Update 1 April


The release of the Federal Budget 2022-23 is indicating a stronger economy will help to repair the budget.

It demonstrates the fiscal dividend of a strong economy, with more Australians in work and fewer Australians on welfare, flowing through to a significantly improved fiscal outlook.

The strength of the economy, and in particular the labour market, combined with higher near-term commodity prices, has driven large upward revisions to tax receipts and reductions in unemployment benefit payments.

In this edition, we have outlined the ten key takeaways for Small Businesses.

A cyber security incident that impacts a small business can be devastating. The Small Business Cyber Security guide has been developed to help small businesses protect themselves from the most common cyber security incidents. The language is clear, the actions are simple, and the guidance is tailored for small businesses.

The Northern Rivers has continued to face more devastating impact from recurrent flooding. Please see more invaluable information from the Byron Shire Business E-News. If you would like to subscribe please visit the links provided below.

We thank you for your support and that of our community.

The WD Nicholls Team



The 2022 federal budget has arrived. With inflation surging, and skills shortages still constraining local businesses, today’s budget aims to placate businesses concerned about rising costs and a lack of qualified labour.


Here are ten key takeaways for Australia’s small business community.

  1. The federal government has pledged $2.8 billion to boost apprenticeship uptake and employee retention in the face of skills shortages. The cornerstone of that promise: a new Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System, which will provide wage subsidies to businesses that take on trainees in “priority” fields. That’s good news for SMEs dreading the end of the (recently extended) Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements scheme, and the subsidies it provides.

  2. Small businesses looking to build their digital firepower can claim “bonus” tax deductions on eligible expenses. From now, firms can claim a further 20% on assets like laptops or servers, up to a total of $100,000 expenditure. Similarly, a further 20% deduction is available on external training courses to upskill employees in forward-looking fields like cloud computing, cyber security, and web design.

  3. The ‘patent box’ scheme will expand to cover developments in agriculture and low emission technologies. The scheme originally permitted income derived from Australian-born medical and biotech patents to be taxed at a concessional rate of 17%; applying the same tax rate to climate-focused tech is hoped to foster climate-focused innovation at home.

  4. The low and middle-income tax offset (LMITO) will grow in the 2021-2022 income year. A new $420 cost of living boost will provide workers with $1,500 in tax relief at tax time. However, there are no signs the offset will continue past this financial year.

  5. Drivers, the fuel excise on petrol and diesel will halve from March 30, from 44.2 cents per litre to 22.1 cents per litre. That halving will last six months – and the budget states the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission will make sure retailers pass the full discount to motorists.

  6. As expected, proposed improvements to small business cash flow, built around changes to Pay-As-You-Go tax calculations, are included in the federal budget. The federal government has proposed a reduction of the GDP “uplift” rate from 10% to 2%, a move it claims will improve the cash flow of around 2.3 million taxpaying businesses.

  7. The paid parental leave scheme will become “fairer” under the federal budget, even if the total number of weeks’ leave isn’t growing. In short: 18 weeks’ paid leave, plus two weeks of ‘dad and partner pay’, will become 20 weeks of paid leave, fully sharable between eligible parents. Despite calls from industry groups, superannuation contributions will not apply to parental leave, either.

  8. Despite calls from some corners to make it permanent, there’s no indication the instant asset write-off scheme will linger past the end of the 2022-2023 financial year.

  9. Disaster funding is on the way for flood-affected communities in NSW and Queensland. Some $150 million from the Emergency Response Fund will flow towards recovery and disaster resilience activities through 2022-2023, budget papers say. Elsewhere, $800,000 in funding will bolster the Regional Small Business Support Program in 2023, assisting flood-impacted small businesses in northern NSW and southern Queensland.

  10. $56.2 million in funding will go towards programs assisting women to take on positions in the technology and manufacturing industries. Extra program mentioned in the budget aims to provide more women with entrepreneurial skills.

Source and credit: SmartCompany.com.au

Since the last update, we mentioned the share market sell-off, Inflation worries, and the Ukraine v Russia conflict. Unfortunately, the latter is still in progress and hopefully, all is resolved soon! Looking a month forward- where are we now?

Since my last article a month ago markets were in the midst of a sell-off. For the month of February markets performed as follows:

As you can see the Australian share market is the star performer. Why is this so? There were a couple of elements that have supported this rally (halfway through February).

  1. Commodity prices: Due to the everything Russian Ban, commodity prices have soared and with our country being very rich in commodities investors flocked to this sector; and

  2. Australia can often be used as a defensive economy in times of volatility. Given our geographical position to Russia/Ukraine and the above commodities position.

As I mentioned in last month's markets, we were all expecting a rate rise in March however the market was trying to predict how many interest rate rises will there be? In March, the Federal Reserve not only confirmed the 0.25% increase they also provided clarification on their target interest rate by the end of the year. The markets were very positive with the announcement as it was below their predictions. From the 15th March we have seen markets rally as follows:

Though the sharemarkets took the Fed Reserve’s interest rate action plan positively, the Bond market has reacted the opposite. The Bond market has continued to increase its long term view on interest rates and as of today the market is pricing in rates to be as follows:

  • 2-year yield: US 2.33% Australia 1.76%

  • 5-year yield: US 2.55% Australia 2.67%

  • 10-year yield: US 2.45% Australia 2.90%

This is having a large impact on existing Bondholders. The Australian Bond Index is down 7.59% over the last 6 months which is quite significant in bond market terms. Will be interesting to see what happens from here.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Cyber security incidents have the potential to be devastating for all businesses, big and small. In response to the heightened cyber threat environment, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is urging all Australian businesses to enhance their cyber security posture to mitigate and reduce the impact of cyber threats.


The Small Business Cyber Security Guide helps businesses understand, take action, and increase cyber security resilience.


Some keys area's of interest include;

Malicious Software (Malware)

What? Unauthorised software designed to cause harm

Malware is a blanket term for malicious software including viruses, spyware, trojans and worms.


Why? Disrupt. Damage. Deceive.

Malware provides criminals with a way to access important information such as bank or credit card numbers and passwords.

It can also take control of or spy on a user’s computer. What criminals choose to do with this access and data includes:

  • Fraud

  • Identity theft

  • Disrupting business

  • Stealing sensitive data or intellectual property

  • Siphoning computer resources for wider criminal activity

Who? Anyone, anywhere

Malware creators can be anywhere in the world.

All they need is a computer, technical skills and malicious intent. Criminals can easily access cheap tools to use malware against you.

Criminals cast a wide net and go after the most vulnerable. Through implementing cyber security measures and staying alert to threats, you can protect your business from being the easy target.


PROTECTING AGAINST MALWARE

  • Automatically update your operating system

  • Automatically update your software applications

  • Regularly back up your business’ data

Scam Emails (Phishing)

What? ‘Dodgy’ emails, messages, or calls designed to trick recipients out of money and data

Criminals will often use email, social media, phone calls, or text messages to try and scam Australian businesses.

These criminals might pretend to be an individual or organisation you think you know, or think you should trust.

Their messages and calls attempt to trick businesses into performing specific actions, such as:

  • Paying fraudulent invoices or changing payment details for legitimate invoices

  • Revealing bank account details, passwords, and credit card numbers (sometimes known as ‘phishing’ scams, cybercriminals can mimic official branding and logos from banks and websites to seem legitimate)

  • Giving remote access to your computer or server Opening an attachment, which may contain malware

  • Purchasing gift cards and sending them to the scammer

Where? Emails, Social Media, Phone Calls, Text Messages

Phishing scams are not limited to emails. They are increasingly sophisticated and harder to spot.

Be cautious of urgent requests for money, changes to bank accounts, unexpected attachments, and requests to check or confirm login details.

Visit Scamwatch to report a scam.


Who? Australian Businesses

Scam messages can be sent to thousands of people, or target one specific person.

However, there are common techniques that criminals will use to try and trick your staff. Their messages might include:

  • Authority: Is the message claiming to be from someone official or someone senior in the business?

  • Urgency: Are you told there is a problem, or that you have a limited time to respond or pay?

  • Emotion: Does the message make you feel panicked, hopeful, or curious?

  • Scarcity: Is the message offering something in short supply, or promising a good deal?

  • Current events: Is the message about a current news story or big event?

FEELING UNSURE If you think a message or call might truly be from an organisation you trust (such as your bank or a supplier) find a contact method you can trust. Search for the official website or phone their advertised phone number. Do not use the links or contact details in the message you have been sent or given over the phone as these could be fraudulent.

Ransomware

What? A type of malware that locks down your computer or files until a ransom is paid

Ransomware works by locking up or encrypting your files so that you can no longer use or access them. Sometimes it can even stop your devices from working. Ransomware can infect your devices in the same way as other malware. For example:

  • Visiting unsafe or suspicious websites

  • Opening links, emails or files from unknown sources

  • Having poor security on your network or devices (including servers)

Why? Money

Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable, as they are less likely to implement cyber security measures that could help prevent and recover from ransomware.

Who? Small, medium and large businesses

Many small businesses are often less security conscious, are less likely to implement cyber security measures, and spend less on cyber security measures.

NEVER PAY A RANSOM Paying a ransom does not guarantee a victim’s files will be restored, nor does it prevent the publication of any stolen data or its on-sale for use in other crimes. It also increases the likelihood of a victim being targeted again. If you experience a ransomware incident and require support, you can call our 24/7 Hotline on 1300 CYBER1 (1300 292 371). Irrespective of the decision to pay a ransom, victims are encouraged to report ransomware incidents to the ACSC via ReportCyber. Sharing information about incidents helps to protect other Australian businesses.

Software Considerations

Managing your software, data, and online accounts can drastically increase your business’ protection from the most common types of cyber threats.

For example, your operating system is the most important piece of software on your computer. It manages your computer’s hardware and all its programs, and therefore needs to be updated regularly to ensure you are always using the most secure version.

Improve resilience, stay up to date and stay secure with these software considerations for small businesses.

Automatic Updates

What? Software updates

An update is an improved version of software (programs, apps and operating systems) you have installed on your servers, computers and mobile devices. An automatic update is a default or ‘set and forget’ system that updates your software as soon as one is available.


Why? Security

  • Keeping your operating system and applications up-to-date is one of the best ways to protect yourself from a cyber security incident

  • Regularly updating your software will reduce the chance of a cybercriminal using a known weakness to run malware or hack your device

  • Saving you time and worry, automatic updates are an important part of keeping your devices and your data safe

When? Today & everyday

  • Turn on automatic updates, especially for operating systems

  • Regularly check for updates if automatic updates are unavailable

  • If you receive a prompt to update your operating system or other software, you should install the update as soon as possible

  • Set a convenient time for automatic updates to avoid disruptions to business as usual

  • If you use antivirus software, ensure automatic updates are turned on

NOTE: If your hardware or software is too old it may be unable to update and could leave your business vulnerable to security issues. We recommend upgrading your device or software as soon as possible. As of 2020, Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows Server 2008 have reached end of support and are no longer secure. For more information you can read our Quick Wins guide for End of Support

For more information click the link below.


Source and credit: Cyber.gov.au


Roads

Our crews have been out assessing damage to our road network, but there are still a number of areas that remain inaccessible in our hinterland.

Thankfully, waters have receded in the Byron Bay town centre and while there were still some diversions in place today most roads are now open.

Redgate Road at New Brighton is now open with caution as is Balemo Drive Ocean Shores and Broken Head Road, Broken Head. A full list of our road closures and cautions can be viewed at the Live Traffic website.

Today there was improved access at Billinudgel with river heights receding.

There is one-way traffic only at the landslip site at St Helena.

Federal

The landslip on Federal Drive has worsened. Following an engineering inspection, we have found the cracks in the road have opened significantly. Further geotechnical monitoring will be required to come up with a solution for this area.

Residents should know it may take some months before this area is repaired.

Wilsons Creek, Huonbrook, Wanganui

We have received geotechnical advice that there has been further deterioration at Huonbrook 1. The landslip has moved again, and the road is in significantly worse condition after the recent weather event.

Local and emergency 4WD traffic only is permitted through here. The road is also closed to pedestrians to ensure their safety. Stabilisation works are planned to start here tomorrow.

We have had crews in Wilsons Creek this morning restoring access where possible and removing debris. We have received reports that Wanganui causeway 1 has washed out again, however our crews will likely not start repairs until next week.

There are further washouts being reported in Upper Huonbrook that will be inspected as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, a number of emergency footbridges that were built by the ADF in Upper Huonbrook have washed away.

Main Arm

This afternoon our crews were only able to gain access up to Caseys Corner at Palmwoods, where work was underway to restore access.

It is currently not safe to access Kohinur Hall from Upper Main Arm, and we will be prioritising access in this area as soon as it is possible.

Our temporary repair efforts in Main Arm and Upper Main Arm have been severely compromised in the weather event this week.

Council advises it is not safe to attempt to traverse any flood-damaged roads or causeways in Main Arm and Upper Main Arm.

Upper Coopers Creek

Unfortunately, the temporary access at Englishes Bridge on Englishes Road washed away in the weather event.

The water today was still too high for our crews to reinstate the bridge. Once water levels recede, it will take around a week to rebuild the temporary access.

There are also other landslips on Coopers Creek Road and we are monitoring these.

Drainage

We are investigating the flooding event in the Byron Bay town centre and Suffolk Park yesterday.

The Bureau of Meteorology gauges recorded 319mm of rain at Coopers Shoot and 282mm in Byron Bay in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday morning.

The intensity of the rain was beyond the capacity of Council’s drainage pipe network.

The already soaked catchment is believed to have exacerbated the problem with no water being absorbed into the ground, instead flowing straight into drains and streets.

In addition to this, the level of the ocean is currently higher than normal so the water flowing out of Belongil Creek and Tallow Creek was slowed considerably when the ocean was pushing against it.

As soon as we could yesterday we started checking the drains for blockages.

The Clarks Beach drain was blocked and we did clear that yesterday afternoon and that helped some of the water getaway.

We didn’t find any other major blockages in the network.

It’s estimated a drainage upgrade in Byron Bay will cost around $15 million and Council has applied for funding for this project, but so far has been unsuccessful, in getting Government grants to enable this work to get started.

We are continuing to apply for grants for this important project.

Tell us about flood heights at your property

We would like to hear from flood-affected residents and businesses about the flood heights you experienced at your property or business.

This will support the technical data being compiled by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and NSW Public Works Advisory. The data will help us plan for the future.

Use the online form to provide your information and any photos relating to flood heights.

Tell us about flood heights at your property

Waste

Council, with help from the ADF, has started the clean-up of waste from the rain earlier this week.

Tomorrow, 1 April, we will start a clean-up in parts of Suffolk Park.

PLEASE – this is a service only for people who have been impacted by the flooding. It’s not available to people who want to clean out their garage.

If you do have bulk flood waste, call the Resource Recovery Hotline, 1300 652 625, so we can make sure you are not missed.

Booked flood recovery collections will start again tomorrow.

The Byron Resource Recovery Centre is open but the Second Hand Tip Shop is closed.

There are delays so please be patient.

Stormwater and Sewer

Sewer

We are still responding to problems with the sewer system after the heavy rain flooded many of our pump stations.

If you have a sewer or drainage problem, contact our staff at the depot on 02 6685 9300 during business hours.

If it’s an emergency after-hours call 02 6622 7022.

Stormwater

Do not play in stormwater.

Stormwater is dirty and often contaminated with sewer run-off and other substances that are harmful to our health.

If you decide to swim or surf in dirty water, then you need to accept the health risks that go with that.

For more information about the dangers and health risks associated with stormwater go to the NSW Health website.

Evacuation Centres update

An evacuation centre is operating at the Cavanbah Centre, Ewingsdale Road.

Evacuation centres at Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores have closed.

Flood Recovery Centre

The Mullum Flood Recovery Centre in Dalley Street will reopen on Saturday 2 April, 9 am to 2pm.


Source and credit: Byron Shire E News

If you wish to arrange a telephone appointment or zoom meeting with one of our team please contact our office either by telephone or email.