Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme Closing

The Government has announced that on 30 June 2012, the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme will close.  The Government has paid over $320 million under the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme to help more than 250,000 Australian households replace older, more carbon polluting hot water systems with renewable, climate-friendly alternatives.

To be eligible for the rebate before the scheme closes, systems must be installed, ordered (and a deposit paid) or purchased on or before 28 February 2012.

Applications lodged up to 30 June 2012 will continue to be processed. Applications received after 30 June 2012 will not be eligible.

The Government is continuing to support households to install climate-friendly hot water systems through the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Under this scheme, solar and heat pump hot water systems are assigned a number of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) and retailers usually offer an upfront discount on systems in exchange for the STCs. For information on REBS visit:  www.climatechange.gov.au/solarhotwater.

For information on the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme visit: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/ret.

Government Abandons Exporters

The Australian Labor Government provides over $20 billion to support innovation through the R&D Tax Scheme while providing only $150 million to support export marketing through the EMDG scheme.

To put the government’s current approach into perspective, please consider this hypothetical scenario.

An Australian business decides to develop a new product and commits $1 million towards developing the required innovation.  On completion of the development of this potentially world leading product they decide to explore international trade opportunities and commit $7500 towards those activities.

Does this sound ridiculous?  It should, because it is!! But this is exactly what the Gillard Labor Government is currently doing.

The Australian Labor Government currently provides over $20 billion through the R&D Tax Scheme while the EMDG scheme is capped at $150 million of which 10% is used to administer the scheme.  So in reality the situation is much worse than described.

When is the Government going to get serious about supporting Australian businesses to promote their products on the international market? The EMDG scheme requires a complete revamp and a significant cash injection to at least $500m.  We encourage you to contact the Minister for Trade, Hon Dr Craig Emerson, and ask him to explain their rationale for abandoning exporters.  His contact details are available on www.trademinister.gov.au

Australia China Science And Research Fund

Australia-China research collaborations will benefit from an additional $18 million over the next three years, with the opening of a dedicated Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF) this week.

The Australian Government is committing $A9 million to the Australia-China Science and Research Fund from 2011-12, which will be matched by the Chinese Government. This is in addition to recent reforms to assist Australian researchers to collaborate with international partners.  The recent commitment follows the announcement made earlier this year to provide funding to support Australia-China joint research centres. The Australian Government will provide up to $1 million for each centre which will be matched by the Chinese Government. Joint research centres must include at least one Australian Eligible Research Organisation and one Chinese partner. The Fund will also support Australia-China group missions and activities that encourage researchers from both countries to exchange research knowledge.

Demand for grants under the ACSRF is expected to be high and the fund’s program guidelines contain detailed information about how the fund will operate.  Applications for funding from joint research centres close on 27 February 2012, while group mission applications will be assessed as they are received.


Collaborative Solutions Program Round 2

The NSW government has called for applications for the second round of its collaborative solutions program with a project to focus on the development of mobile technologies to improve government services. This round of the program, called Mobile Government, will provide up to $1 million over the next year to support between 5 and 10 consortiums develop mobile solutions for the public sector.

This program is focused on accelerating development of new-to-market and significantly innovative mobile solutions that have significant potential for commercial success, job creation and exports.   Submissions must exhibit solutions developed for delivery via mobile phones or tablet device and would potentially have features including wireless broadband, mobile computing, mobile payments, location based services, augmented reality, mobile social media or sensor technologies. Solutions will be matched and trialled with agencies within the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, which encompasses tasks like economic development, primary industries, tourism and the arts.

Key requirements of applications include:

  • Consortia-backed submissions: Each submission must be backed by a consortium of at least three members.  The Consortia Lead must be a NSW-registered business with the capability to commercialise and export the ICT solution being developed.  The consortia must include at least one User Organisation (an agency within the Department) to participate in the development and piloting process.  The remaining consortia members will provide technologies, content or capabilities to the project.
  • Developed and piloted in NSW: Solutions must be predominantly developed in NSW.  Submissions with minor components (less than 20 per cent of project costs) developed outside of NSW will be considered, but those components will not be supported by the grant if one is awarded.  The solutions must be piloted in NSW.
  • Development has not commenced: The development of the proposed solution must not have commenced before the date of submission.  Any grant funding will be for the development and piloting of the proposed solution after the date of submission.

Submissions close on 29 February 2012 with successful applicants being announced in March.


Households Will Feel Impact of Carbon Tax

The Government has advised that on Sunday 10 July 2011 they will announce the price on pollution that is the central element of their policy to tackle climate change, cut pollution and drive the transformation of the Australian economy to a clean energy future.    The Government’s priorities in designing the carbon price have been stated as cutting pollution, protecting household budgets, and supporting jobs, but you can form your own opinion.  Around half the revenue raised will be used to offset the impact to the community.  A carbon price is seen as an important reform that will create incentives to lower Australia’s carbon pollution at the lowest cost to the economy. They suggest it will do this by putting a price tag on the pollution of fewer than 1,000 businesses.

With only half the revenue raised to be used for tax cuts and increased payments to households, the cost to the Australian household will be significant.  Originally the government committed that all revenue raised would be applied to offset the impact to the community.  This has progressively fallen to the current offering of 50%.  The final figure will probably be much less than 50% and progressively phased out.

After announcing the policy on Sunday the Government intends to introduce legislation to Parliament later this year.

Regional Relocation Grant

The Regional Relocation (Home Buyers Grant) Act 2011 will operate for 4 years commencing 1 July 2011. The scheme will provide applicants with a one-off payment of $7,000 to assist them with the cost of relocating from their metropolitan home to a regional home. The metropolitan area includes the local government areas of the Sydney metropolitan area, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Gosford, Wyong, Wollondilly, Wollongong and Newcastle. The regional areas are participating local government areas which are located outside of the metropolitan area.

To be eligible for the $7,000 Regional Relocation Grant, the following criteria apply:

  • All applicants must be natural persons and must not purchase the regional home in his or her capacity as trustee
  • At least one applicant must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident as at the completion date of the regional home purchase
  • All applicants must have entered into an agreement to purchase a home within a regional area, on or after 1 July 2011 and on or before 30 June 2015
  • All applicants must have owned and occupied the metropolitan home as their principal place of residence within 12 months before the commencement date (contract exchange date) of the regional home purchase
  • The consideration for the purchase or the unencumbered value of the regional home must not exceed $600 000
  • All applicants must sell the metropolitan home either before or within 12 months after the completion date of the regional home purchase
  • All applicants must occupy the regional home as their principal place of residence for at least 12 continuous months commencing within 12 months after the completion date of the regional home purchase
  • An applicant must not have received an earlier grant under the Regional Relocation (Home Buyers Grant) Act 2011.

Buying The Mining Industry

The Government today announced the politically motivated $34.4 million Buy Australian at Home and Abroad initiative to provide Australian suppliers with have a better chance of benefiting from the nation’s major resources projects.  These major resources projects can provide significant opportunities for Australian suppliers. Unfortunately, some suppliers have been missing out because of established global vendor lists and the trend toward pre assembled modules.   The Government’s stated objective for this initiative is to spread the opportunities of the mining boom to more Australians and more Australian businesses.

Australian manufacturers and service providers have proved to the Government that they can compete and collaborate with the world’s best. This new initiative will ensure they know where the opportunities are so the benefits of the resources boom can be spread across the country.

New Enterprise Connect Business Advisers will work directly with small companies to help them grow as suppliers to the resources sector. They will partner with new industry Supplier Advocates to embed Australian business in the resources sector supply chains. Through the Industry Capability Network (ICN), specialist advisers will work with the procurement teams of major projects like the Woodside Browse LNG development in Western Australia, the INPEX Ichthys project in Northern Territory, and LNG projects in Queensland.

Increased funding of $1 million per annum will expand the reach of the ICN’s vital work, making it easier and cheaper for buyers and suppliers to do business.   To coordinate these activities I will establish a Resources Sector Supplier Advisory Forum and appoint a Resources Sector Supplier Envoy in consultation with the Minister for Resources and Energy. The Forum will include representatives from major resources companies, unions, manufacturers and resources technology services firms. The Envoy’s role will be to champion Australian industry participation in the resources sector.

Happy 3rd Birthday Enterprise Connect

Enterprise Connect – the Australian Government’s $50 million a year small business assistance program – is celebrating its third birthday.  Since 2008, Enterprise Connect has helped over 7,500 businesses with a range of services including advice, researcher placements, workshops, events and grants. The Tailored Advisory Service grants scheme has helped a wealth of these businesses improve the way they do business in the long-term.

The rising dollar, increasingly competitive global markets and the low-carbon economy provide challenges for Australian industry.  To help businesses rise to new challenges, new elements are progressively added to the Enterprise Connect program. This includes adapting to climate change (Clean 21 Technology Innovation Network) and increasing competitiveness (Buy Australian at Home and Abroad).

Twenty-two businesses who have partnered with Enterprise Connect are finalists in this year’s Endeavour Awards. A list of the companies and more information on the Awards and Manufacturing Week. For more information on the many opportunities available and to identify other grants for your business, call the grant experts, Pattens on 1800 PATTENS.


Carbon Price Household Assistance

The Government hosted a meeting today of the Household Assistance Working Group. The working group of community sector leaders discussed options for the design of the generous household assistance package that the Government will deliver together with a price on carbon pollution. The Government is consulting with community organisations to help ensure the household assistance package is fair and targeted at low and middle income households and pensioners. The members of the working group represent those Australians the Government will ensure receive the most generous assistance.

The Government has now taken a complete reversal stating that “more than 50 per cent of the revenue raised from a carbon price will be used to assist households, and that the assistance will be permanent.”  Previously the Government suggested that every dollar paid by companies will be used to help families with price impacts, to support jobs in the most affected industries, and to tackle climate change.  Refer our Blog of 15 March 2011 “Another Tax Called Carbon Pricing.”  What do you think the government’s final position will be?  Maybe we should start a competition to guess the final percentage assistance to households with a $1000 prize to the winner.

The Government is also working closely with other federal agencies, as well as State and Territory Governments to ensure this household assistance connects with and complements programs and activities already in place across the country.

The final household assistance package will be announced in advance of the planned implementation of a carbon price from 1 July 2012.

Small Business $5K Tax Write Off

The Australian Government will provide Australian small businesses with an immediate tax write-off of the first $5,000 of any motor vehicle purchased from 2012-13.  Motor vehicles are the main capital item for many of Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses so this extra tax relief could deliver real benefits by improving cash flows and helping operators to reinvest and grow their businesses.  The remainder of the purchase cost can be transferred into the general small business depreciation pool, which is depreciated at 15 per cent in the first year and 30 per cent in later years.

This measure will add to the existing tax reforms for small businesses that will be introduced in 2012-13 that allow:

  • an immediate write-off of all assets valued at under $5,000 (up from $1,000 presently) estimated to cost $1.7 billion over the forward estimates;
  • a write-off of all other assets (except buildings) in a single depreciation pool at a rate of 30 per cent.  Currently, small businesses allocate assets to two different depreciation pools, with two different depreciation rates (30 per cent and five per cent); and
  • a reduction in company tax rate to 29 per cent for incorporated small businesses.

These tax reforms will be available to all small businesses, including sole traders and businesses operating through trusts, partnerships and companies.  The new small business instant write-off for the first $5,000 of any motor vehicle will replace the Entrepreneurs Tax Offset (ETO), which the Australia’s Future Tax System Review (AFTS) recommended be abolished because of its poor targeting and high compliance costs.