Home' Border Enterprise : Enterprise Spring-Summer 2009 Contents 38 enterpris e
HOW many times have you heard
politicians promising to reduce the
red tape facing business in general
and small business in particular?
And how many times have you
failed to see any perceptible difference in the
Well, they're at it again. But though you have
every right to be sceptical, there's a chance this
time may be different. Certainly, what they're
promising is very different.
The promise is to introduce a "standard business
reporting" program (the initials SBR are said to
also stand for "simpler, better reporting"). The idea
is to standardise the terms used by government
agencies to describe the information businesses
are required to provide.
As an example, almost all forms require an
Australian business number (ABN) but nine
different names are used to describe the ABN.
Once all the terms have been standardised, it's
easier for business accounting packages such as
MYOB to be designed to churn out the forms as
part of the package's functions.
The idea is to then set up arrangements so forms
can be lodged electronically, with all the forms
being sent to a single internet address, using a
single user ID and password.
Participating agencies are the Australian Taxation
Office, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the
Australian Securities and Investments Commission,
the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and
all state and territory revenue offices.
These currently require nine different IDs and
passwords and two different digital certificates to
In some cases, a business's accounting system
will file these forms automatically while in others
it will pre-fill a lot of the figures but will need an
accountant to check and complete the return
before it's filed electronically.
At present, the participating agencies between
them have 87 forms businesses are required to
The motive for the program -- which is already
working in the Netherlands and is being adopted in
New Zealand -- is to reduce the costs of complying
with government reporting requirements.
It's claimed that when the program is fully
implemented it will generate administrative savings
to businesses and the agencies involved worth
about $800 million a year.
And when will this wonder of wonders begin? In
July next year, they reckon. The program is being
developed in close consultation with the makers
of business software because much of the benefit
comes from computerisation and from using
one basic accounting system to satisfy so many
different reporting requirements.
But whether your business chooses to participate
will be up to you.
The full benefits of the program won't be
achieved until most businesses have been induced
to take part.
The program has been approved by the Council
of Australian Governments as part of its reform
agenda but the "lead agency" in its implementation
is Federal Treasury.
This is significant because the boss of Treasury,
Dr Ken Henry, has long had a bee in his bonnet
about the need to reduce the complexity of the
tax and other requirements governments impose
on us, thereby reducing our costs of compliance
and the risk that we'll get into bother by stuffing
Ross Gittins is an economics columnist for The
Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Good news and bad on the
local economic front
THE good news is Albury-Wodonga
seems to have escaped lightly the effects
of the global economic downturn.
But out in the parched plains west of the
cities, things are still crook for the farmers
after years of drought and once again they
are looking for new ways to survive.
As one commented, they wonder how
they got this far.
Several times this year The Border
Mail has reported significant job losses
in Albury and Wodonga, notably at the
Drivetrain gearbox factory but also in
Only recently Norske Skog newsprint
mill announced it would shed 30 jobs over
the next 13 months or so, though it is not
cutting its production levels which earn the
company millions of dollars.
Behind the redundancy statistics there
are, of course, many human stories of
stress, not just for those who lose jobs but
for their families.
More than 37,000 people are employed
in Albury-Wodonga, admittedly many of
It appears the unemployment rate locally
is also not so severe as in comparable
centres, though it's hard to tell how many
have left the region to seek work or
Albury-Wodonga has a high proportion
of self-employed people or family-only
businesses and there's no doubt many of
them have struggled.
Cr Alice Glachan made a significant
comment recently that it was the positive
attitude of small, medium and big business
that has pulled them through, and the
ability to hang on to staff by cutting hours
rather than showing them the door.
Hopefully they will now reap the benefit
of these steps.
Out on the plains, however, things are
not so easy, because the problems there
are far more deep-rooted.
Murray Irrigation director and dairy
farmer Malcolm Holm, of Finley, was dead
right in saying "the agricultural economy in
these parts will never be the same again".
Good rain hasn't happened for years in
some places, or when it does fall, it's in
the wrong spot.
It's all very well for city politicians to urge
farmers to diversify to survive, but life isn't
While regional cities that were built
on the fortunes of their agricultural
hinterlands are pulling through the
economic downturn, their country cousins
still face a bleak future.
It goes without saying the cities and
country need each other.
The key question for governments is
whether they want farms to continue food
production in these areas or not.
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