Fed Govt’s $130B wage subsidy set to support six million workers

The Federal Government has announced a historic wage subsidy package in response to COVID-19, with over six million workers set to receive a flat payment of $1500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the $130 billion package will provide a lifeline to businesses “feeling the first blows of the economic impact from the coronavirus.”

“This is about keeping the connection between the employer and the employee, and keeping people in their jobs even though the business they work for may go into hibernation and close down for six months,” he said.

“When the economy comes back, these businesses will be able to start again, and their workforce will be ready to go because they will remain attached to the business through our JobKeeper payment.”

The payment will be paid to employers, for up to six months, for each eligible employee that was on their books on 1 March 2020 and is retained or continues to be engaged by that employer.

The program will commence 30 March, with businesses set to see payments from the first week of May as monthly arrears from the Australian Taxation Office.

“Eligible employers will be those with annual turnover of less than $1 billion who self-assess a reduction in revenue of 30 per cent or more, since 1 March 2020 over a minimum one-month period,” Mr. Morrison said.

“Employers with an annual turnover of $1 billion or more would be required to demonstrate a reduction in revenue of 50 per cent or more to be eligible. Businesses subject to the Major Bank Levy will not be eligible.”

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Australia is going through one of the hardest economic times in its history.

“Businesses will close and people will lose their jobs. That is why we have doubled the welfare safety net. Australians know that their government has their back,” he said.

“This will keep Australian workers connected with their employer and provide hope and more certainty during these difficult and challenging times.”

The government will provide further updates on business cashflow support in coming days.

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Fed Govt announces second stimulus package worth $66B

The Federal Government has released the second stage of its plan to cushion the economic impacts of COVID-19, with a total of $189 billion injected into the economy by all arms of government.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Federal Government will provide up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses and not-for-profits that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.

“Under the enhanced scheme from the first package, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000,” he said.

Additionally, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000, and will be available from 28 April.

By linking the payments to staff wage tax withholdings, Mr Morrison said businesses will be incentivised to hold on to more of their workers.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister highlighted that the payments are tax free, flowing automatically through the Australian Tax Office.

“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business. We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed, Australian businesses can bounce back,” Mr Morrison said.

“We know this will be temporary. That’s why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren’t and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible. We know Australia’s more than three million small and medium businesses are the engine room of our economy. When they hurt, we all hurt.”

The measure is expected to benefit an estimated 690,000 businesses that employ over 7.8 million people. Small and medium business entities with aggregated annual turnovers under $50 million are eligible.

An additional payment will also be made from 28 July, with eligible entities receiving a payment equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments received.

“This measure is expected to cost $31.9 billion over the forward estimates period, including the value of the measure announced in the first stimulus package,” Mr Morrison said.

For regulatory protection and financial support, the Federal Government will also establish the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, designed to grant small and medium enterprises (SMEs) access to working capital.

Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

“The government’s support will enhance lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit to SMEs, with the scheme able to support $40 billion of lending to SMEs,” Mr Morrison said.

“The scheme will complement the announcement the government has made to cut red-tape to allow SMEs to get access to credit faster. It also complements announcements made by Australian banks to support small businesses with their existing loans.”

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the $189 billion economic support package represents the equivalent of 9.7 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

“The government is taking unprecedented action to strengthen the safety net available to Australians that are stood down or lose their jobs and increasing support for small businesses that do it tough over the next six months,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“These extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

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$17.6B stimulus package increases asset write-off threshold

The Federal Government has announced cash flow assistance for businesses and household stimulus payments to counteract the social and economic challenges posed by Covid-19.

The $17.6 billion stimulus package is designed to keep small businesses afloat and employees in work, and will focus on supporting the most affected sectors. The government has stated that the measures are temporary, targeted and scalable.

The package includes $700 million to significantly increase the current instant asset write-off from $30,000 to $150,000 for businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million — up from $50 million.

The threshold applies on a per asset basis, so eligible businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets, until 30th June.

Expanding the threshold means an additional 5300 businesses will be able to access instant asset write-offs for the first time.

Other areas of support include cash flow payments of up to $25,000 for employers, 50 per cent accelerated depreciation for investments and a 50 per cent wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees.

The Australian Tax Office will also consider relief for certain tax obligations to eligible businesses, including deferring tax payments up to four months.

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Australia is approaching the economic challenge from a position of strength, with IMF and the OECD both forecasting Australia to grow faster than comparable countries including the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany and France.

“Our plan keeps businesses operating, supports jobs and provides a stimulus to households. The government has worked hard over the last six and a half years to return the budget to balance so we have the flexibility to respond to the serious economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg added that given Australia’s strong economic and fiscal position, international credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s indicated the temporary stimulus would be unlikely to strain Australia’s creditworthiness.

“By acting decisively this package will put Australia in the strongest possible position to deal with the economic challenges we face and to make sure our economy bounces back even stronger,” he said.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison cautioned that Australia is not immune to the global Coronavirus challenge, he said his government has taken steps to prepare for “this looming international economic crisis.”

“We’ve balanced the budget and managed our economy so we can now use this to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians,” he said.

“Our targeted stimulus package will focus on keeping Australians in jobs and keeping businesses in business so we can bounce back strongly.”

In a statement addressing members, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia said as an essential service, the waste and resource recovery sector is resilient.

“It is vitally important that we pull together and work with each other to ensure, as far as practicable, the continuation of our essential services to the community,” the statement reads.

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New Federal Minister for Environment sworn in

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has selected his new cabinet ministry and appointed a new Minister for Environment to replace Josh Frydenberg, who has been appointed treasurer.

Melissa Price will now serve as Minister for Environment, after previously serving as the Assistant Minister to the portfolio.

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She was responsible for reviewing Australia’s national waste management strategy, preserving the country’s biodiversity and overseeing the transition to new management plans for marine reserves.

As Assistant Minister, she helped set national targets to reduce Australia’s waste and encourage the industry to transition to more sustainable practices.

The previous portfolio has been split in two, with Angus Taylor being appointed the Minster for Energy. Ms Price will now focus solely on Australia’s natural resources and preserving the environment.

“It is a great privilege to take full responsibility for this portfolio and I welcome the opportunity to continue the Government’s work in delivering a cleaner future for Australia,” Ms Price said.

“I also represent an incredibly diverse regional electorate that covers roughly half of Western Australia, where some 20 per cent of all threatened species in Australia are found.

“My appointment also marks the first time a woman from regional Western Australia has served in the Cabinet, an achievement that I am both proud and deeply humbled to acknowledge,” she said.

CEFC finance composting facility for Melbourne councils

Organic waste from eight Melbourne councils will be sent to a new composting facility, to be built by international waste management company Sacyr Group.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $35 million towards the new composting facility.

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The $65 million South Eastern Organics Processing Facility will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria and will produce approximately 50,000 tonnes of high grade compost each year.

The compost will be made from processed household garden and food waste from council kerbside green waste collections in Melbourne’s south-east, which will then be used on local parks and gardens.

Food and green waste makes up an estimated 42 per cent of landfill for Australia’s municipal and commercial waste streams.

The Melbourne councils include Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Monash.

Sacyr expects the fully-enclosed, in-vessel aerobic composting and maturation plant will be operational by mid-2019. It will aim to operate for 15 years, with a potential five-year extension.

The new facility will have an annual processing capacity of 120,000 tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of 12,000 truckloads of waste. It is expected to abate more than 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill by 85 per cent if it were to be landfilled, which is equivalent to taking 13,900 cars off the road.

Sacyr Group has built 48 plants around the world and handles more than three million tonnes of waste each year. It currently operates in Australia through its subsidiary, Sacyr Water, which has built and operates the Binningup desalination plant.

The technology used in the plant has been developed over two decades, ensures plant storage reservoirs are completely closed, and uses efficient and reliable deodorisation systems.

Federal Government  Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said converting waste to compost can play a part in Australia’s long-term waste solutions.

“This facility alone, which will be the most advanced of its type in Victoria, can process around 12,000 truckloads of waste per year,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“It means food and organic waste produced by south east Melbourne residents will not end up in landfill and will instead produce high-grade compost for our gardens and parks.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the corporation is looking across the economy to identify finance opportunities to reduce Australia’s emissions.

“We’re pleased to be making our first project investment to help councils and communities tackle emissions from their organic waste,” he said.

“When organic waste such as food and green waste ends up in landfill it breaks down and produces methane. With this technology, councils can avoid those emissions by turning their organic waste into reusable compost, while also reducing our unsustainable reliance on landfill as a waste disposal option.

“We strongly endorse the principle of avoiding and reducing waste at the source. Our finance is about effectively manage the remaining waste, so that it doesn’t end up as landfill and we make a meaningful difference to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learmonth said.

CEFC Bioenergy Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC finance model for the Melbourne project was an industry first, providing councils with access to a project financing structure that has rarely been leveraged across local government.

“Australia’s waste sector is facing enormous challenges, because of the growing amount of waste we produce as well as increasing community concerns about the way we handle that waste. This new Melbourne facility provides us with a practical and proven way to turn organic waste into a reusable commodity at the same time as avoiding harmful emissions,” Mr Anning said.

“We expect to see more councils and communities consider innovative ways to manage all forms of waste. This innovative project finance model offers opportunities for other groups of councils considering investing in substantial waste management infrastructure to reduce landfill waste.”

Southern Oil Refining turning waste into oil

A new plant that aims to turn biosolids from waste water treatment sewage into renewable crude oil is being built in Gladstone, Queensland.

The Federal Government is providing Southern Oil Refining with up to $4 million in funding for the $11.8 million demonstration plant.

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Biosolids will be sources from waste water treatment plants in Gladstone as well as the project’s partner Melbourne Water Corporation’s Werribee facility.

The renewable crude oil will then be upgraded to renewable diesel and potentially jet fuel.

Southern Oil Refining’s existing Northern Oil Refining facility in Gladstone will be used for the project, which is currently being used for re-refining waste oils such as transmission and engine oils.

It will treat up to one million litres of biosolids a year using a thermochemical conversion process to produce a biocrude.

Minister for the Environment Josh Frydenberg said that bioenergy projects not only provide an alternative to the stockpiling of waste, but also have the potential to help with Australia’s fuel security.

“With Australia producing over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids through sewage treatment annually, it makes sense to look for options for commercialising its disposal,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Federal Member for Flynn Mr Ken O’Dowd said he is excited for Gladstone to be the home of world-class, state of the art technology.

“Using the skills and some of the world’s best R&D and scientists, there is no stopping this remarkable ‘new age’ company from achieving this huge benefit that was once thought to be a distant aspiration,” Mr O’Dowd said.

The project was funded though the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which also provided $2.4 million for Australia’s first biocrude and biofuel laboratory based at the same site.

Meeting of Environment Ministers revives National Waste Policy

Australia’s National Waste Policy will be updated by the end of this year to include circular economy principles, along with a target endorsed of 100 per cent Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

Federal Government, state and territory ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association met on Friday to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste, in the seventh meeting of environment ministers.

They pledged for new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries, while also agreeing to explore waste to energy further and advocate using recycled materials in government procurement.

While making a number of pledges, ministers agreed to have a teleconference in mid-June to discuss progress on recycling, and to meet in late 2018 to further progress delivery of the commitments on Friday.

Taking action on recycled waste in the wake of China’s restrictions on imports was the focus of the meeting. Australia is one of over 100 countries affected by China’s new restrictions, affecting around 1.3 million tonnes of our recycled waste.

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This accounts for four per cent of Australia’s recyclable waste, but 35 per cent of recyclable plastics and 30 per cent of recyclable paper and cardboard. The ministers agreed statement said the restrictions include new limits on contamination for recycled material which much of Australia’s recycling does not meet.

On recycling waste, ministers agreed to reduce the amount of waste generated and to make it easier for products to be recycled. Ministers endorsed a target of 100 percent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier. The governments will work with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), representing over 900 companies to deliver this target. Ministers endorsed the development of targets for the use of recycled content in packaging and to monitor this closely.

They also agreed to work together on expanding and developing the local recycling industry. Ministers pledged to advocate for increased use of recycled materials in the goods that government and industry purchase, including paper, road materials, and construction materials and to collaborate on creating new markets for recycled materials.

Waste to energy was also on the agenda, with a pledge to explore it and other waste to biofuels projects, as part of a broader suite of industry growth initiatives. The agreed statement said ministers would continue to recognise the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste a a priority, consistent with the waste hierarchy. This will include support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

On microbeads, ministers announced the voluntary phase-out of microbeads, which Ministers initiated in 2016, is on track with 94 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products now microbead-free. The agreed statement said ministers remain committed to eliminating the final six per cent and examining options to broaden the phase out to other products.

On food waste, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to halving Australia’s food waste by 2050. They agreed to align their community education efforts to cut food waste and to encourage residual food waste to be composted.

On product waste, ministers agreed to fast-track the development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries. This builds on existing successful industry-led product stewardship approaches that manage products such as televisions and computers, tyres and oil.

Ministers also agreed to take action on a range of other nationally significant matters including: guidelines to manage chemical contamination from fire-fighting foams (known as PFAS), opportunities to grow the carbon farming industry, progressing the National Clean Air Agreement, collaboration on the management of flying foxes and their commitment to the recently agreed approach to national environmental-economic accounting.

Ministers also acknowledged action taken on climate change. South Australia raised its proposal to nominate the Flinders Ranges to Australia’s World Heritage Tentative list.

 

 

Microbeads being phased out of Australian cosmetics

Microbeads are being phased out of cosmetics and personal care products in Australia, according to an independent assessment.

The federal government commissioned the assessment which found that out of approximately 4400 relevant supermarket and pharmacy products inspected, only six per cent contained microbeads.

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This follows the challenge set by Australia’s environmental ministers to voluntarily phase out microbeads in cosmetic and personal use products.

The independent assessment found no shampoos, conditioners, body washes or hand cleaners containing microbeads, the remaining six per cent were not “rinse off” products and posed a smaller risk to the environment.

Microbeads are plastic particles of around one millimetres in diameter and are often found in exfoliants. They can have a damaging effect on marine life and the environment because of their ability to attract toxins, pollute waterways and transfer up the food chain.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the best solution is to prevent them from entering marine environments in the first place.

“Governments have been working with industry to do just this since the Meeting of Environment Ministers in 2016,” he said.

“While our original target was 90 per cent, we will continue the good work done to date until 100 per cent of cosmetics and personal care products are microbead-free,”

“I thank industry for their cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with them until we reach 100 per cent.”

Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said she was pleased with how well the phase out had gone, considering it was an optional phase out of products by the industry.

“I am really pleased to see such a strong industry response, given the damage that microbeads can do to our marine ecosystems,” Assistant Minister Price said.

“This is further proof that industry is capable of making the right choices when it comes to environmental protection.”

The Federal Government will commission a further assessment on late 2018 to provide an additional level of assurance of the success of the phase out.

Waste to Energy project at NSW abattoir

ReNu Energy has been provided with $2 million to design, construct, own and operate a waste to energy facility at a NSW abattoir.

The Federal Government and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has invested to assist the creation of the new biogas facility at Southern Meats’ abattoir in Goulburn.

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The $5.75 million project includes construction of a covered lagoon for anaerobic digestion to produce biogas from breaking down effluent.

It is estimated to produce 3800 megawatt hours of electricity per year by treating and transferring biogas to two 800-kilowatt dual fuel generators.

The lagoon can store biogas which can be used during peak times of electricity consumption during manufacturing, with the additional generators able to contribute to reduce the amount of energy from the grid when prices spike during times of peak demand.

The abattoir uses around 20,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a day.

Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said the conversion of waste into energy is an innovative way to help combat the challenges associated with waste management and energy prices.

“Disposing abattoir waste is a major environmental challenge and processing and storing meat is an energy intensive business,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“That’s why this project is win-win, it helps reduce the need to dispose of waste from the abattoir and it provides Southern Meats with a more affordable source of energy,” he said.

WMAA and ACOR call for national recycling action plan

Australian politicians have been called to implement the Australian Circular Economy and Recycling Action plan at the Ministerial Council by the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) and the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The move comes in response to China’s National Sword policy, with the Action Plan aiming to build upon state government’s short-term actions to maintain community confidence in recycling services.

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WMAA Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said a concerted effort at this critical point in time is required by all.

“It is absolutely the case that the industry’s future direction is at an important crossroads, with an opportunity to grow more Australian-based manufacturing jobs, and actively build on the 20 years’ worth of environmental gains in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

“WMAA and ACOR have a united industry position on this important topic, and are committed to working with government to ensure the success of the Australian Circular Economy & Recycling Action Plan,” she said.

WMAA and ACOR are advocating to Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and state ministers to work with the recycling and resource recovery industry to change strategic directions.

ACOR chief executive officer Peter Shmigel said a $150 million national Action Plan would enable the ‘three I’s’ that are needed to reboot recycling and kickstart the circular economy.

“Investment in infrastructure and new markets, improvement of recyclate material quality and recycling contracts, and innovation in positive purchasing of recycled content products by governments,” Mr Shmigel said.

“It is time to transform the recycling and resource recovery industry so it can help transform our economy to a more competitive, sustainable and circular model that makes the best use of as many resources, including human resources as possible in Australia,” he said.

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