Victoria Park cenotaph

Long service leave - a few things to know

Employees

The Long Service Leave Act 1955 applies to most employees in NSW. It applies to casuals as well as those who work full-time and part-time. The intention of the legislation is that employees take a a well-earned break not that they receive a money windfall.

Basically, an employee working for the same employer for 10 years is entitled to two months paid leave at their ordinary gross weekly wage. It does not matter that the employees duties have have changed over that time.

If the employer approves breaks from work it does not stop long service leave accruing but the absence may not be counted as part of the period of service for an employer.

If a business is sold and the employee continues to work for the new owner the time with the previous owner and new owner add together for the calculation of the period of service. On the sale of the business an adjustment is usually made with the new owner to allow for this.

An employee has no entitlement to long service leave if they finish before five years. After five years and before working 10 years an employee may still be entitled to a proportion of their long service leave if they resign due to illness, incapacity or pressing domestic or other necessity.

Employees in the construction and mining industries and cleaning contractors may have different entitlements.

For more information see: Long Service Leave guide or go to Industrial Relations NSW or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

Utopia castIs the ABC TV show "Utopia" reality TV? Is it satire or a documentary?

Q: "When and why did you decide on a career in communications?"

A: "I realised I had a talent for making bold claims unsupported by evidence a few years back when working as a lobbyist for the multi-vitamin industry. Since then I've fallen in love with the time-honoured art of shaping a message, creating talking points, changing topics at will."

(Kitty Flanagan as Rhonda the PR manager for Nation Building Australia)

(See "Spinning around" article "Golden rules of savvy satire" by Debi Enker in SMH Guide 24 July 2017)

Accountant held liable as a third party accessory to client's fair work breaches

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) a person who is involved in a contravention of a civil remedy provision can be liable for the contravention as an accessory. Ignorance of the law is no defence.

Last year the Fair Work Ombudsman said, "So far this financial year nearly every matter we have filed in court - 94% in fact - has also roped in an accessory".

There have been a number of cases where individuals have been liable for corporate contraventions e.g. a business manager fined for underpayment breaches; an employment development manager fined for underpayment on a termination notice; a payroll officer fined for underpayment of entitlements; and an OH&S manager fined for changing employees contracts.

However, in a first, in a récent case a third party accounting firm that provided payroll services was held to be liable for a contravention. The firm failed to ensure their MYOB software reflected the current award rates. Instead of making enquiries of their client they deliberately shut their eyes to possible award breaches.

The author of the article referred to below suggests that "in order to minimise exposure to liability as an accessory, third party advisers are encouraged to scrutinise their client's compliance with workplace laws".

(See article by Katrina Seck in Law Society Journal Issue 35 July 2017)

Changes to grants & stamp duty concessions announced by State government

This was a pre-State budget announcement. The details of the changes to the new home and first home grant and stamp duty schemes have yet to be released. Below is a summary which will need to be checked against the actual measures once released.

A couple of things to note at this point is that the new home grant that was available to any purchaser (not just first home buyers) will end on 30 June 2017. From 1 July 2017 first home owners will be entitled to a grant and stamp duty exemption up to certain limits for new or existing homes (which is what applied a few years ago). It was not clear from the announcement if the stamp duty exemption will apply to vacant land purchased to build (it has in previous years).

Check the details of the changes at the Office of State Revenue website. Here.

Diagram

Tape measureHow does your business compare with others?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) maintains an extensive database of details for businesses across a number of industries compiled from tax returns. The database is updated regularly. Take a look to see if any of the information available is useful to you.

(ATO small business benchmarks)

Randwick Sydney Children's Hospital Gold Appeal

The telethon appeal is on 12 June 2017 and 8 year old Dubbo boy Owen Walkom is the face of the appeal this year.

(Gold telephon appeal)

Imagine that: our "soft skills" will drive our success at work

This was the title of a recent article by Caitlin Fitzsimmons in the SMH. She went on to write about the new book Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman. He believes that soft skills are more important than hard skills.

The article went on to say, "... the emphasis on technical skills is overdone. Technology is changing so rapidly that you can't possibly equip schoolkids with the hard skills of the future, because they'll be obsolete before they reach the workforce... the only way to equip children for the future of work is to develop their imagination, creativity and emotional intelligence. If the world is changing, the best thing you can do is equip them for change. They need to be emotionally resilient with a habit of self-directed lifelong learning."

(Article in Sydney Morning Herald 31 May 2017)

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) 2017NRW2017 logo

This Sunday 28 June 2017 is Aboriginal Sunday in the churches of Dubbo.

National Reconciliation Week runs from Saturday 27 May to 3 June 2017.

The theme for #NRW2017 is 'Let's Take the Next Steps'.

"In 2017, we reflect on two significant anniversaries in Australia's reconciliation journey – 50 years since the 1967 referendum, and 25 years since the historic Mabo decision. As we commemorate these significant milestones, we ask all Australians to be a part of the next big steps in our nation's reconciliation journey." (http://www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw/)

French father & son

"They might have guns but we have flowers" (Paris 2015)

The senseless bombing in Machester of a concert attended by hundreds of young people reminds me of the moving video of a French father and son being interviewed after the Bataclan attacks in Paris in 2015.

(YouTube video)

Owen Walkom with TV crew

Randwick Sydney Children's Hospital Gold Appeal

I thought I missed this telethon appeal but it is not on until 12 June 2017. Its a great cause and 8 year old Dubbo boy Owen Walkom is the face of the appeal this year. This is Owen cutting the ribbon with TV personalities. Donations can be made at any time.

(Gold telephon appeal)

(Sydney Children's Hospital)

Whistleblowers are offside in Australia

WhistleWho'd want to be a whistleblower in Australia? It is difficult enough being a referee in sport but who would be game enough to be a whistleblower in their own organisation? A recent Sydney Morning Herald article reported on some research in this area.

The research showed that whistleblowers in Australia often faced an uncertain future. Griffith University conducted a study of which organisations have policies in place for whistleblowers. They looked for support strategies for those who raised concerns and whether they tried to protect them from reprisal.

The Commonwealth, Queensland and NSW governments scored highly "in terms of having policies in place that encourage and protect workers to speak out about bad behaviour". Apparently, not-for-profit, education and training sector, private manufacturing and retail sectors scored the lowest.

It would be interesing to compare the industries that score poorly on whistleblower protection with those that have a high incidence of bullying & harassment complaints. We need organisational cultures that encourage people to speak up about issues and to shine a light on cover-ups. A parliamentary inquiry is under way to examine whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors.

(See SMH article by Georgia Wilkins Corporate, not-for-profit sector lagging on whistleblower protection policies)

2017-18 Federal budget - GST on property transactions

A tax measure that may not have received a great deal of attention is that from 1 July 2018 the GST payable by purchasers of property will have to be remitted directly to the ATO on settlement. This mainly affects newly constructed homes and new subdivisions. At present developers remit the GST to the ATO after settlement of the sale but some must be failing to remit it despite having claimed GST input credits. Just another complication for conveyancing transactions.

Pensions, aged care and assets test changes relating to the home

Richard McCullagh, a lawyer specialising in elder law, has written an informative article which summaries changes to entitiements to the age pension and the assets test. These are complex issues for anyone to work through. Financial advice well in advance is required.

(The Beginning of the End of the Castle: the Age Pension, Aged Care and the Home Law Society Journal April 2017)

Old handsElder abuse & powers of attorney

At a recent legal conference legal practitioners were encouraged to be on the lookout for elder financial abuse, which could arise in transfers of property, wills and powers of attorney. It seems that the misuse of powers of attorneys is on the increase.

Solicitors have a duty to act in the best interests of their client. If someone appointed under a power of attorney is acting inappropriately, it will be necessary to tell them so and write to them. It may be necessary to revoke the power of attorney and in some situations make an application to the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) or Supreme Court.

Where there has been suspicious financial conduct by someone appointed as an attorney social workers and nursing unit managers with a genuine concern have made applications to NCAT.

(See Law Society of NSW Regional News April 2017 & Monday Briefs Legal Updates Guardianship 14 November 2016)

Whistle blowers - a sorry history of mistreatment

"I have always admired whistle blowers. They are often brave people the establishment does not want to hear from. They are often sacked, demoted or criticised for their roles. They are often women."

(Stephen Walmsley SC author of The Trials of Lionel Murphy published by LexisNexis and referred to in the article in the Law Society Journal Issue 32 April 2017 Lessons from a High Court Scandal

Useful domestic violence (DV) links and statisticsWhite Ribbon logo

White Ribbon Australia DV statistics

The Law Handbook Chapter 21 Domestic violence

National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book

ABC Our Focu logo

Speak up about bullying for yourself and others

Last Friday 17 March 2017, St Patrick's Day, was National Day of Action Against Bullying & Violence.

In the Daily Liberal was an article Stand up to bullying today and everyday which referred to Headspace and Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

This March on ABC TV, iView and online the ABC Our Focus is on bullying.

The ABC site has links to useful resources and helplines.

Fifty Shades book coverFifty Shades of misbehaviour is unacceptable

Last Wednesday was International Women's Day.

I don't wish to spoil anyone's fun. I should most probably not comment at all as I have not having read any of the Fifty Shades of ... series or watched the movie versions. The decription of "mummy porn" has not inspired me. I have read however, Fifty Sheds of Grey.

Wouldn't most of us agree that sexual harassment, bullying & harassment, the inappropriate use of power, breaches of code of conduct, grooming and stalking are all mostly unlawful?

Recently, I heard of a male professional displaying a range of inappropriate behaviours to the female professionals in a meeting, including, an aggressive manner, standing over them, "crotch display" and slamming doors.

Do some of us men not understand that Fifty Shades of ... [whatever] is fiction and that the behaviours portrayed are largely unacceptable in our society?

Women Be Bold

Today is International Women's Day - 8 March 2017

The theme this year is to Be Bold For Change and calls on us all to forge a better working world, a more gender inclusive world.Women's Day logo

Le'ts celebrate our mums, sisters, daughters, nannas, the women in our lives and the women we work with! Not to mention how well Australian women have been doing in the rugby, soccer, water polo and cricket.

Go to the International Women's Day site

Catholic Schools Week from 5 to 11 March 2017

For sometime the media has been full of disturbing revelations about systemic problems in the Catholic Church and it's institutions. Damning allegations have been made about hierarchial structures and coverups. There have also been the reports of legal actions against the Church and its schools by students, parents and teachers.

At last a good news story. See article Showcase great education in Daily Liberal 6 March 2017

Roadblock for Uber drivers - they need to register for GSTUber boss & driver

Recently Uber lost a battle with the tax office. A court held that Uber must pay GST. Uber drivers must be registered for GST and pay GST to the ATO from their fares.

(See the ATO's sites on ride sourcing and tax obligations)

While on GST, are your suppliers registered for GST?

A condition of claiming GST credits on purchases for your business is that the supplier must be registered for GST and you have an tax invoice. It migh pay to check your supplier on the ABN Lookup site.

Stolen generations compensationHand holding shadow

Maithri Panagoda from Carroll & O'Dea has written an interesting article about the struggle for justice by the stolen generation.

The article gives a history of claims and an outline of the proposed reparation scheme in NSW.

Maithri worked as a solicitor in Dubbo for many years and is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Sydney.

(The Stolen Generations: A Struggle for Justice by Maithri Panagoda Law Society Journal Issue 30 February 2017)

Sales discounts turnover table

Discount sales, are they worth it? What turnover will you need from them?

An old client Bill used to say, "You can go broke just as quick sitting at home as when you work for nothing or don't get paid." After the Christmas sales results have come in it seems that some retailers have discounted to the point that they were not covering costs.

Sometime ago I saw an article by an accountant pointing out that discounting can be a slippery slope. We need to think about the sales required at the discounted price to make the same profit as selling at the normal price. Will the discounted price lead to the required increased sales and whether there is even a market for that much more product?

When retailers think of their markup, they may think they have more room to discount than they really have. Price = the cost of goods sold + a markup (% increase) e.g. If the cost of goods sold is $50 and the markup is 100% (i.e. $50) the price will be $100. Gross profit is that part of the sale price that is profit after allowing for the cost of the goods sold. Gross profit = price - cost of goods sold e.g. if goods are sold for $100 that cost $50 the gross profit would be $50. Gross profit as a percentage would be $50/$100 = 50%. In this example the gross profit is 50% which is not the same as the markup which was 100%.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in the above example is that if the normal price was discounted by 50% the discounted sale price would only be covering the cost of the goods sold. Discounting by that much generates no profit whatsoever to meet other operational costs.

In the article the accountant had a table something like this. I am not an accountant so these observations should not be relied on as accounting or financial advice.

Money bagDamages of $625,345 for workplace bullying

A case manager for the Department of Human Services in Victoria was recently awarded damages of $625,345 for injuries as a result of workplace bullying. Costs would normally follow the result.

In a lengthy judgement the Victorian Supreme Court was satisfied that the Department breached its duty of care and that bullying and harassment in 2007 and 2008 by a supervisor exacerbated a pre-existing condition of which it had notice since 2005.

The decision looked in detail at the bullying and harassment behaviours and analysed what the Department could have done better. Supervisors, counsellors and HR could benefit from looking at these sections of the decision. Although the decision is lengthy it is well indexed.

Imagine the distress for workers when incidents occuring in 2007 and 2008 take until 2017 to be decided by the court. The extent to which these claims are contested is indicated by a related application in which the Department sought to recall the worker to be further cross-examined after already having spent three days in the witness box.

(Wearne v State of Victoria [2017] VSC 25)

ATO data matching and super guarantee levy crack downMicrochip

Different matters but the ATO has said that it is collecting data from financial institutions and online sites for data-matching of card usage, online sales and ride-sourcing.

For more information see the ATO site.

The federal government is also looking at creating a multi-agency group to crackdown on superannuation guarantee levy non-compliance. The ATO is already very active in this area.

For more information see the federal government media release.

Employing backpackers? You need to register with the ATO by today 31 January 2017Backpacker

If you employ backpackers you need to register with the ATO by today, 31 January 2017. On 1 January 2017, tax rates changed for working holiday makers who are in Australia on a 417 or 462 visa, the "backpacker tax".

From 1 January 2017, employers must withhold 15% from every dollar earned up to $37,000 with foreign resident tax rates applying from $37,001 earned. Employers will have to issue two payment summaries for the 2016-2017 financial year. If employers do not register, penalties may apply and they will have to withhold at the foreign resident tax rate of 32.5%.

(See ATO article)

Messy docs pileConfidential workplace practices

In a recent article Tom Bell of Shred-it Australia was reported as saying that lawyers need to be mindful of unsecure practices in offices that put confidential information at risk. The risk areas he pointed to apply to all offices.

Leaving confidential information exposed on documents on unsecure copying, scanning and print stations. Confidential information left on messy desks for everyone to see, including clients/customers and cleaners. Unsecure recycling bins can leave confidential information accessible to others. The use of portable devices such as laptops, smartphones, iPads, portable harddrives and USB drives away from the office are also at risk of security breaches.

(Lawyers Weekly January 2017)

Catholic parish takes jurisdictional point in unfair dismissal case

Apparently, the Catholic Church employs more than 180,000 workers in Australia across various services. However, for an employee of the Ku-Ring-Gai parish, the Diocese argued that it falls outside the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission because the parish was the actual employer and it employed less than 15 people.

When asked about the unfair dismissal claim by the employee, a human resources representative of the diocese is reported to have said, "I'm not aware of any grievance procedures that apply or that you would need to follow."

(See article by Eamonn Duff Dumped just before Christmas: Sydney mum takes on Catholic Church in unfair dismissal case Sydney Morning Herald 8 January 2017)

We wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

We will close on Thursday 22 December, 2016 at noon and re-open on Monday 9 January, 2017 at 9.00 am.

Xmas image

A year in review - Dubbo Regional Council - 2015/2016 Annual ReportDRC tourism 2016

Council's annual report is now available to download. Even if you don't read the whole report at the link below are some interesting snapshot statistics like the one above.

Dubbo Regional Council Annual Report 2015-2016

Incorporated associations - 2016 changes for constitutions

From 1 September 2016 amendments to the incorporated associations legislation came into effect. Section 25 of the Associations Incorporation Amendment (Review) Act 2016 deems parts of the model constitution to be included in all the constitutions of associations, which do not address certain compulsory matters.

Recent compulsory matters include postal voting, financial year, maximum terms for office bearers, electronic voting and winding-up.

For the deemed changes to the constitutions to take effect, associations do not have to pass a special resolution, do not have to register any change and need not do any other act or thing (section 25(4) Associations Incorporation Act 2009 as amended).

On our resources page are some notes about this.

Dubbo doesn't compare too badly on incomes & house prices

At an interesting talk recently, Tony Taylor, an economist with the NAB, showed the following bar-graph.NAB graph

The red lines are average house prices as a percentage of the median Sydney house price and the black lines are average wages as a percentage of the median Sydney wage.

Apologies for the small print. Dubbo is 9th from the top in the list. Dubbo house prices appear to be 40% of Sydney prices while wages are 90% of Sydney wages.

Crack-down on pre-insolvency firms by ASIC anors

Apparently, a few weeks ago ASIC, ATO and Federal Police raided pre-insolvency firms in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. There has also been a horror story on the ABC's 7:30 Report.

Registered liquidators must comply with numerous requirements. Pre-insolvency firms are often unlicenced. They may propose arrangements that unlawfully defeat creditors. Be wary of pre-insolvency firms, particularly, when they do not want to work with your existing accountant or solicitor.

The Castle DVDLife imitating art? Was "The Castle" used as a precedent in the High Court?

Yesterday, ABC radio PM commentators reporting on a recent High Court decision thought it was reminiscent of the movie "The Castle". Some of the notoriously generous pension and life gold pass benefits of retired members of Federal parliament have been whittled away since 2012. Four retired members of parliament, Barry Cunningham, Anthony Lamb, John Moore and Barry Cohen brought a case before the High Court.

The commentators noted that the grounds of the action sounded similar to those raised in the movie "The Castle". The plaintiffs argued that the legislation allowing their benefits to be reduced was an acquisition of property otherwise than on just terms within the meaning of section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution.

Having a quick look at the long judgment, their Honours did not tell the plaintiffs that they were "dreaming" (as Darryl Kerrigan was fond of saying) but a statement from the Court does say:-

"The High Court unanimously held that the retiring allowance amendments were not laws with respect to the acquisition of property, nor did the Determinations constitute an acquisition of property. A majority of the Court held that the entitlements to retiring allowances were inherently liable to variation …"

(See summary dated 12 October 2016 of Cunningham & ors v Commonwealth of Australia & anor [2016] HCA 39)

Westpac admits to raiding piggy banksPiggy bank

Apparently, Westpac has admitted to ASIC that it failed to remove the monthly fees from the accounts of young customers.

(See article in Sydney Morning Herald 14 September 2016)

Dementia logoSeptember is Dementia Awareness Month

The theme of this year's national awareness month for dementia is "You are not alone".

Click here for information.

See also Dying to know day (D2KD) was last month to make us think about some the things we need to talk to our family about as we get older.

If it sounds to good to be true? - Airtasker taken to task over claimsHandyman

"Consumer advocate Choice is demanding Airtasker back up claims that workers can earn "up to $20,000 a month" by completing random tasks through the odd-jobs website."

"The company operates on a similar business model to Uber and Airbnb and collects a commission [15% service fee] from workers using the site."

(From article by Georgina Wilkins in Sydney Morning Herald 23 August 2016 )

62% of men & 66% of women in the AFP said they had been bullied

Victims are urged to come forward as a result of a shocking report from a study conducted on behalf of the Australian Federal Police.

The AFP Commissioner reportedly admitted that internal processes for dealing with complaints wer inadequate and new processes would make sure that victims were not, "revictimised every time they tell their story". Many of those surveyed complained of being ostracised.

(Sydney Morning Herald article Bullying, harassment rife in Federal Police 23 August 2016)

School teacher successful in appeal by Diocese of Bathurst

Bathurst CathedralThe Trustees for the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Bathurst have unsuccessfully appealed against the decision of the Workers Compensation Commission to remit for assessment the degree of permanent impairment of a teacher due to a work related injury.

The notice of injury on 18 May 2010 was disputed by the insurer and referred to the Commission for determination on 15 November 2012. The matter was settled at a conciliation conference on 27 August 2013 on the basis that the worker was paid weekly compensation, medical expenses and costs increased by 30%.

On 12 February 2014 the worker made a claim for compensation for permanent impairment resulting from the injury, which the insurer disputed based on the settlement of the initial claim. The Deputy Commissioner held that the worker was not precluded from making the claim. The appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Deputy Commissioner was unsuccessful.

Some sobering thoughts emerge from this case, including: the extent of the serious injuries that can occur in non-manufacturing industries; the lengths a worker may have to go to and the time it may take to obtain compensation; and huge personal, medical and legal costs of workplace claims. Surely the money would be better spent trying to make workplaces better.

(Trustees for the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Bathurst v Hine [2016] NSWCA 213)

20% growth in prisoner population over last two years

Prison gateThe NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) reported that the NSW adult prison population grew by 6.5 per cent between July 2015 and June 2016, reaching 12,550 in June. This brings the total increase in the NSW adult prison population over the last two years to 21 per cent.

"The increase is attributable to a growth in prisoners on remand (i.e. unconvicted prisoners awaiting trial or sentence)," the agency said. "Between July 2015 and June 2016 the number of adult prisoners on remand grew by 14.8 per cent (from 3,633 to 4,170). Over the same period, the number of sentenced prisoners rose by 2.8 per cent (from 8,148 to 8,380).

BOCSAR expected further growth in the prisoner population over at least the next eight months with the prison population forecast to reach just under 13,500 in early 2017.

(MondayBriefs Law Society of NSW 1 August 2016)

In 2013-14 it cost on average $292 per day to keep a prisoner in gaol and about twice that amount to keep a juvenile in a detetion centre. This was at a time when Australia's average daily earnings were about $160.

(Civil Liberties Australia 22 June 2013)

(Productivity Commission report on corrective services 2016)

Oldie shovellingFamily pledges are really guarantees

A few banks are promoting a product called a "family pledge" as a way to help family members borrow to buy a home. This has great benefits for particularly first home buyers who would otherwise struggle to meet lending requirements. It may allow mortgage protection insurance to be dispensed with and save the borrowers having to pay a substantial one-off premium.

It is important for the family members providing assistance, usually parents, to know that they are usually required to sign a guarantee and indemnity for the lender. In addition the lender may require security to support the guarantee, which means the parents will have to allow the lender to register a mortgage over their home.

Parents should keep in mind that there are risks associated with giving guarantees. The borrowers may lose their jobs, have unexpected children or health problems or may separate. It is possible for the borrowers to take out income protection insurance and life assurance but these come at an additional monthly cost. The guarantee documents usually allow a lender to pursue the guarantors even thought they have not fully exhausted their remedies against the borrowers. The existence of the mortgage on the parent's home will also restrict what they can do or borrow.

Trade agreements and export markets, Beginner's guide to

A recent article emphasised the need to research the risk and possible rewards of exporting and making use of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) Australia has entered into.

It was suggested that a good place to start was the business.gov.au site. This portal has targeted information, answers frequently asked questions and can identify the Harmonized System (HS) codes that apply to products.

(See article by Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman in the Sydney Morning Herald 4 July 2016)

Uber legalised in NSWVery young driver

The NSW Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act 2016 No. 34 commenced on 8 July 2016.

An article about the Uber contract for driver-partners gave clauses in the contract some great descriptions e.g. the DIY clause, the "fairground" clause, the Go your own way clause, the Uber yourself clause, Green tomatoes clause and the Netherlands clause. The dean of law at Sydney University was reported as saying, "I would be loath to sign this contract."

(The Uber contract's nasty details by Georgia Wilkins in the Sydney Morning Herald 26 May 2016)

(See also the ATO also has a page about the sharing economy and tax)

Glasses & textDr Google - Dr Law? I think not.

"Dr Google is a good example," says Legg. "People go online and are happy to diagnose their symptoms but those people are not going to perform an operation on themselves. I think law is going to be similar. At a certain point, the risks or the expertise that is needed will make them think, "I need to see a lawyer about this."

"Legg [Michael Legg, Associate professor University of NSW] says that while low-cost alternatives may be attractive to some, there will always be a market for lawyers with professional experience and accreditation."

(Future of the profession Law Society Journal Issue 22 May 2016)

Good news - abolition of some NSW duties from 1 July 2016

Duty on the transfer of business assets or a declaration of trust over 'business assets' (other than land) will be abolished from 1 July 2016. A business asset is defined as things such as goodwill, intellectual property or a statutory licence.

Duty on all mortgages is abolished from 1 July 2016. Shares in a NSW company and units in a unit trust scheme registered in NSW ceases to be dutiable property from 1 July 2016.

A few nasties in the NSW State budget for foreign purchasers

The NSW Budget introduced from 21 June 2016 a 4% surcharge purchaser duty on the purchase of residential real estate by foreign persons . The surcharge is in addition to the purchase duty payable on the purchase of residential property in NSW.

The surcharge will also apply to landholder transactions a foreign person purchases shares or units in a landholder. All transferees who are liable to pay duty in respect of a dutiable transaction must lodge a declaration in the approved form.

The budget also introduced a 0.75% surcharge land tax on the taxable value of residential land owned by a foreign person. The tax will be separately assessed in relation to each parcel of land and is payable in addition to any land tax otherwise payable by a foreign person. There will be no tax threshold to exempt land below the specified value nor any exemption for land occupied by a foreign person as a principal place of residence.

(From NSW Office of State Revenue)

UN World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - 15 June each year

Old hands15 June every year is the United Nations internationally recognised World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Quite disturbing information about elder abuse has been coming to light for a number of years. See some facts and a Western Australian report from 2011. Types of abuse include physical abuse & neglect, emotional & financial abuse. The target is usually vulnerable and the offender is most commonly a close relative.

Some informative and useful sites include:-

Swimming pool certification process flowcharts

The Western Plains Regional Council (formerly Dubbo City & Wellington Councils) has prepared a couple of useful flowcharts setting out the procedures for obtaining compliance certificates to meet the new swimming pool & spa requirements.

There is a flowchart (click here) for preparing to sell a property with a swimming pool &/or spa and another flowchart (click here) for landlords renting a property with a swimming pool &/or spa.

National Reconciliation Week from 27 May to 3 JuneReconciliation Australia logo

National Reconciliation Week started on 27 May, which is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and goes to 3 June, which the anniversary of the Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia in 1992. The Mabo decision recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a special relationship to the land. The 1967 referendum gave the Federal government constitutional power to make laws relating to Aboriginal people and included Aboriginal people in the counting of the population of Australia.

Reconciliation Australia provides more information about National Reconciliation Week and some resources. They also have a site for those interested in developing reconciliation strategies or a reconciliation action plan (RAP).

Apple IIe computerDo you remeber your first computer or would you rather forget it?

I look back fondly on my first computer. It was an Apple IIe with a separate green-screen monitor and two five and one-quarter floppy disk drives. That was in 1983. I recall that Commodore and Amiga were early brands of computers with the IBM PC becoming available after that. These were all DOS machines. The graphical user interface was not common until the Apple Macintosh came along. I had an early Macintosh SE. I thought I was very lucky at the time to have a 10MB hard drive.IBM PC

What sparked this reminiscing was a blog on iiNet (link). Few of us still have our first computer. What have you done with your old computers?

Apple Macintosh PlusHave you thought about what remains on your computers when you get rid of them. I was once surprised at what a technician was able to recover from a crashed computer. It included some old documents that had been trashed ages beforehand. That was a few years ago. What is on our computers is even more significant now that we tend to have archived emails and scanned documents stored on them.

If the computer was working when you gave it away or junked it then you might use secure deletion to overwrite any confidential information on the hard drive. Otherwise, things in Trash or Junk may still be retrievable. If the computer stopped working but the hard drive was intact it might be necessary to disable the hard drive to prevent other people being able to recover confidential information from it.

Wise up to scams - Fraud Awareness Week 16 - 20 May 2016

Hands iPhone"Australian consumers are increasingly using the web for socialising and connecting, as well as indulging in the global shopping experience that the Internet can offer. Unfortunately scammers like shopping online for victims too."

"National Consumer Fraud Week 2016 (16th - 20st May) is an education and awareness campaign run by the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce." 

"The campaign this year is featuring the theme 'Wise up to scams' to raise awareness of scams and help Australians recognise and avoid being duped by a scammer.

"To stay one click ahead, visit the Australian Government's SCAMwatch website and get the latest types of scams targeting Australian consumers and small business.

"Check out Fraud Week 2016 for more information."

"Stay Smart Online is an Australian government initiated alert service which is a free service to internet users who wish to receive information regarding the latest scams or online threats targeting Australian consumers. Sign up to their alert service today."

(From St George Bank)

A couple of things in the May 2016 budget for small business

New requirements for the sale or lease of properties with swimming or spa pools have now started

For some time now the owners of properties with a swimming pool and/or a spa pool have had to register their pools on the NSW Swimming Pool Register. Since 29 April 2016, the owners of properties selling with a pool must have: 1. an occupation certificate authorising the use of the pool not more than 3 years old; 2. a certificate of compliance; or 3. a certificate of non-compliance.

Pool & childIdeally vendors will obtain the necessary certificates before marketing their property for sale. However, vendors can transfer the obligation to get a certificate onto the purchaser of the property. If a property is sold with a non-compliant pool the buyer has 90 days from the date of settlement to rectify defects and obtain a certificate of compliance.

There is less flexibility when leasing a property. The owner of a property with two or fewer dwellings and a pool must have an occupation certificate or certificate of compliance before entering into a lease. Landlords must provide tenants with a certificate of compliance when they enter into a lease.

These requirements do not apply to contracts for the sale or lease of strata units or lots in a community scheme or a sale off-the-plan. Certificates of compliance can be obtained from the local council or an accredited certifier.

The introduction of these laws had been delayed because it appears that about 95% of pools fail at their first inspection. It also seems to take up to 90 days for a pool to be made compliant, inspected and for a compliance certificate to issue.

If you have a property with a pool the first thing to do is check that the pool is registered and if there is a current certificate of compliance by selecting "Lookup Pool" on the online NSW Swimming Pool Register. Enter the street number, street name (no need to enter street type) and suburb. Select "Find Property" and the address will appear if the property has a valid certificate of compliance.

ASMFEO logoAustralian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman kicks off

Announced some time ago, on 15 March 2016, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman was launched. It is not a name that rolls off the tongue. The ombudsman is intened to be an advocate for small business and family enterprises. A dispute resolution referral service is also provided in an effort to avoid the cost of litigation.

A worthwhile site to take a look at: http://www.asbfeo.gov.au/

Borrowing to buy property in an SMSF can be risky

"One of the key points to remember with SMSF property loans is that they aren't a normal home mortgage. For instance, they contain review events that allow the lender to review and potentially terminate your loan."

"If you keep up with your home mortgage repayments, the loan remains in place for its 25 or 30-year term. Whether you start a family, renovate or change your marital status, the bank isn't going to review your circumstances and decide it wants its money back. But with an SMSF loan, fairly normal events that the lender deems to be review events can allow it to do exactly that."

(Richard Livingston Money section Sydney Morning Herald 30 March 2016)

Tip of the week in the SMH Money section: Don't buy funeral insurance
Headsones

"... a recent Australian Securities and Investments Commission report released in late 2015 found that in 2014, 80 per cent of funeral insurance policies were cancelled before use, the main reason being cost. ...when consumers cancel their policies they also lose the value of their premiums paid to date."

"With funeral insurance often costing twice the amount of the funeral itself, is it possible to prepare for that time without paying through the nose?" Alternatives suggested are special purpose savings accounts, funeral bonds or pre-paid funerals.

(Tip of the Week by Paul Whear Sydney Morning Herald 30 March 2016)

Money bagATO answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about self-managed super funds (SMSF)

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) provides answers to some frequently asked question about self-managed superannuation funds. For instance, can a SMSF sell a collectible or personal-use asset to a related party? What is my preservation age for accessing my super benefits? Can a super fund purchase shares in a private company? Can I make salary-sacrifice contributions to my SMSF?

ATO answers to FAQs

StudentHub - a new online resource for law studentsLaw Society StudenHub

The Law Society of New South Wales and NSW Young Lawyers have delevoped a website to help law students thinking about a career in the law.

StudentHub

PPSR what is it

Personal property securities register (PPSR) simplified

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has prepared an easy to follow guide for this complex area of law relevant to all businesses.

Small business guide to Personal property securities register (PPSR)

Airbnb to be targeted by Australia Tax Office (ATO)

"Australians using home sharing services should prepare for a tax office crackdown as Airbnb landlords are in their sights ..."

(Sydney Morning Herald 25 February 2016)

ATO website - The sharing economy and tax

Registration of foreign investment in Australian agricultural land

All existing foreign-owned agricultural land holdings must be registered with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) by 29 February 2016. Any new interests must be registered within 30 days. The ATO must also be notified if agricultural land is no longer foreign-owned.

ATO Agricultural Land Register

Sign coffee & cake

Commercial leases - a reminder of how complicated they can be

If a retail shop lease is for a fixed term without an option for renewal a landlord must remember to give the tenant notice in writing at least 6 months before the end of the term of an offer of a new lease or that a renewal of the lease is not going to be offered. If the landlord does not do this, the tenant can ask in writing for the notice and the retail shop lease will be extended for 6 months from when the notice is given. There are also restrictions on advertising the premises for lease until these things are concluded.

Also in any lease if the tenant exercises an option to renew but has breached the lease, the landlord can give the tenant a prescribed notice within 14 days of the exercise of the option, to say that the breaches preclude the tenant from renewing the lease. The tenant then has only one month to apply to the court for relief.

Ever wondered about the results of ASIC prosecutions?

ABC sign brokenThe former Chief Financial Officer (CF) of ABC Learning Centres Ltd was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment (which was suspended) for making available false or misleading information about the affairs of ABC that he knew to be false or misleading in material particulars.

Another former Queensland-based director who was convicted of managing a company while disqualified from doing so was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment (which was suspended on entering a 3 year good behaviour bond).

(From Smith Hancock Chartered accountants newsletter February 2016)

Aged care accommodation - how do you afford it?

The Sydney Morning Herald has been running a series of articles on age care in the Money section of Wednesday's paper.

How to discuss aged care with loved ones Sydney Morning Herald 20 January 2016

See How can I afford it? Sydney Morning Herald 27 January 2016

Buying property from a foreign vendor? You may soon have to withhold tax

After 1 July 2016 a 10% withholding tax will apply to sales of property over $2m by foreign vendors. Purchasers will have to withhold 10% of the sale price unless the vendor provides a clearance certificate from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The intention is to ensure that foreign vendors are meeting their capital gains tax (CGT) obligations. Some disposals by foreign vendors can actually result in in ordinary taxable income rather than capital gains.

ATO information

ATO small business newsroom article "Helping a foreign investor with real estate?"

ATO guide to assist foreign investors

Aged care complaints

I have seen some great care provided to our elderly. However, if there is a need to complain, this year an independent Aged Care Complaints Commissioner was established. Sometimes there can be issues about the services provided or with personalities in aged care. An independent commissioner might help to resolve some of these issues.

Aged Care Complaints Commissioner tele 1800 550 552

Website: https://www.agedcarecomplaints.gov.au/

FEG charge

Saving employee entitlements on insolvency

The placement of Dick Smith Electronics in the hands of administrators and receivers raises concern for unsecured creditors and the holders of gift vouchers. Particularly, the timing of it close to Xmas. Some protection is given to employees under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG).

The insolvency advisers Palmer O'Brien have produced a useful factsheet about FEG.