COVID-19, Employment, Stand downs and Layoffs

30/03/20

Normally an employer makes employees surplus to requirements redundant.  It’s easy because you don’t need them again – offer a package which many take.  Not this time. Why? Because you’ll need the employees on the other side.

The stand down provisions are the obvious “go to” provisions but they are quite difficult to use and the FWO has issued fairly strict guidelines as to how they should be used.  And no-one wants redundancies this time around – they burn too much cash! You want to keep your employees and you have limited ability to pay them. Answer: you need to negotiate with them and come to an arrangement.  You may be able to use the stand down provisions if you can establish that there has been a “stoppage” due to events beyond the control of the employer. Airlines, for example, have done it.

Work from home is a great way to keep the wheels turning if you are able to trade.  But that brings its challenges: home becomes a place of work you don’t control but you have an obligation to ensure that it is safe.  And there’s the mental health issues: single person, small apartment, on their own for months. Or single parent at home with the kids trying to work.  

Alison Baker, an employment law partner at Hall & Wilcox, provides an overview of these issues in a free podcast. https://www.tved.net.au/StreamingMedia/audio/0320_128.mp3

For a more detailed understanding of the rules you can register for Alison’s one hour webinar on Friday 3 April or purchase a recorded version if you can’t attend. 

https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBKAPR20&Type=17

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COVID-19 Webinars and Podcasts - Order Now

30/03/20

Webinars

COVID-19: Managing the Workplace Risks in Your Business, presented by Alison Baker, Hall & Wilcox, 3 April 2020, 1 pm Eastern (Vic, NSW, Tas)
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBKAPR20&Type=17

COVID-19: Unpacking the Tax Breaks for Entities at the Frontline, presented by Mark Molesworth, BDO, Brisbane, Tuesday 7 April, 1 pm (Vic, NSW, Tas)
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBNAPR20&Type=17

COVID-19: Measuring its Impact on Leasing and Sales of Property in NSW, Tony Cahill, Wednesday 16 April 2020, 12 noon (NSW)
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBOAPR20&Type=17

COVID-19: Can you Still Enforce Your Commercial Contracts?, Peter Mills, Thynne & McCartney, Brisbane, Tuesday 21 April 2020, 12.30 pm Eastern
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBMAPR20&Type=17

Advising Family Law Clients During a COVID-19 Pandemic, Jacky Campbell, Forte Family Lawyers, Wednesday 22 April, 11 am AEST
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=RBLAPR20&Type=17

Podcasts

COV-19: The Government’s $100,000 cash splash explained, Ken Mansell, Accountants, Canberra
https://www.tved.net.au/index.cfm?SimpleDisplay=dsp_SearchProduct_ts.cfm&PC=PAH7471&Type=24

Heads Up - All Webinars and Conferences Continue Online as Planned

  • All our webinars, online conferences and podcasts will continue to be available as usual, unless we advise otherwise.

  • All conferences and masterclasses as from Thursday 19 March 2020 have been converted to online events or postponed.

  • From now on, all our professional development will be delivered online or by podcast until the crisis is over.

Detailed Response

Since our first response, coronavirus diagnoses in Australia have more than doubled and are expected to increase further in the days ahead.  The situation is developing and we expect further government restrictions on non-essential group meetings.

As the coronavirus case load grows, the risk of infection at gatherings of any kind grows.  We have therefore decided to cease holding face to face events.

Existing Face to Face Conferences

All face to face conferences already advertised will either be converted to online events or postponed.  A member of the TVEd team will be in contact with you in a timely fashion to explain the arrangements. 

Webinars and Online Conferences

These will continue as normal, unless we advise otherwise.  If you are registered for those, there will be no change.  You can watch them from anywhere and access the content in the normal way.  Nothing will change from your end.

However, for the safety of our presenters, we will no longer have them attend the Redback studio.  Instead they will present instead from their homes or offices.

Sound Education/Podcasts

Subscribers to our Sound Education services and podcasts will continue to receive services as before.   One again, though, for the safety of our presenters, all interviews will be conducted by phone – a minimal change as many are at the moment.

Accountants Webinars Select and Lawyers Webinars Select

No change.

E-papers

No change.

Our Staff

As a result of the changed environment all members of the TVEd team who can are now working from home.  However, from your point of view, it’s business as usual.  Contact us on the normal number and a TVEd team member will direct your call as appropriate.

But contacting us by email is the best way:

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The Cash Flow Boost: All Boost and No Cash?

28/03/20

When it announced this last Sunday week, the Government trumpeted this measure as way of putting money into the pockets of small business – up to $100,000 in two tranches.  To my mind, that’s unlikely to happen. I’d be interested in others’ views on this.

It's important to remember that the boost is in two tranches: up to $50,000 in April and up to $12,500 a month for June, July, August and September activity statements (two tranches only for some taxpayers – similar timing).

The idea is to keep people in jobs so it’s tied to the amount businesses withhold by way of tax from wages and salaries paid.  So, when you pay your March PAYGW on 21 April, you will receive a credit to your running balance account of 300% of the amount withheld, capped at $50,000.  

Take a simple example:

  • Bloggs Industries withholds $15,000 in March and accounts for that in April to the ATO.  $15,000 is debited to the running balance account (RBA).

  • The ATO then provides a credit of 300% of $15,000 or $45,000 to Bloggs Industries RBA.  This is less than the $50,000 cap.

  • Provided Bloggs Industries has no other tax liabilities the ATO will refund Bloggs Industries $30,000 within 14 days – or $45,000 if it has paid its PAYGW.

The trap is in the words “no other tax liabilities”.  Imagine Bloggs Industries is a medium remitter and has experienced a significant drop in business as a result of the pandemic.  But it wants to keep its staff on. Bloggs will lodge its BAS for the quarter either on 21 April or on 25 May and that will contain advice of its GST liability for the quarter and (if it is a company) its company tax instalment.  

Imagine GST and tax instalments total $75,000.  The cash flow boost payment of $30,000 ($45k less PAYGW of $15k) won’t be refunded  - it will just be a credit to the RBA offset against Bloggs Industries other tax liabilities.  The ATO website confirms this.

Bloggs Industries has less to pay on its March quarter BAS, but Bloggs is struggling so its accountant plans to take advantage of the ATO’s planned generous payment plans as it can’t even pay the reduced amount it owed.

So Bloggs gets no cash now to pay its staff, which is what it really needs.  Of course, there will be some cases where refunds will be available.  But not for a lot of taxpayers. 

We have a podcast and a webinar available for purchase if you are interested in more detail:

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COVID-19 Legal and Regulatory Issues: Watch this space

28/03/20

There is a growing list of legal and regulatory issues which arise from the COVID-19 pandemic and I am going to be addressing these as they emerge and as we get more information on them.  Some of the subjects I’ll be covering will include:

  • The cash flow boost of up to $100,000 for SMEs and charities for turnovers up to $50 million, to be delivered through the tax system

  • Payroll tax relief available through the States

  • Employment law issues, including stand downs

  • Insolvency law changes

  • Retail rents

  • COVID-19 and Family Law

  • Frustration of contract and force majeure

There will be others as the situation unfolds.  Our company is operating online and our presenters are all working from remote locations so we are able to continue operating even if parts of the country are under strict quarantine.

We have a variety of webinars and podcasts available designed to help our clients through this very demanding and difficult period.

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Debtors Paradise:  It Now Pays not to Pay

28/03/20

The government has passed some remarkable reforms to the Bankruptcy Act and the Corporations Act which will make it much harder for creditors to extract their money from debtors.

The following changes apply on and from 25 March 2020 for a period of six months thereafter:

  • A debtor has six months to answer a bankruptcy petition instead of the traditional 21 days.  And the minimum debt which can support a debtor’s petition has been increased from $5,000 to $20,000
  • The time a company has to answer a statutory demand for payment of a debt under the Corporations Act has been extended from 21 days to six months and the minimum amount for such a demand has been lifted to $20,000.
  • Directors can trade while insolvent from 25 March 2020 to 25 September 2020 provided the debts they incur are in the ordinary course of business.

These changes are unprecedented.  While they obviously protect businesses and individuals in genuine need, they will allow unscrupulous individuals to defer payment for the next six months – and to incur debts they have no intention of paying at all.  However, it is important to note that such debts (in the case of companies) must only be incurred in the normal course of business (which may provide some protection to creditors).

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TVEd Response to Coronavirus

17/03/20

Heads Up - All Webinars and Conferences Continue Online as Planned Despite Shutdown

  • All our webinars, online conferences and podcasts will continue to be available as usual, unless we advise otherwise.

  • All conferences and masterclasses as from Thursday 19 March 2020 have been or will be converted to online events or postponed.

  • From now on, all our professional development will be delivered online or by podcast until the crisis is over.

Detailed Response

Since our first response, coronavirus diagnoses in Australia have more than doubled and are expected to increase further in the days ahead.  The situation is developing and we expect further government restrictions on non-essential group meetings.

As the coronavirus case load grows, the risk of infection at gatherings of any kind grows.  We have therefore decided to cease holding face to face events after tomorrow. 

Existing Face to Face Conferences

All face to face conferences already advertised will either be converted to online events or postponed.  A member of the TVEd team will be in contact with you in a timely fashion to explain the arrangements. 

Webinars and Online Conferences

These will continue as normal, unless we advise otherwise.  If you are registered for those, there will be no change.  You can watch them from anywhere and access the content in the normal way.  Nothing will change from your end.

However, for the safety of our presenters, we will no longer have them attend the Redback studio.  Instead they will present instead from their homes or offices.

Sound Education/Podcasts

Subscribers to our Sound Education services and podcasts will continue to receive services as before.   One again, though, for the safety of our presenters, all interviews will be conducted by phone – a minimal change as many are at the moment.

Accountants Webinars Select and Lawyers Webinars Select

No change.

E-papers

No change.

Our Staff

As a result of the changed environment all members of the TVEd team who can are now working from home.  However, from your point of view, it’s business as usual.  Contact us on the normal number and a TVEd team member will direct your call as appropriate.

But contacting us by email is the best way:

more ...

TVEd Response to Coronavirus

13/03/20

Heads Up

  • All our webinars, online conferences and podcasts will continue to be available as usual

  • All conferences and masterclasses currently advertised (through mid-May) will proceed as planned, unless health authorities otherwise advise.We'll take appropriate precautions at the events.

  • From late May, all our professional development will be delivered online or by podcast until the crisis is over.

Detailed Response

At TVEd, the safety and well-being of our delegates, speakers, and staff is our first priority. We are actively monitoring the situation and taking all necessary steps to ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved with our face to face events.

As a digital content provider for over 25 years, we have the ability to seamlessly change our face to face events to online conferences if needed. Using our state-of-the-art video webinar technology, viewers can access our professional development events from the comfort of their own office or home.

As we navigate the COVID-19 situation a number of key actions have been put in place for upcoming conferences and Masterclasses.

March to mid-May

  • These events will still proceed as planned.

  • There is currently no specific advice for small group gatherings. If this advice from health authorities changes these events will be switched to online delivery.

  • Hand sanitiser and tissues are available at all of our face to face events.

  • A full credit will be provided to delegates who are unable to attend due to a respiratory infection or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID 19.

  • Speakers will be briefed today. Any who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms will present their sessions via video-link, or arrange for a replacement speaker.

Mid-May Onwards

From mid May, and until the situation improves, all of our face to face content will be switched to an online format.

If you need us

Otherwise, it is business as usual at TVEd. We don't foresee any disruptions to our services and we're here to help you complete your professional development in the usual way during this difficult time.

If you need to contact us, please note the following

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Employment Law: Making Sure Employees Don’t Take the Business Database with them when they walk out the door!

09/02/20

Forget cash.  We live in an age where data is king.  So, it’s only natural that our clients are concerned to protect their key data – both practically and legally.

At our employment law masterclass (Sydney, Thursday 5 March), Tom Brett from Gilbert and Tobin will focus on the legal protections available to stop employee cyber-theft.  Tom will discuss some important practical issues:

  1. It starts with the employment contract.  How do you protect confidential information and knowhow in an agreement effectively?
  2. And while we’re about it, can restraints of trade – stopping our erstwhile employee from working for a competitor or themselves – help the problem indirectly?
  3. What, in practice, can you do to stop data theft in the first place?

Sign up now.

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Domestic Violence: Key Legal Imperatives

30/01/20

Recent changes to Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders and the new strangulation offence have seen the landscape change for criminal lawyers. When understanding these developments, along with best practice guidelines on how to best defend allegations of domestic violence, whilst balancing your own ethical and professional obligations lawyers should consider:

  • Operation of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007

  • What is intimidation and stalking in a domestic relationship?

  • Update on changes to Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVO)

  • Powers of courts to make permanent orders in exceptional circumstances

  • Police powers to vary ADVOs between court appearances

  • Unpacking the new strangulation offence

  • Ethical considerations

  • Advising clients on getting help and personal support

  • Preparation and procedure - practical tips to defend allegations

Learn more about gudileslines when dealing with Domestic Violence cases at the NSW Criminal Law: A One Day TEN Point Masterclass (10 CPD units) on Saturday 22 February 2020. 

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Drafting Shareholder Agreements

20/01/20

Shareholders agreements are drafted at the start of a new relationship, when hopes are high and everyone is on their best behaviour. But what happens when things go wrong or the parties want to end the relationship? You need to look realistically at the arrangement and draft not just for business as usual, but also for when things don’t go to plan.

The checklist of matters that need to be considered in drafting a robust and workable shareholders’ agreement, include:

  • Knowing what the parties are trying to achieve – their goals and aspirations

  • Optimum ownership structure and corporations law requirements

  • Shareholder activity outside the new venture – are any limitations or restraints

    required?

  • Loans and contributions of capital – managing the contribution, the obligations,

    repayments, returns and exit by the lender

  • Managing benefits to shareholders including contracts with the company

  • Director appointments and voting rights

  • Meeting requirements and decision-making processes: strategies for balancing good

    governance with operational flexibility

  • Effective dispute resolution mechanisms and exit strategies

Learn more about drafting Shareholder agreements at the February Masterclass - Drafting Effective Commercial Contracts: A One Day TEN Point Masterclass (10 CPD units). 

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Professional Contributor | Scott Bouvier

16/12/19

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Understanding reduced tariffs and quotas in Australian FTAs 

15/12/19

Australian agribusiness will reap benefits from Australia’s recent FTAs. It is however important to understand where these agreements place Australian alongside our trade competitors. 

  • IA-CEPA should considerably improve Australian grain trade. Prior to this agreement, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Australian New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (“ASEAN- ANZFTA”) kept restrictions on feed grain imports. Those restrictions limited Australia’s capacity to capture livestock feed opportunities in Indonesia.1

Thus, the uncapped growth in duty-free grain exports should deliver benefits to Australian exporters, ahead of New Zealand, which is still reliant on the less attractive ASEAN-ANZFTA for access. The IA-CEPA also includes an agreement for a grains cooperation initiative, the Australia-Indonesia Grains Partnership, which should give Australian grain exporters a competitive advantage by developing the Australian-Indonesian food processing supply chain.2 

While this is an exciting initiative, it is still yet to take proper shape and only likely to progress once the IA-CEPA is ratified by both nations. The Australian grains industry is therefore expected to have a stronger competitive position against alternative-origin wheat in the Indonesian market. 

  • PAFTA contrastingly represents a “coming up to speed” for Australia in trade with Peru. The agreement will allow Australian exporters to compete on a more level playing-field with major trade powers, such as the EU and especially the USA, who already have their own deals in place and who have operated with preferential access to Peru.3 The long-term hope is that this FTA will eventually open up the door to closer economic relations with the other Pacific Alliance countries, Mexico, Colombia and Chile.4 
     
  • While the CPTPP remains beneficial for Australia, it nonetheless comes with some moderating factors. For example, while the CPTPP will lower tariffs on Australian beef to Japan below those that currently exist under JAEPA, this improved access comes at the cost of Australia’s previous competitive advantage. US withdrawal from the agreement has also been regarded as beneficial for Australia and is likely to result in some positive gain for exporters, but this will be moderated by the now equal access afforded to other major signatories such as New Zealand, Canada and Mexico.5 
     
  • CHAFTA has proven relatively disappointing for Australian agribusinesses, at least if comments by the National Farmers’ Federation are anything to go by.6 A promised review after the first three years of operation of CHAFTA was an incentive for Australia to sign up, in the hope of improvements at that juncture, however this review is yet to occur. China remains unresponsive to Australia’s requests, and it looks unlikely that this will occur any time soon.7 This “go-slow” with Australia has occurred even though China has granted upgrades to its FTAs with Chile and Singapore, and is moving forward with upgrade negotiations with New Zealand.8 This stagnation is the result of a more wary attitude towards Australia on the part of China, in both a security and trade context. The lack of progress is disappointing for the Australian agricultural sector, which was hoping to expand market access for Australian fruits and vegetables and further lower tariffs.9 

AUTHOR: DANIEL MOULIS, MOULIS LEGAL
Presented at: The 4th Annual Agribusiness Conference 2019

1.https://www.theland.com.au/story/5954927/global-perspective-grains-gets-a-trading-leg-up/
2. Ibid.
3. https://adf.farmonline.com.au/news/magazine/industry-news/general/push-to-sign-fta-with-peru/2758361.aspx
4.https://www.sheepcentral.com/peru-australia-fta-to-eliminate-sheep-meat-tariffs-immediately-littleproud/
5. https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/consumer-industrial-products/articles/comprehensive-progressive- trans-pacific-partnership-winners-losers-australian-agriculture.html 
6. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/blow-to-farmers-as-china-delays-trade-upgrade/news- story/d40f3fd70b30fc646d7fbf62578b81a4 
7. IBID
8. IBID
9. IBID

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Family Dynamics and the Estate Plan

15/12/19

Estate planners continue to grapple with client demands for certainty and the need for flexible planning that can adapt to fix problems or when the client’s circumstances change. One such change is when planning becomes required for Second Spouses and Children of First Marriages.

Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and a blended family increases the likelihood of unhappiness when it comes to estate planning. When a blended family consists of adult children of the first relationship and minor children of the second, there is a tension between the needs of the minor children and the expectations of the adults. 

Dealing with families and issues surrounding these circumstances lawyers need to consider the following issues:

-     Identifying the needs of the surviving spouse, minor children v adult children of the previous relationship

-     Using testamentary trusts to ensure the surviving spouse is taken care of whilst guaranteeing residual capital to the children

-     Mutual wills – what can you do to avoid the second partners spending the entire estate and the adult children missing out?

-     The sufficiency of a life interest over the family home – keeping the second spouse and the adult children from the first marriage happy

-     The advantages and disadvantages of providing the spouse with a right to reside in the main residence

-     Second spouse planning and SMSF’s

This is just one of the topics that will be discussed in detail at the upcoming Family Law Masterclass in February. Find out more: https://bit.ly/masterclassfuamilylaw

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FTAs in practice - Understanding the Agricultural provisions in Australia

04/12/19

What is available in which agreements. Some of the highlights of trade free agreements presently in force.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”)

  • The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”),5 in force for Australia since late last 2018, is beneficial to agriculture, given its liberalising effect across markets that are the destination for 23% of Australian agriculture exports. 

In Japan, this saw the abolition of tariffs on Australian sheep meat, wine, cheese, horticulture, cotton, wool and seafood. Beef exporters are set to benefit, even if slowly. For example, in Japan tariffs will be falling to 9% over 15 years (well below the 19.5% and 23.5% tariffs under the pre-existing 2015 Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (“JAEPA”), for frozen and fresh respectively). Dairy also will see improvements in Japan, with tariff removal or new quotas on a range of cheeses, milk powder and protein products. However, the moderating factor is that other signatories will receive the same reduced tariffs, losing the tariff advantage that Australian beef exporters currently enjoy. 
 

The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (“CHAFTA”)

  • The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (“CHAFTA”), in force from late 2015, did not arrive at tariff reductions even-handedly across all agricultural sectors. The sugar, rice and cotton industries, and some grains (wheat, canola, maize), achieved almost no improvements in their ability to increase the volumes of their sales to China, whereas the results for dairy products, beef, lamb and horticultural products were excellent. Some volume-limiting special safeguard measures apply to beef and to milk powders. Other winners were barley and sorghum, although barley growers probably do not think that they are “winners” at the present time. 
     

Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (“JAEPA”),

  • Winners under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (“JAEPA”), in force early 2015, were beef (in the form of front-loaded reductions over 18 years), pork (in the form of increased Australia-only quota), and horticulture. Tariffs were removed for barley and wheat (but for feed purposes) and for wheat gluten and major vegetable oils. Bulk wine and beer fared well too. The dairy sector was a loser, noting that Japan’s dairy markets have traditionally been closed to imports. Sugar continued to be discriminated against by reason of the Japanese system of allowing low grade sugar in tariff free, but not high-grade sugar. 
     

Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“KAFTA”),

  • Under the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“KAFTA”), in force 12 December 2014, significant market opening was negotiated with respect to beef, wheat, sugar, dairy, wine and some horticultural products. Wheat, cotton, wool and sugar were already subject to only low or no tariffs. Cheese tariff quotas and quotas are subject to an unusual 20-year phase-in. Reductions, from high rates, for table grapes, nuts and cherries, even if not to zero, were still very substantial. Left out was rice, ginseng, honey, milk powders, streaky pork and selected horticultural products. 

The Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“MAFTA”),

  • The Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“MAFTA”), in force early 2013, delivered a fairly comprehensive result for agriculture, albeit with some short delays for some sectors. MAFTA requires annual increases in quota volumes for liquid milk; commences tariff reductions for rice in 2023 dropping to zero by 2026; and eliminated remaining tariffs on horticultural products in 2016. 

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (“AUSFTA”)

  • The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (“AUSFTA”), in force as long ago as 2005, has its critics, because it failed to overcome US sugar restrictions and made only small and graduating changes for exports of beef and dairy products. 

The Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“TAFTA”),

  • The Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“TAFTA”), also effective from 2005, was more of an overall success for agriculture, noting that reductions to zero were postponed for beef and pork; butter and cheese; and sugar. However, all tariffs will be removed from these products next year (2020). For other dairy products (milk, skim milk powder and cream), all tariffs and quotas will be eliminated in 2025. 

Second, with respect to free trade agreements (“FTAs”) concluded but not yet in force, these are the key features for agriculture: 

The Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (“AHKFTA”),

  • The Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (“AHKFTA”), signed only a few months ago but not yet in force, will lock in zero tariffs on all Australian exports to Hong Kong, subject to the ability retained by Hong Kong to increase tariffs up to its bound levels under WTO rules. This will particularly benefit Australian seafood, beef, pork and winemakers. The Australia-Hong Kong agriculture, fisheries and forestry trade relationship was worth AUD1.4 billion to Australia in 2017-18. 

The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (“IA-CEPA”)

  • The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (“IA-CEPA”), concluded a few months ago, is set to benefit a wide range of agribusinesses. Grain farmers will get guaranteed duty-free access for 500,000 tonnes of wheat, barley and sorghum grains per year increasing at 5% per year to 775,664 tonnes. Duty-free access for live male cattle will be increased 4% a year to 700,000 head annually. All tariffs on beef and sheep meat will be removed over the next five years. Tariff reductions will also occur for dairy, mandarin, potato and carrot exporters. 

The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“PAFTA”)

  • The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“PAFTA”), concluded in February 2018, will remove 99.4% of the agricultural product tariffs affecting Australian farmers in their export trade with Peru. Given Peru is one of the most active FTA authors in the world, these tariffs have effectively shut Australian exporters out of that market. Duty-free access will be increased for sugar (90,000 tonnes in 18 years), dairy (10,000 tonnes in five years), rice (14,000 tonnes in five years) and sorghum (20,000 tonnes in five years). And, importantly, the “price band”: system for these goods will no longer apply against Australian exports. Beef tariffs will be eliminated within five years, while tariffs for sheep meat, seafood, almonds and wheat will be removed immediately. 


    In summarising the above, it is the recent FTAs - the IA-CEPTA, PAFTA and especially the CPTPP - that have significantly liberalized agricultural trade for Australian exporters. 

Author: Daniel Moulis | Moulis Legal
Presented: The 4th Annual Agribusiness Law Conference 2019

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Free Trade Agreements for Agribusiness – the key points to consider

01/12/19

Accessing premium markets involves a mix of considerations for Australian farmers. Taking note of these legal considerations is the first step when developing international business relationships:

  • The legal environment should be as stable as possible. FTAs assist in that regard, and can provide important market advantages for Australian exporters that should not be treated lightly, even if not “perfect”. 
  • The Australian Government is trying to play its part in other ways, with limited success and even less appreciation. Understanding risk is essential, and covering off those risks in your own private arrangements with foreign buyers is critical. 
  • Consider also what happens should things not go well, as this will not only galvanise your foreign buyer to similar focus on the issue of compliance and to give your concerns due respect, but will also put you in the best position should something go wrong. 
  • Protect your rights, intellectual or otherwise, in accordance with the mechanisms afforded to you in the foreign country concerned. 

All things considered, these things are no different to the things you would probably do when entering into a significant business relationship here in Australia, except that “familiarity” is lacking. Therefore, go out and get the advice you need, understand the market, and get to know the people you intend to do business with - things that can best be achieved by research, travel, engagement and relationship- building. 

Author: Daniel Moulis | Moulis Legal
Presented: The 4th Annual Agribusiness Law Conference 2019

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Regulating the Employee Relationship – what questions need to be asked?

11/11/19

The Australian workforce is constantly evolving and the challenges facing HR professionals and employment lawyers continue to grow. The employment law landscape during the last twelve months has been particular interesting and a number of key legal questions need to be considered when building the Employee Relationship.

1.   Casual Employment Post Workpac - Considerable media attention was afforded to the Full Federal Court decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene, which confirmed the tests for the characterisation of casual employment. The resulting outrage led to the Federal Parliament regulating to address “double dipping”. But is the issue now finally settled?

2.   Working Beyond the Nine to Five: Hours of Work and Employer Obligations - An employee can work a maximum of 38 hours in a week unless an employer asks them to work reasonable extra hours. Sounds simple enough in theory, but what is meant by ‘reasonable’? And, what are the risks of employers when staff are putting in more than the maximum hours of work? 

3.   Fit for Work and Employers’ Obligations - For employers to meet their safety obligations, it is crucial that they ensure their employees are fit for work.  While making these inquiries is often uncomfortable for employers, knowing what can be done to ensure employees can properly perform their roles and employers reduce their risk of unlawful discrimination.

4.   You’re Fired! Are Summary Dismissals Unfair? - Deciding whether an employee’s conduct is sufficiently serious to justify termination without notice or payment in lieu of notice can be a challenging exercise. What changes have the recent FWC unfair dismissal decisions and relevant principles made?

5.   Exiting Senior Employees: All Good Things Must Come to an End - Executive employees are a crucial part of any big organisation. When they leave, it can be a major disruption for your business. How can you ensure their contract covers all the essential termination clauses is key?

6.   When Your Data Flies out the Door with a Departing Employee - A significant and recurring problem for businesses is the loss or misuse of data including confidential information, especially when an employee is departing the organisation. How can you respond swiftly, and what steps can you take to mitigate against the risk in the first place?

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Financial and Accounting Skills for Lawyers 

11/11/19

A good lawyer understands their client’s legal position. However, a great lawyer also understands the financial context in which their clients operate. Whether in the courtroom or at the negotiating table, when the conversation with clients turns to numbers, are you able to keep up? 

So what are the common accounting concepts or tax issues that lawyers may need to consider:

·      Getting the Balance Right: Navigating Key Financial Statements - Accounting issues arise in many different areas of the law. From an M & A transaction to a family law property dispute, and from an allegation of fraud to conducting due diligence on the sale of a business, lawyers need to have at least a basic understanding of accounting concepts and associated analytical skills. 

·      Financial Reporting: The Regulatory Overlay - Preparing financial reports used to be simple, but successful ruses by the unscrupulous have resulted in successively more restrictive layers of regulation to ensure the accuracy of financial reporting – a high level understanding of rules and regulations surrounding financial reporting is now required.

·      From Theory to Practice: in financial statements - Knowing the theory is the first step towards understanding financial statements, but being able to practically utilise the information for the purposes of issue identification, advising, forward planning and negotiating can make all the difference when servicing your clients. 

·      Making Dollars and Sense out of Business Valuations - Whether advising warring parties in property settlement proceedings in the Family Court, or navigating the sale or purchase of a business, business valuations can be an important part of a lawyer’s practice. 

·      Capital Gains Tax for Lawyers – General Principles - CGT is a complex tax which can bite you when you least expect it.  Other than those who practice in tax, lawyers need to understand the general principles.  But, most importantly, you need to be familiar with the most common situations in legal practice which have CGT implications and that is the focus of the next two sessions.

·      Capital Gains Tax for Lawyers – Common Scenarios - Your client will not want to pay any CGT.  It’s your job in common commercial transactions to be able to recognise CGT issues in transactions so that you can seek expert advice on them before it’s too late!  

·      Division 7A: A Primer for Lawyers - Division 7A is designed ultimately to tax loans and transfers of property from private companies to their shareholders or associates as if the loans or gifts were dividends.  Both loans and transfers of property are defined in very broad terms and can easily catch the unwary or uninformed.  And the reach of Division 7A extends in oblique ways to certain trust distributions as well.  

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