Federal Government’s 2nd Economic Response to the Coronavirus

Federal Government’s 2nd Economic Response to the Coronavirus

The Government is acting decisively in the national interest to support households and businesses and address the significant economic consequences of the Coronavirus.

The spread of the virus worldwide has broadened and is expected to be more prolonged. Governments, both international and domestic, have announced stricter mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus, which are having significant economic impacts.

While the full economic effects from the virus remain uncertain, the outlook has deteriorated since the Government’s initial Economic Response announced on 12 March 2020.

As a result, the Federal Government has just announced its second business stimulus package worth $66 billion, meaning a total of $189 billion is being injected into the economy by various arms of the federal government.

The Government has said there will be more stimulus packages to come.

A full economic overview can be found here.

The Federal Government’s economic response is targeting three main areas:

  1. Support for Individuals and Households
  2. Support for Businesses
  3. Supporting the Flow of Credit

Support for Individuals and Households:

This assistance includes income support payments, payments to support households and temporary early releases of superannuation.

Support for Businesses:

The Government is supporting Australian businesses to manage cash flow challenges and retain employees. Assistance includes cash flow support to businesses and temporary measures to provide relief for financially distressed businesses.

Supporting the Flow of Credit:

The Government, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have taken coordinated action to ensure the flow of credit in the Australian economy. Timely access to credit is vital for businesses to manage the impacts of the Coronavirus.

Points from the Government’s Second Stimulus Package:

  • In addition to the $750 stimulus payment for households announced on 12 March 2020, the Government will provide a further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders
  • Early release of superannuation – the Government will allow individuals in financial stress (including job seekers, casuals and sole traders) as a result of Covid-19 to access up to $10,000 of their super in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21
  • Employers will receive a payment equal to 100% of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50%) with the max payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000
  • Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme – the Government will establish the SME Guarantee Scheme which will support small and medium businesses with access to working capital to help them get through the impact – Applications can be made online through the ATO website
  • Sole traders will now be included in business relief measures. For example, if a sole trader is still trading and has seen decline in business, they can apply for a $550 a fortnight supplement
  • Income recipients will get an additional $550 a fortnight – this includes JobSeeker payment (formerly Newstart), Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit.
  • All employing small businesses will receive at least $20,000 and larger SMEs can receive up to $100,000
  • Retirees requirement to draw down on a minimum of 4% of their super each year has been halved to 2%
  • Company directors will have temporary protection against trading while insolvent laws. Government will increase threshold at which creditor can put a company into insolvency from $2,000 to $20,000 and 21 days to 6 months to respond. Personal liability on directors trading while insolvent suspended for six months

An overview of the first stimulus package can be found here.

 

PLEASE ENSURE ALL MEMBERS OF YOUR TEAM, INCLUDING THOSE WORKING FROM HOME AND ON-SITE CHECK OUT OUR DEDICATED COVID-19 PAGE

The page is a round-up of the latest guidance, support, and announcements from SCA (NSW) on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, plus some further guidance and information from Government and other relevant bodies such as WHO.

First Economic Stimulus Package Announcements

Federal and State Government’s Economic Stimulus Package Announcements 

Both the Federal and State NSW Governments are backing businesses to invest to help the economy withstand and recover from the economic impact of Coronavirus. Several business investments measures have been announced across federal and state specific packages, which are are designed to assist Australian and New South Wales businesses and economic growth in the short-term, and encourage a stronger economic recovery following the Coronavirus outbreak.

These measures will support over millions of businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million.

Federal Stimulus Package:  

The Federal Government has announced a $17.6 billion economic stimulus package outlining several measures in support of Australian businesses.

The Economic Stimulus Package includes:

  • Supporting business investment
  • Cash flow assistance to help small and medium sized business to stay in business and keep their employees in jobs
  • Targeted support for the most severely affected sectors, regions and communities
  • Household stimulus payments that will benefit the wider economy

Support for business investment –

The Government is backing businesses to invest to help the economy withstand and recover from the economic impact of the Coronavirus.

  • Increasing the instant asset write-off: The instant asset write-off threshold has been increased from $30,000 to $150,000 and has been expanded to include all businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.
  • Accelerating depreciation deductions: Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50 per cent of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost until 30 June 2020.

Cash flow assistance for businesses –

Two measures will be introduced to support small and medium businesses:

  • Boosting Cash Flow for Employers: Small and medium-sized businesses will receive between $2,000 and $25,000 paid by the Australian Taxation Office based on tax withheld. About 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people are expected to be eligible for this payment.
  • Supporting apprentices and trainees: Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be made available to a new employer that employs that apprentice.

Stimulus payments to households to support growth –

Welfare recipients, such as those on Newstart, carers’ allowance, youth allowance, family tax benefits and aged pensioners, will receive a one-off cash payment of $750.

Assistance for severely affected regions –

The Government has set aside $1 billion to support regions and communities that have been disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the Coronavirus, including those heavily reliant on industries such as tourism, agriculture and education.

New South Wales Stimulus Package:

The NSW State Government has announced it will spend $2.3 billion on the coronavirus crisis, including boosting intensive care units, buying critical equipment such as ventilators and setting up respiratory clinics.

More details will follow from the announcement.

The package aims to work together with the federal government. It will provide more resources to help slow the spread of this virus and boost treatment for those people in our community who need it most.”

The package also includes $450 million to waive payroll tax for the next three months for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million.

There will also be $80 million to axe a range of fees and charges for small businesses including bars, cafes, restaurants and tradespeople and $250 million to employ extra cleaners of public infrastructure such as transport assets, schools and other public buildings.

More than $250 million will be spent to fast-track maintenance on public assets including social housing and crown land fencing and $500 million to bring forward capital works and maintenance.

Coronavirus Update – Meeting Advice and Running Businesses

The SCA (NSW), Board has decided on several escalated responses to help protect members and consumers in strata during the escalating COVID-19 outbreak.

The temporary measures recommended to be implemented are unprecedented, however the current and rapidly escalating environment requires clear and consistent messaging to promote calm, orderly and business as usual practices as much as practical.

The current situation requires strong leadership and bold decisions to be made to protect members, stakeholders and consumers to do your part to prevent further spread of this virus in the community.

A recent webinar addressing the most relevant questions impacting SCA(NSW) members can be accessed via the following link.

MEETINGS AND FACE TO FACE INTERACTIONS:

Attendance at face to face meetings should be temporarily restricted for your employees.

Evidence from well managed overseas experience has shown us that social distancing is the key strategy to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We desperately need to flatten the curve to ensure our hospitals can cope with the intake of infections whilst still maintaining services for all other medical emergencies. Whilst our recommendations may not yet be mandatory legal obligations, we feel it is our moral obligation to do our part to flatten the curve. We therefore recommend the following measures be implemented immediately.

Face to face meetings for your employees should be restricted. This restriction is advised to take effect as soon as possible, where practical. Many member businesses have introduced this precaution and we encourage all members to introduce this level of escalated action.

You may decide to continue to meet if your building and owners wish to do so, however we encourage you to discuss alternative methods of meetings including online, phone, skype (or equivalent), pre-polling, proxies or postponement.  In addition, it may be prudent to defer noncritical decision making until such time as more conventional meeting attendance can be reinstated.

Our strata law members are still available and ready to assist with navigating these uncertainties. We recommend you contact your trusted legal advisors, as the circumstances of applicability and action will vary from scheme to scheme.

Whilst acknowledging the obvious impact of strata communities and management companies these circumstances present opportunities to move meetings online and to be conducted by other means as contemplated in the 2015 strata law changes. It also highlights the urgency of prioritising the Community Land Management Act review to ensure laws are contemporised in line with the strata act. Innovation will form part of our industry response.

DAY TO DAY BUSINESS:

Employees Working from Home

It is recommended that members consider if non-customer facing employees can work from home. This will be dependent on your business, online capability and customer expectations.

Employees still working in the office

Customer facing employees who remain in offices should practice social distancing until the advice from Government and Health Authorities changes.

On-site office visits

We strongly urge you to consider implementing a soft ban on all visits to your offices temporarily. For management companies, attempt to limit visits to strata searches only, understanding the importance of this function for the sale of properties but practice social distancing and risk management when in the office.

Other functions such as key and access device management can be done over the phone, utilising express mail services and other measures which do not require access into the office or limited physical contact.

On-site building, facilities managers and service providers

We encourage all on-site service providers to consider options for employees and introduce preventive measure where possible.

WHAT WE’RE DOING:

Government engagement

SCA (NSW) continues to be in close and daily contact with the NSW Department of Fair Trading working through the considerable implications for compliance, timeframes, scheme management and safety as a result of the potential ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 virus. We must stress that these are fluid discussions and whilst we will continue to provide factual advice from Government, several uncertainties remain which could result in updated advice.  There could be considerable impacts moving forward. Rest assured that we have ongoing dialogue and are raising concerns to provide as much clarity as possible.

Ongoing updates

The situation remains fluid and further recommendations may have to be made with short or little notice in line with Government and Health Authority advice.

Our priority is always the health and safety of our members and consumers, and we will continue to keep you updated.

Now is the time to implement plans for COVID-19 management. Simple precautions and planning can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees and your business.

RESOURCES:

SCA (NSW) has curated a selection of key resources on an information page on the SCA (NSW) website to assist you to navigate the evolving situation that we will continue to update and monitor as further information comes to hand. Please also find links to relevant sites with the latest information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

 

SCA (NSW) is concerned about the growing impact that the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is having in NSW and we are constantly monitoring the evolving situation.

Our key focus is on the impact to the strata community – strata managers, service providers and strata owners come into close contact with a range of people daily increasing their risk of potential exposure to the virus.

Planning and implementing simple precautions can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees, your clients, your business and the community.

Employer Obligations?

The novel coronavirus is not an occupational disease in most cases, as it is not typically a hazard associated with the nature of work in the majority of occupations.

However, employers do have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers and other persons (e.g. customers, members of the public etc), so far as is reasonably practicable.  As the presence of an infected person may pose a risk to the health of other workers and persons, employers must take reasonable action to prevent the spread of the disease in the workplace.

To comply with this duty, everyone should monitor and follow the most recent advice of relevant authorities, such as the Australian Department of Health, state and territory health departments, Smart Traveller and the WHO. Doing so will assist employers in assessing the evolving risk of the novel coronavirus spreading in the workplace, and in taking proportionate measures to address that risk.

Preparing for a possible coronavirus pandemic

All organisations should have contingency plans for a possible coronavirus pandemic. To prepare for such events, ensure that relevant policies are in place and updated with the latest advice from authorities.

Work health and safety (WH&S) policies should ensure that employees suffering from infectious diseases, or who present the symptoms of such diseases, can be isolated from the workplace. Such employees may be required to present a medical certificate confirming their fitness for work before being allowed to resume their normal duties.

Where possible and safe to do so, remote working arrangements can be made for employees who cannot attend the workplace. It is accordingly a timely opportunity to review work from home policies to ensure all relevant hazards and risks have been identified and managed appropriately.

All policies should be reviewed and revised considering the advice of relevant authorities. For this purpose, employers should regularly monitor the updates provided by the Department of Health.

All updated policies should then be communicated so everyone can be aware of the behaviours expected of them and of the measures being taken within residential complexes and workplaces in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Safe hygiene practices should be adopted and encouraged to prevent the spread of the disease.

Strata Committee Meetings

We are aware of member businesses introducing precautionary policies to defer any non-essential meetings. This directly relates to strata committee and general meetings held on site or at office venues. Based on best practice proactive advice and preventative policies, we are encouraging our members to assess meetings on a case by case basis with a risk assessment and give consideration to deferring or arranging alternative attendance methods for face to face meetings if there is a risk of contamination.

If meetings do occur, we encourage members to implement preventive measures and precautions to ensure both staff and attendees are not infected. This is a necessary precaution to reduce the risk of virus spread, particularly in circumstances where attendees at meetings may be infected or vulnerable. We also note this is a rapidly escalating issue and it may be appropriate at a time to consider deferring all face to face meetings.

SCA (NSW) has briefed NSW Fair Trading on the potential impacts that may result from deferring meetings. We are also holding ongoing discussions regarding the broader impact on service providers and services to strata schemes.

SCA (NSW) | Education and Events – Business as usual

Drawing directly on current advice and information provided by both Federal and State government authorities, we believe that the risk of spreading or contracting the virus is highest in residential settings and that, as long as all attendees follow strict hygiene practices, attendance at professional work-related events remains low risk subject to implementation of appropriate risk management protocols. SCA (NSW) will therefore continue to deliver all scheduled committee meetings, education and networking events however we will continue to monitor the situation closely and update this advice if necessary.

If you have registered to attend an SCA (NSW) event, please follow all recommended medical guidelines for preventative practices. SCA (NSW) will of course commit to implementing all recommended precautions from the World Health Organisation, Federal and State Health authorities and will encourage all attendees to follow these guidelines. These will be communicated to all attendees prior to and during meetings and events.

How to stay informed

SCA (NSW) has curated a selection of key resources and useful links on an information page on our website to assist you with navigating the evolving situation that we will continue to update as further information comes to hand.

 

FREE WEBINAR: Electric Vehicle Charging in Apartment Buildings

Six Sydney-based Councils – Waverley, Randwick, Woollahra, Willoughby, North Sydney, Mosman – are co-hosting a free webinar next month, on EV Charging in Apartment Buildings.

Hear from the experts about charging for electric vehicles (EV) in apartment buildings. Our guest speakers from Council, industry and electric vehicle peak bodies will help demystify the key information that people living in apartments will need to consider when owning an EV in the future.

When: 6.30-7.30pm, Thursday 19 September

Where: Online anywhere, from the comfort of your own home or office.

Who should attend?

  • Residents living in apartments who are considering owning an Electric Vehicle (EV) in the future,
  • Strata owners
  • Strata managers
  • Other interested folks

Register today – it’s easy online!

Feel free to pass on to your neighbours, friends and any other folks who may be interested.

 

 

Media Release: THREAT TO MOBILISE TWO MILLION NEW SOUTH WALES “STRATA ARMY” UNLESS GOVERNMENTS ACT

CONSTRUCTION, CLADDING, QUALITY CONTROL, INSURANCE, CERTIFIERS…………NOW A BILLION DOLLAR PROBLEM FOR NSW

SCA (NSW), the peak body representing the interests of an estimated two million New South Wales strata sector – managers, owners and stakeholders, says the New South Wales economy will take a major hit unless the State Government moves to restore confidence in the apartment, unit, townhouse and commercial strata property market in NSW.

Chris Duggan, State President of Strata Community Association (NSW), says the State Government needs to put a funding package on the table off the back of today’s meeting of Federal and State Building and Construction Ministers in Sydney.

“The NSW Government moved quickly to support the residents of Mascot Towers but we all know now that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“That iceberg is impacting on confidence.

“Some Mascot Towers residents have been offered $10,000 to purchase their million dollar apartments and no resident in NSW should have to suffer that sort of disgraceful proposition.

“In the flammable cladding area, we estimate that there are well over 10,000 apartments in NSW, Queensland and Victoria that may be affected.

“The Victorian Government has put $600million on the table to address this issue and the NSW Government – supported by the Commonwealth — needs to look at matching this figure.”

Mr Duggan said the NSW Government through the Premier had moved quickly on Mascot Towers, but it is now obvious that the building and construction integrity problem requires a whole of Government strategic response that is properly funded.

“This requires direct intervention by the Premier. She moved quickly on assistance for Mascot Towers and now two million strata stakeholders are turning to her for help.

“We are taking hundreds of calls a day from concerned strata residents who are demanding action.

“There is a two million strong strata army in NSW that wants us to take the lead and to restore confidence in the apartment, unit and townhouse sector.

“People like the owners of Mascot Towers have been caught up in this mess.  This mess centres around Federal, State Government and local authority approvals of building products, certification and processes.

“We still have hundreds of kilometres of poor quality electrical cabling that poses a fire risk in NSW and we can’t track it down. Government is still allowing poor quality Chinese made glass panels to come into this country that can explode under stress.

”Insurance premiums are on the rise and the private certifiers issue off the back of flammable cladding has brought the construction industry to its knees.”

Mr Duggan said it was incumbent on the Federal Government to work with NSW and other States because the problems in NSW were replicated Australia wide.

ENDS

Changes in legislation needed to fix the construction industry

Changes in legislation needed to fix the construction industry

written by Honan Insurance Group

Déjà vu? Once again, another Sydney apartment block has been evacuated due to observed structural cracking in the building’s underground car park. Mascot Towers, a 131-unit complex at No. 1 Bourke St Mascot was evacuated last Friday evening (14 June) with residents given short notice to vacate their apartments.  On Tuesday, there was still no advice on when residents would be able to return to their homes permanently. This follows on from the dramatic Christmas Eve (2018) evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower.

The cause of the cracking in Mascot Towers is yet to be determined, and alleged possible causes may include neighbouring construction work or the original design and construction 10-years ago. Mascot Towers was constructed over 10-years ago, meaning that any building defects will not be covered by building warranty insurance (referred to as Home Builders Compensation in NSW), leaving the unit owners to pay for the repairs. If the neighbouring construction project is to blame, then a lengthy legal battle may occur regarding various other insurance covers.

Currently, NSW law states that future owners of a property are covered for the statutory warranty period – six years for major defects in the work and two years for other losses from the date of completion of work. With many building defects appearing after the six-year statutory warranty period, there is a need for major changes to be made to NSW laws to protect property owners buying off a plan or buying buildings younger than 10-years old that were poorly built.

The strata industry and Strata Community Association (SCA) will continue to advocate for change and encourage the government to further regulated the relaxed approach to building completion sign off and hold the construction industry to account for faulty work.

In February of last year, the NSW Government[1] told the COAG meeting that it would introduce new legislation to improve consumer protection if they won the next election, these included:

–    Builders needing to sign off that building was constructed in accord with certified plans

–    Allowing Owners Corporations to litigate for negligence if building code was not carried out

This new legislation is still to be introduced, and many people in strata see this legislation as not being tough enough on the construction industry who are accountable for this issue. With research finding that 72-85% [2]of owner’s corporations identifying major defects in their buildings, it is important that strata managers and the SCA continue to do what they can to influence the federal and state governments into reforming legislation as soon as possible.

[1] https://aib.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/NSW-Government-Media-Release-2.pdf

[2] https://cityfutures.be.unsw.edu.au/research/projects/defects-strata/

New Regulatory Requirements for Cooling Water Systems

NSW Health has issued an update advising it has strengthened laws around managing cooling water systems. The new laws require a performance based approach to managing these systems.

A cooling water system can contain one or more cooling towers which are used as part of a buildings’ air conditioning system.

In its Fact Sheet, NSW Health says that:

Effective management of cooling water systems is essential for protecting public health.

Poorly managed cooling water systems can provide ideal conditions for the growth and transmission of Legionella bacteria.

People can become infected by inhaling fine airborne aerosols generated by cooling towers. Infection may cause Legionnaires’ disease, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.

NSW Health recently changed the Public Health Regulation 2012 (the Regulation). Members should be aware also that cooling water systems must also comply with the Public Health Act 2010.

The Regulation now requires cooling water systems to be managed according to Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 3666 Part 3 (2011 edition).

NSW Health advises that this risk management approach requires the individual characteristics and unique risks of each cooling water system to be assessed and controlled.

The Regulation previously allowed a prescriptive or “one size fits all” approach. This required specific actions to be taken, regardless of the system design or risk of Legionella contamination, and was based on AS/NZS 3666 Part 2.

In the fact sheet, NSW Health says the new Regulation, which commenced 1 January 2018, requires:

  1. assessing risk of Legionella contamination and preparing a Risk Management Plan (RMP) – every 5 years (or more frequently if required)
  2. independent auditing of compliance with the RMP and Regulation – every year
  3. providing certificates of RMP completion and audit completion to the local government authority
  4. sampling and testing for Legionella and heterotrophic colony count – every month
  5. notifying reportable laboratory test results (Legionella count ≥1,000 cfu/mL or heterotrophic colony count ≥5,000,000 cfu/mL) to the local government authority
  6. displaying unique identification numbers on all cooling towers.

Members may also find the Guidelines on Legionella Control useful.

Winners announced for 2018 CHU Strata Community Awards

Winners announced for 2018 CHU Strata Community Awards

Strata Community Association (NSW) has announced the winners of the annual CHU Strata Community Awards with the judges blown away by the number of entries and competition across all awards categories.

 

The 2018 SCA (NSW) CHU Strata Community Awards Winners are:

Strata Community Manager

Lani Zaubzer, Strata Plus

Strata Community Manager – Rising Star

Sarah Hogg, BCS Strata Management

Support Team Member

Simone Firns, Network Pacific Strata Management

Strata Community Management Business – Small

The Strata Collective

Strata Community Management Business – Large

Bright & Duggan

Strata Services Business

Havencab Group

Essay Award

Natalie Fitzgerald, Strata Sense

Excellence in Innovation

PICA Group

Strata Community Environmental & Engagement Award

Strata Plan 78602, Generation W, McElhone Street, Woolloomooloo

 

SCA (NSW) President Mr Chris Duggan said that this year’s entrants showed that the NSW strata sector has been on an upward trajectory since the new legislation was introduced in 2016 and through the immense competition within the industry itself.

“The strata sector has seen an increase in not just properties with the apartment boom around NSW but also in the new and talented people entering into the industry and developing as professionals,” Mr Duggan said.

“One of the things we are most proud of is the recognition of the outstanding performance of women at the awards. Four women scooped the pool of individual awards on the night. We have also grown the opportunity for strata owners to celebrate their successes with the Strata Community Environmental & Engagement Award.

“This year’s winner, an apartment building in Woolloomooloo showed innovation and determination when it came to reducing their energy consumption, making changes and reaping the rewards that mean dollars in owners pockets and not the coffers of the big energy providers.”

“The independent judging panel made up of academics and industry stakeholders commented that there was a significant number of excellent, high quality submissions and that they get better each year. Scoring in some categories was extremely difficult with scores very close.

“They also said it was great to see the quality and breadth in the industry with high achieving young strata managers,” Mr Duggan concluded.

Licensing changes for strata managers – Update on timeline

The reforms to the Property, Stock and Business Agents Amendment (Property Industry Reform) Bill 2017 will affect licensing and qualifications, the roles that can be undertaken at different levels of qualification and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements.

It was anticipated that the new CPD regime would start from 1 July 2018 however this date has been deferred as the regulations are required before a timeline can be proposed.
The regulations are currently being drafted in consultation with the Real Estate Reference Group, of which SCA (NSW) is a member.The timeline for implementation will be guided by these regulations and discussions.

The final changes will be written into the regulations and we will keep you updated and guide you through this transition as further changes become confirmed and definite.