Budget Overview

On Tuesday, 6 October 2020, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the Federal Budget which was largely defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. At a glance A wide range of sectors and stakeholders are affected by the Budget. At a high level, the winners and losers of this Budget have been reported as follows: (Source: ABC News)   Key takeaways The economy Australia’s economy has taken one of its largest blows as a result of the pandemic. Since the July economic update, Australia’s debt and deficit have increased with the country headed toward a record debt of $1 trillion by June 2024. Our current net debt is $703 billion. Income tax cuts The Treasurer announced Stage 2 of the Government’s tax cuts will provide relief for more than 11 million Australians. The tax cuts will be brought forward and can be backdated to July 2020, affecting each income threshold differently. An additional $17.8 billion in personal income tax relief is being delivered to aid economic recovery with a further $12.5 billion over the next year. This will add to the…

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Big news for struggling small businesses
Small businesses during Covid-19

Big news for struggling small businesses

Last week, the Federal Government announced proposed changes to corporate insolvency laws designed to help boost the survival rate of small businesses. The proposed changes would take effect from 1 January 2021 and aim to reduce the complexity, time, and costs involved for small businesses dealing with financial distress. This reform is in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 and allows small businesses to either restructure or alternatively streamline the liquidation process. The new procedure is a ‘debtor in possession’ model which draws on features of the US-style chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure. Essentially this means that the director of a debtor company remains in place during the relevant moratorium period and does not have to hand over control of the business to an external insolvency accountant. The process is only available to incorporated entities with liabilities of less than $1 million. Debt restructuring The overhaul of the insolvency rules is to create a new debt restructuring procedure. The process involves: The director of a small business in financial distress appoints a small business restructuring practitioner to assess…

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Travel exemptions: navigating COVID-19 restrictions and what you need to know before you travel

Currently, nationwide travel restrictions remain in place, affecting thousands of people wishing to exit or enter Australia. A request for a 'travel exemption' is the only means by which some individuals and families can cross national borders and exit or re-enter the country. The following groups do not require a travel exemption to enter Australia: -Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members -New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members However, for non-citizens of Australia, including bridging and temporary visa holders on a wide range of visa classes, ongoing travel restrictions mean continued 'lockout' from international travel for a still undefined and uncertain period of time. The impact of these travel delays on individuals, their businesses, their families and on the economy are immeasurable. Applying for a travel exemption in the form prescribed by the Australian Government can be time-consuming and valid reasons for lodging an application are limited. The rates of successful travel exemptions in the various categories provide a snapshot of the current situation. Recent figures published by the Department…

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Visa updates: Victoria and NSW

VICTORIA Victoria’s 2020-21 Business and Investor Visa nomination program (subclass 188 and 132) opened on 8 September 2020. To help the state’s economic recovery and health response to the pandemic, the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs has provided the Victorian Government with a short-term allocation of visa nomination places for the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). The limited number of BIIP places are only available until 6 October 2020. The Federal Budget will outline what additional state nomination visa places will be allocated to the Victorian Government for the remainder of the 2020-21 program year. Please note, to ensure that all applications received can be assessed within the timeframe, applications close at 5pm AEST, 21 September 2020. Changes to nomination criteria When applying for the BIIP program between 8 September 2020 and 21 September 2020 there is one additional requirement. All visa applications must demonstrate that the business and investment activity will contribute to Victoria’s economic recovery or health response. The new requirement must be addressed in the ‘Economic Recovery - Business and Investment Support Form’. To…

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Immigration Update: Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List and Enhanced Labour Market Testing

On 2 September 2020 the Australian Government announced two key changes to Australia’s immigration laws ­– a new priority skills list has been introduced and labour market testing requirements have been strengthened for employer-sponsored visas. These changes are designed to address critical skills shortages and ensure employers first attempt to recruit qualified and experienced Australian citizens or permanent residents. Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) Skilled migrants will be essential in helping Australia get through the pandemic and rebuild the economy. A new PMSOL will allow a small number of sponsored skilled workers to come to Australia to fill critical skill shortages. The 17 occupations on the PMSOL were identified based on advice from the National Skills Commission, and in consultation with other relevant Commonwealth agencies. These occupations are: Chief Executive or Managing Director (111111) Construction Project Manager (133111) Mechanical Engineer (233512) General Practitioner (253111) Resident Medical Officer (253112) Psychiatrist (253411) Medical Practitioners nec (253999) Midwife (254111) Registered Nurse (Aged Care) (254412) Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency) (254415) Registered Nurse (Medical) (254418) Registered Nurse (Mental Health) (254422)…

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Building Industry Update: New Practice Standard for Registered Certifiers

The NSW Government has released a new practice standard for registered certifiers. The standard has been developed as part of the building regulation reforms spearheaded by the NSW Building Commissioner, David Chandler OAM, and is focussed on certifiers of residential apartment buildings. The standard is intended to achieve the following: Provide a clear, accessible and specified standard of what is expected of certifiers in undertaking their role and functions. Clarify the professional obligations and conduct of certifiers as public officials. Reinforce the difference in the role of the certifier from builders and other building practitioners. Enhance the accountability and responsibility of certifiers. The practice standard is a comprehensive guide for certifiers on their obligations and walks certifiers through the following topics: Certifiers as public officials Conflicts of interest Construction certificates for building work Inspections of building work Occupation certificates Documentary evidence Compliance The standard has been prepared pursuant to section 14 of the Building and Development Certifiers Act 2018.  That section provides that a registered certifier’s conditions of registration may require the certifier to carry out their certification…

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NSW Building Reforms

Recently, there have been two new acts introduced in NSW that will have a considerable impact on the building and construction industry. Collectively known as ‘the Reforms’, these acts are: The Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (the DBP). The Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (the RAB). The objective of the Reforms is to ensure NSW’s building industry is constructing trustworthy buildings and delivering quality projects to consumers. The Reforms seek to increase the standard of current works, ensuring all work and materials used onsite are compliant with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian standards. The purpose behind the push to change the building and construction industry is to ensure the entire team involved in the construction process is both accountable and performing at optimum standard, rather than targeting individual players. The greatest accountability rests with the Developer (principal) as the individual/entity responsible for delivery of a product to consumers. The Reforms are to protect homeowners and ensure a quality and safe product. Part of this will see the regulator attending sites…

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Retail tenants and relief against forfeiture during COVID-19

If a tenant breaches a lease for non-payment of rent, there is a fundamental breach which gives a landlord the right to terminate the lease and take possession of the premises. However, a tenant has the right to apply to the court for an order restraining the landlord from doing so, otherwise known as relief against forfeiture. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts had yet to redefine the criteria used to award a tenant protection from the re-entry by their landlord. The High Court has previously applied a flexible approach to the instances where relief against forfeiture has been granted. However, how such principles that grant relief against forfeiture operate alongside constantly changing COVID-19 rules and regulations has been unclear. Would the courts extend the tenant’s rights and apply the right to relief more liberally? Sneakerboy Retail Pty Ltd v Georges Properties Pty Ltd [2020] NSWSC 996, decided by Justice Robb on 31 July 2020, goes someway to providing a list of considerations that clarify this issue in the current global health crisis. Background On…

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Thoughts and sympathies to the people affected by the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

On 4 August 2020, the world was shocked by the horrific explosion in Beirut, Lebanon which has killed at least 135 people and injured more than 5000 others. The stories of survivors and their experiences in the wake of the explosion are particularly harrowing. Many people from all over the world are still grappling with the events that have unfolded and are desperate to understand how such a catastrophic blast could occur. Still, the consequences of the explosion have not yet been fully realised, as emergency workers and responders continue to search for survivors and tend to the injured. In Australia, our Lebanese community and their extended family and friends have been deeply affected by this crisis, and we as Australians are similarly distraught. Our team at Madison Marcus maintains strong relationships with these local communities, and we wish to extend to them our sincerest thoughts and sympathies. We cannot possibly understand how distressing this has been for those who have loved ones living in Lebanon. We recognise that many people are experiencing this pain, and we want…

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How COVID-19 has impacted tenants’ and landlords’ rights: Residential Tenancies (Amendment) COVID-19 Regulation

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) COVID‑19 Regulation 2020 generally prohibits, until 14 October 2020, subject to further extension (the moratorium period), a landlord from giving a tenant who is a member of a household financially impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic (an impacted tenant) a termination notice for non‑payment of rental charges and provides that during the moratorium period a landlord may only evict an impacted tenant for non‑payment of rent or charges if: the landlord gives a termination notice or applies for a termination order at least 60 days after the commencement of the regulation the landlord and impacted tenant had participated in good faith in a formal rent negotiation process about the rent or charges payable it is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of a case for the landlord to give the termination notice or apply for the order. The Regulation requires a landlord under a residential tenancy agreement to give at least 90 days’ notice of the termination of: a fixed term tenancy at the end of the term a periodic tenancy a tenancy because of…

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HONG KONG UPDATE: THE IMPACT OF THE NEW NATIONAL SECURITY LAW UPON HONG KONG BUSINESSES, INVESTORS AND FUTURE AUSTRALIAN VISA APPLICANTS

In a response to Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country’s extradition agreement, extended visas for the estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people residing in Australia and announced that Australia is “looking to recruit” Hong Kong businesses. The new security law effectively gives Beijing the power to shape the lives of both individuals and businesses in Hong Kong. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said in a Press Conference on 9 July 2020 that there will be “new incentives and arrangements to attract export-orientated Hong Kong-based businesses to relocate to Australia, particularly where they have a strong potential for future growth and employment of Australians”, and that “through our global talent program… if there are businesses that wish to relocate to Australia, creating jobs, bringing investment, creating opportunities for Australia, then we will be very proactive in seeking to encourage that.” A 5 year temporary skilled visa with a pathway to permanent residency for future Hong Kong applicants will also be provided, subject to meeting an updated skills list and appropriate labour…

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GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES – PROMOTIONS ANNOUNCEMENT

At Madison Marcus, we love to celebrate employees who embody our values of passion, integrity, progress and teamwork. With that in mind, we’re thrilled to congratulate three of our team on their recent promotions. In Commercial Litigation, John de la Hoyde has been promoted to Partner and Nicholas Hallasso to Senior Associate, while Anna Minassian has been appointed Associate in our Strata Team.  Group Managing Director of Madison Marcus, Bechara Shamieh, had this to say about the highly valued team members: “It is always a privilege to watch staff grow and develop. John, Nicholas and Anna have all made wonderful contributions to the firm during their time here. They live and breathe our values and these promotions are much deserved recognition of all their hard work.” The promotion was a great honour for John de la Hoyde, who has excelled in areas of commercial litigation and dispute resolution. Understandably, he was delighted with the news and said: “This is a big milestone for me in my legal career. I am really excited to be part of the leadership…

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STRATA UPDATE: ANOTHER WIN FOR OWNERS CORPORATIONS AGAINST AIRBNB

Further to our recent article about our team’s big NCAT victory in having an owner fined for Airbnb letting and winning a costs order (click here to view), a recent change in laws will have an even bigger impact on stopping short term letting. In the Estens decision from 2017, the Tribunal invalidated a short-term letting by-law, for breaching s139(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (SSMA), which says a by-law cannot prohibit or restrict the leasing of a lot.   Many were critical of aspects of that decision, and it did not set a precedent other NCAT Members had to follow.  However, that is all a moot point now.  Owners corporations can decide if they want to be a building that allows Airbnb.   Can a valid by-law ban short-term letting? This answer was not previously clear, but is now emphatically yes.  Section 137A of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, passed in August 2018 by both houses of NSW Parliament, is at last now in effect. Section 137A says a by-law may prohibit a lot…

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BREAKING NEWS: SIGNIFICANT BUILDING INDUSTRY CHANGES TO COME AS NSW PARLIAMENT RELEASES FINAL REPORT

NSW Parliament releases “Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes” final report. The final report of the Public Accountability Committee, “Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes” was tabled by NSW Parliament on 30 April 2020. The report and its 22 significant recommendations are being considered by the government which must provide a response within six months. The 22 recommendations from the lengthy report are as follows: Recommendation 1 That the NSW Government introduce and debate the powers bill granting the NSW Building Commissioner new powers to ensure building standards as a matter of urgency when the NSW Parliament is reconvened in May 2020, with prompt circulation of the proposed bill to members of Parliament. Recommendation 2 That the NSW Government resume debate on the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 as a matter of urgency when the NSW Parliament is reconvened in May 2020. Recommendation 3 That the NSW Government empower the NSW Building Commissioner to oversee all licencing inspections, within the newly created Building Commission. Further, that the Building Commission hire additional,…

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COVID-19 Update 3 April 2020: Commercial Tenancy Coronavirus Crisis Code of Practice coming to a contract near you next week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this afternoon has urged commercial landlords and tenants to come to an agreement in relation to financial hardship as the Government reserves announcement regarding a mandatory Coronavirus Industry Code of Practice to be announced and imposed next week.

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