded market. This happens every day at Wood & Grieve Engineers (WGE) where our engineers are leading the way.

As CEO, I have a huge responsibility to uphold the unique culture we have at WGE as we head into the brave but uncertain new world. I certainly didn’t create this culture, but it is my job to maintain it and fight to keep it as we travel through this age of innovation. It needs to be in our DNA.

Jose Granado
CEO
Wood & Grieve Engineers

Restraining the House of Spendthrifts

David-Leyonhjelm-Liberal-Democrats-Federal-Senator_740x460

Imagine a demagogue playing a game where he needs to become generous with other people’s money. It’s easy – they earn it, and he decides how to spend it. And when they don’t earn enough for all the spending ideas he comes up with, he can borrow on their behalf, and mortgage their children’s future.

Labor governments in Australia have played this game well.

Liberal governments have talked about its dangers, but have also played it well. Former Treasurer Peter Costello ran years of budget surpluses in the nineties but was blessed by the mining boom; spending was still going up. The period was described by economist Chris Richardson as “temporary boom, permanent promises”.

When he became Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull assured us he would fix this problem. But now his government is exacerbating it.

Underlying the problem is that the beneficiaries of more government spending are many, the payers few, and everyone has one vote.

More than half of all Australian households receive government cash handouts. More than eighty percent of the population pays less in tax than they receive from the government, after allowing for ‘in-kind’ benefits such as public schools and hospitals. That means less than twenty percent of the population pays for the collective goods we all benefit from, like defence, police, footpaths and street lighting.

We are electing our way to a problem by not insisting that governments reduce spending.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to smaller government, lower spending and lower taxation.

Senator David Leyonhjelm is a Federal Senator for the Liberal Democrats.

Geelong Cats Eye Premiership for 2017

Geelong_Cats_CEO_Brian_Cook_740x460

Everyone associated with the Geelong Cats is excited about the season ahead. We always strive to finish in the top four, and feel that we have a team to again compete into the finals. The AFL has never been tighter, with around 15 teams feeling they can get to September, so we will need to hit the ground running from week one of the season.

The 2017 season will be significant for a number of reasons. The fourth stage of the Simonds Stadium redevelopment will be completed in May, with the opening of the Brownlow stand. This facility will be among the best in the country, with great viewing spaces for spectators, fabulous dining and a new media centre.

Our football department will triple in size, giving our players and coaches an elite area to work and train.

For the first time we will be fielding a women’s team in the VFL. This is a significant milestone for our club, and we are proud of the commitment shown by the players and staff to launch this team. We believe we are well placed to move into the AFL women’s league in the very near future, and we see the new Cats women’s team as a great way to inspire young girls to take up the game of footy.

Our supporters have always been loyal to the club and we foresee a new record membership on the horizon.

Go Cats.

Brian Cook
CEO
Geelong Football Club

Addressing Energy Issues and its Impacts on the Customer

EnergyAustralia_Mark_Colette_740x460

In the past 12 months we’ve seen rising electricity prices, a state-wide blackout in South Australia, load-shedding in SA and NSW, large generation capacity leaving the market on short notice, wholesale market volatility and large businesses facing real challenges securing supplies of gas.

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s an energy shortage in Australia; the real problem is confidence – the confidence to invest in energy.

And right now customers are wearing the cost. Any approach to addressing energy issues must start and end by considering impacts on the customer.

Success means delivering reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all Australians. Solutions that don’t consider all three elements aren’t solutions, instead they lead to volatile markets, problems with the security of supply and rising prices.

No one pretends it’s an easy fix, but the answer isn’t rocket science. It’s about enabling confidence in contracting and investment.

Three key things will encourage confidence:

  1. Policy stability – a national and durable policy framework.
  2. Market transparency – adequate planning information around retirements and other significant market variables informs when and where to contract and invest.
  3. A firm, durable emissions trajectory – we need clear signals to investors about our emissions trajectory.

The National Electricity Market (NEM) has delivered over 15,000 MW of capacity since inception (about 30% of total capacity today). The NEM has shown it can deliver stable prices with system stability. Enhancing the NEM to incorporate a future balancing reliability, affordability and emissions reductions will deliver the right outcomes for our customers.

Mark Collette
Executive – Energy
EnergyAustralia

Australia Must Have No Place For Modern Slavery

Jennifer_Westacott_CEO_Business_Council_of_Australia_(BCA)

Australia must develop a comprehensive approach, including legislation, to combat modern slavery in all its forms. Increased global trade has delivered great benefits for Australians, but it has also increased the risk that products and services have been tainted by the use of forced labour.

A 21st-century global economy must have no place for this fundamentally immoral practice. Businesses must not tolerate modern slavery anywhere in their supply chains, in Australia or overseas.

The Business Council’s Annual Forum in Canberra was last month briefed on the scale of the problem by Andrew Forrest, the chairman of Fortescue Metals Group and a prominent advocate for eradicating modern slavery.

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 45.8 million people around the world are in some form of modern slavery, which describes a range of exploitative practices including human trafficking and forced labour.
It is pleasing to see the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade commence an inquiry into possible legislation similar to the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act. The Business Council’s members are eager to consult with parliament about the most effective ways to combat modern slavery. One option is for companies to state publicly that they are monitoring their supply chains for modern slavery and will report any cases to the Australian people.

Depending on the approach that parliament decides, the Business Council would pursue this approach as a unified, voluntary commitment for all its members.

Jennifer Westacott
CEO
Business Council of Australia