News

News

State of the States: Tasmania slips into second…

This week saw the release of the January 2023 Commsec State of the States report and while Tasmania was ranked Australia’s best performing economy in the previous report, we’ve now slipped to number two. While we still lead the nation with our investment in plant and equipment (76.8% above the decade average), Tasmania falls behind in areas such as inflation, with Hobart having the highest inflation rate in the September quarter at 8.6% and retail spending, which dropped by 0.9%.

There is real concern that this drop in retail spending is a sign that increased costs of living, and decreased discretionary spending is hurting our economy. A big contributor to increased costs of living and a huge expense to business is energy pricing. According to an article published on The Examiner website this morning, wholesale electricity prices have started to drop and federal market intervention to cap prices has made an impact, but is enough being done to reduce the cost of living and to ensure power prices don’t jeopardise the viability of our local businesses? Is it time for government action to decrease the cost of living and increase confidence?

News

Hey UTAS, if Hobart’s CBD won’t have you, we will.

Following the results of the southern Tasmania elector poll on the UTAS move to the Hobart CBD, the Chamber has an invitation for the University of Tasmania: Head North.
 
As passionate advocates for Launceston and northern Tasmania and keen observers of the UTAS Northern Transformation Project, we value the University’s growing presence in the North. As an entrepreneurial city with high aspirations, we would welcome the shift of more University courses and entities northward from Hobart.
 
The benefits of the Northern Transformation Project to our region are significant:

  • The new buildings at Inveresk come with a commitment by the University to tailor courses to the skills needed for our city and region.
  • The building themselves have raised the bar in terms of architecture, sustainable design and use of local materials – something private sector developers should note.
  • The future plans for the Newnham site should see it develop very positively to a vibrant site with the mix of Australian Maritime College (AMC), a Defence Innovation Precinct that will see AMC’s role as our national maritime institute preserved, the headquarters of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and a new housing development.

The UTAS Northern Transformation Project has been a transformative project for Launceston that will embed the University as a pillar institution for our city. If the University of Tasmania were to move more University courses and entities to Launceston, the Chamber would be in full support.

News

Federal Budget 2022 – a mixed reaction

On Tuesday Night, the Federal Government handed down its first Federal Budget. The Budget has been described as a sensible budget considering the current conditions. With the reserve bank increasing interest rates to combat inflation, and inflation the enemy of the economy, the Federal Treasurer had a tough task when implementing cost-of-living relief measures. The measures to be introduced will include cheaper child care and encouraging downsizing to free up housing stock.

In regard to infrastructure and priority projects, we’re thrilled with the news that Northern TRANSLink, an intermodal facility to be located near the Launceston Airport, will be funded. This facility will improve access to interstate and overseas markets for perishable goods and considering Launceston and northern Tasmania’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, the demand for northern Tasmanian produce will be in hot demand. This is fantastic news for agribusinesses in the region. TRANSLink is a regional priority project identified by the Regional Collaborative Framework (RCF). The RCF was a concept born in the Chamber and brought to fruition by the Northern Tasmania Development Corporation.

Health funding announcements for northern Tasmania were pleasing with $4 million over four years committed to a Medical Research Centre at the Launceston General Hospital and $20 million over four years for the development of a new hospice to provide palliative care in the region.

On the negative side, we are concerned with the lack of funding for two of Launceston’s priority projects:

  • The TEMT vision for kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary will bring a triple-bottom-line benefit to the banks of the Tamar and will provide vital infrastructure for active transport users to travel from Kings Wharf to Riverside. 
  • City Heart Stage 2 will enhance the corridors that connect our three primary assembly areas (which were refurbished as part of City Heart Stage 1) and provide vital infrastructure for Launceston’s night-time economy. 

With the cancellation of the Building Better Regions program by the Federal Government, the future of these two key projects is unclear, but we look forward to working with all levels of government to ensure the delivery of these key projects for Launceston. 

Reference: Ruddicks Chartered Accountants advice article, available here. Ruddicks Chartered Accountants are a gold Chamber member.

News

Time Flies…

With the end of the calendar year approaching at an unbelievable speed, I’m sure your calendar like mine is quickly filling up with important dates. For small businesses, there is an important date approaching that needs your attention now – the deadline for Single Touch Payroll (STP) Phase 2. STP Phase 2 was due to commence on January 1, 2022, but as small business payroll systems weren’t ready it was extended.

What is STP Phase 2?

According to the ATO; In the 2019–20 Budget, the government announced that Single Touch Payroll (STP) would be expanded to include additional information.

The expansion of STP, also known as STP Phase 2, will reduce the reporting burden for employers who need to report information about their employees to multiple government agencies. It will also help Services Australia’s customers, who may be your employees, get the right payment at the right time.

Small business MYOB users, you will need to move quickly as your deadline to be prepared is 31 December 2022. Xero users have a little bit longer with the deadline set at 31 March 2023.

  • Small business MYOB users, you will need to run through a six-step process. Depending on your number of staff this may take some time, so please review what needs to be done and ensure you set aside enough time before December 31. 
  • Xero has developed a four-step process you need to run through. 

If you feel you need more time to make the transition, you can apply for an extension with the ATO

Where to start? 

  • Discuss STP Phase 2 transition with your Payroll Officer, Payroll Provider and/or Accountant and make a plan for updating employee details to ensure you meet the deadline
  • Your Accountant and/or business adviser may be able to assist you
  • The ATO has a detailed checklist
  • We can connect you with a Chamber member that will be able to assist. 

If you’re a small business that uses MYOB or Xero for payroll, please ensure you have those dates in your diary and allow yourself enough time to be ready for STP Stage 2.

References: This information has been prepared using information provided by the Australian Taxation Office and Platinum Chamber member Synectic Accountants & Advisors

News

R U OK? How about your staff?

Today is R U OK day, a day for checking on those around you and starting conversations with the simple question ‘Are you ok?’

So, let me ask you, are you ok? Let me follow that up with, are your staff ok? Have you checked in with them recently? In these challenging times it’s never been more important to look after your mental health and that of your team, but where do you start?

It could start with ‘Are you ok?’, a simple question that starts a conversation.

Before you ask that question though, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. according to mental health educator and Chamber Director, Bianca Welsh, if you as a business leader are concerned about the mental health of a staff member, here are the first steps you should take:

• Ask yourself, am I mentally well enough to have this conversation? As you never know what you may be confronted with, could it be a trigger for your own mental health?
• This should be followed by the question; am I the right person to be having the conversation? Is this better filtered through someone that they have a better connection with or trusts more?
If you feel confident that you are mentally well enough to have this conversation and are the right person:
• Make sure you’re in a place where both you and your staff member will feel comfortable.
• Ask the question in your own, casual way e.g. How are you travelling? Bianca suggests starting with; “I’m concerned about you, and I wanted to have a chat to see if you’re okay. I’m a little bit uncomfortable and I don’t want to cross a line, but I just want to start a conversation with you. I’ve observed X, Y, Z. I’m concerned about X, Y, Z in your behaviour.”
• Always come from a place of genuine care and empathy, putting aside any judgmental thoughts.
• Temporarily remove your employer hat. Yes, you are their employer, you have a business to run, and they have a job to do, but if you come from a place where you want that person to get better, you can’t go wrong.
• Be prepared should the conversation not go as planned or for what you may be confronted with. You might refer them to their GP, your businesses’ Employee Assistance Practitioner, or another support service such as Tasmanian Lifeline, HeadSpace, Head to Health, Anglicare, Enterprising Aardvark, or The Men’s Table (to name a few). If you’re not sure, it’s ok to admit to them that “I’m not sure where to start, but let’s do this together, I’m here to help you.”
With worker’s compensation claims for mental health-related conditions increasing, it’s important we monitor the mental health of our employees. Here are a few additional ideas for you and your business:
• Have you considered undertaking and/or having one of your staff undertake a Mental Health First Aid Course? Please see the next newsletter article for more details on an upcoming course.
• RU OK? has developed a number of resources for workplaces. You can register to become an RU OK? Workplace Champion (free of charge) and gain access to their suite of resources.
• October is WorkSafe Tasmania Month. The theme for 2022 is Safe Bodies, Safe Minds and Worksafe Tasmania are running a number of events, some focussed on mental health in the workplace.
• Have you considered an Employee Assistance Provider for your workplace?
Let’s all keep an eye on each other, ask the question, start the conversation and make sure WE R OK.

News

Big problem in need of a solution…

No Vacancy

In my conversations with members from just about any industry, it’s an understatement to say that staff shortages are a big problem for businesses in Launceston and northern Tasmania. According to a release by Everybody’s Home on Tuesday, the lost economic output due to vacant jobs (per year) for our region is $201 million. The report states that Launceston and northern Tasmania is one of five regions where the shortage of affordable housing in these communities is undermining the capacity of employers to attract staff.

In addition to this report ABS data has revealed that increases in our population have dramatically slowed, with the four years to June 30, 2020, seeing an average increase of 1320 residents per year, and the year to June 30, 2021, saw an estimated resident increase of just 105.

The anecdotal evidence for this is that people want to move to the region but can’t find anywhere to live. These people could fill the current vacancies but to find accommodation, particularly if they bring a family with them, is tough. Combine this with the increases in homelessness in the region and it’s apparent that housing is the major challenge to our region.

So, what is the solution to housing in the region?

  • Should there be incentives for property developers who build medium or high-density affordable residential accommodation?
  • Would incentives for property owners to create affordable housing in unused inner-city buildings (infill developments) assist?
  • Do we need incentives for those with short-term rentals to move to long-term rentals?
  • Does Tasmania need more public housing developments?
  • Do we need incentives for those with empty bedrooms to take in a border or incentives to downsize?

 Launceston and northern Tasmania are not alone in battling the challenge of housing shortages with other Australian states, New Zealand, and the US all looking at solutions for housing shortages. In Victoria, one council is installing cabins on council property to provide temporary accommodation. Elsewhere in Victoria, an international concept called Home Share is matching an older person (often an older person with a disability) with someone who can provide support, practical help, and companionship in a suitable house.

Are staff shortages a challenge for your business?
Do you have any ideas for possible solutions?
What are your thoughts on this important issue? Please let us know.

News

A Trilogy of Heartening Tales

One of the best locations for business!

It was a great start to the week with The Mercury, a Platinum Chamber Member, reporting that credit reporting agency CreditorWatch, has identified Launceston as one of the best locations in Tasmania to do business. CreditorWatch sees trade payment defaults as the leading indicator for future business insolvencies. According to the report, only 3.96% of businesses in Launceston defaulted in the 12 months to June 2022.

The article celebrated a number of new businesses opening in Launceston including San Churro Chocolateria, Delicia Acai, Pinot & Picasso, and the imminent opening of Du Cane Brewery and Dining Hall, the revamped Tatler Arcade, and the FermenTasmania Fermentation Hub at Legana.

Speaking of the FermenTas Fermentation Hub…

On Tuesday, West Tamar Council approved the development of the FermenTasmania Fermentation Hub at Legana. The new 1800-square meter, $16 million hub will provide spaces for research, training and agritourism. It’s envisioned the hub will create up to 650 jobs and will see fermentation businesses flourish with access to the hub’s equipment and research facilities. It will be a new northern Tasmanian food entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is a very exciting development for northern Tasmania. Congratulations FermenTasmania!

Tasmania and the United Nations Sustainability Goals

At yesterday’s Tamar Valley Leaders Lunch (a joint initiative of Tamar NRM, the Rotary Club of Central Launceston, Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston, Velo Wines, and the Chamber) Adam Mostogl, CEO and Chief Entrepreneur of the Van Diemen Project discussed Tasmania’s legacy as a ‘state of firsts’ (not to mention Launceston’s legacy as a city of firsts) and whether our state should again lead the way by aligning to the United Nations Sustainability Development goals, or going our own way?

After examining both options and allowing the audience to ask questions, a quick poll showed that the majority of the audience believed Tasmania should again lead the way and align our businesses and developments to the sustainability goals.

At first glance, this sounds like a huge undertaking, but if you visit the UN website, each goal is broken down into a number of targets, which many businesses and organisations are doing already. Why not visit the UN website and consider aligning your business and developments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

News

Keep it local on all levels

In May 2014 the Tasmanian Government introduced their Buy Local Policy, which aims to increase opportunities for local suppliers to compete for Government business, supporting local businesses to create jobs and stimulate the economy to deliver growth. The policy contains an economic and local benefits test which, for all new tenders added 20% weighting for local suppliers. In 2020, this weighting was increased to 25% in response to COVID-19.

On Monday I was pleased to attend the announcement by the Deputy Premier, Hon. Michael Ferguson MP and Minister for Small Business, Hon. Madeleine Ogilvie MP that the 25% local weighting will be continued for another two years. The Deputy Premier also announced that in the nine months to 31 March 2022, Tasmanian businesses were awarded 86.2% of contracts valued at $50,000 or more. The total value of these contracts was $306.1 million. In a comment to the media, I suggested that State Government’s Buy Local Policy should be an example for all levels of government.

The success of the Buy Local Policy in the nine months leading to 31 March 2022 is another reminder of the importance of supporting local businesses or buying local. When someone says the words ‘buy local’ you might immediately think of business-to-consumer transactions which are of course, very important. However, business-to-business and government-to-business transactions can help local businesses thrive.

As I mentioned in a newsletter in November last year: 

  • If you’re sitting at your desk as you read this, take a look at the items surrounding you. By purchasing your stationery, IT equipment, or even that box of tissues next to the phone, are you supporting an American-owned company, a conglomerate with interests in hardware, groceries, and a huge chain of stores where almost all the products are manufactured overseas or the local family business that has its heart and soul right here in the community?  
  • If you still use business cards, letterhead, or pre-printed stationery, when it’s time to order, do you go to a certain company that’s American-owned but Irish-domiciled? Or the local business that’s been employing Launcestonians for almost a century and supports local community organisations regularly?
  • When it’s time to reward staff or thank clients, is it a bulk order of gift cards from that same conglomerate that has interests in hardware, groceries, etc or do you purchase gifts or gift vouchers from local retailers, restaurants, and cafes?  

If there is a product or service your organisation needs and you can’t find a local supplier, please don’t hesitate to give us a call – we’re only too happy to help.

News

Tamar River Report Card

Tuesday was report card day for the Tamar and there were mixed marks.

The not-at-all good news was the release of the Tamar and Esk Rivers program 2022 Tamar Estuary report card, in which the Launceston to Legana Zone (Zone 1) was still rated as “D” for poor ecosystem, after 14 years. The 2022 Report card has been produced using 12 months of kanamaluka/Tamar estuary ambient monitoring data, collected between December 2020 and November 2021, at 16 sites along the length of the estuary. The poor ecosystem rating is mostly driven by high levels of nutrients and elevated turbidity (cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large number of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye).

In good news, it was announced that Nick Duigan MLC has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Tamar Estuary. As passionate advocates for the Tamar, we welcome the announcement of a parliamentary secretary to report directly to the Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing and hope that the establishment of this position sees a number of areas addressed to improve the environmental, social and economic aspects of the estuary. The Chamber is in support of the TEMT vision for the Tamar and we hope that with Nick Duigan’s appointment we will see the plan implemented at a much faster pace than that of the Launceston Sewerage Improvement Program (LSIP), which was announced in 2016, yet we understand work is not planned to commence until 2025.

We strongly believe that if the health of the Tamar, particularly at Zone 1 is to improve, we need to see actions out of LSIP and overall better management of the Tamar. Our preference is for strong collaboration with river users, all levels of government, industry, agricultural producers and TasWater. We believe it’s time for integrated catchment management through a statutory authority.

We need to ensure the health of the river is improved, we need to make the river accessible to the public, we need to see the businesses that sit along the shore are thriving and most of all we need to see this now, not in another decade.

The Tamar
News

AFL in northern Tasmania

With the debate raging over a Tasmanian AFL team, we feel it’s vital that we protect AFL in northern Tasmania. Since 2001 when Hawthorn began playing at its second home in Launceston the economic stimulus to the region, particularly the hospitality & tourism and retail sectors, has been incredibly valuable. You only need to be in the CBD or Invermay on an “AFL weekend” to witness the value to the region. With AFL a winter sport, this economic stimulus comes at a traditionally quieter time.
 
In addition to the need to protect AFL in northern Tasmania, we note the media are now reporting the cost of the proposed Stadium Tasmania at $1 billion. With the current construction crunch and supply chain concerns, we are concerned this amount will dramatically increase.
 
What are your thoughts on a Tasmanian AFL team? We’d love to know, please contact us and share your thoughts and ideas...

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