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Industry Comment

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

In developing disclosure guidelines for socially responsible investment products ASIC would do well to follow the guidelines set out at the end of 2002 by the Global Reporting Initiative, rather than set its own standards.

If companies and funds around the world follow GRI requirements, investors will be able to accurately compare and contrast similar SRI products, no matter where they are domiciled, and make investment decisions accordingly.

ASIC must also consider how it might monitor the compliance of SRI funds with any final guidance it issues - there’s no point developing guidelines for SRI products without setting up a system to monitor their use.

Disclosure should focus on the selection process used to pick stocks and securities for SRI funds and, where possible, the specific nature of the reporting and certification standards that they take into account on an ongoing basis.

While setting down disclosure guidelines is useful, what is really needed is a culture of transparency in boardrooms so that investors can access genuinely true and timely information about companies’ efforts to manage the impact they have on society and the environment.

Australian Council for Infrastructure Development

Investment in Australia’s transport infrastructure is only looked at strategically by governments during recessionary times.

This short-term focus, if continued, will cost Australia dearly.

The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research study into Australia’s transport infrastructure shows that investment in transport infrastructure is a strategic driver of economic growth and as such planning and expenditure should be determined largely independently of the state of the economy.

More than three per cent of GDP was invested in transport infrastructure over the 1960s.

In the 20 years to 1993, expenditure fell, a reaching a low point of 1.3 per cent in 1989.

In 2001, transport infrastructure investment was 1.4 per cent of GDP.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia

The decision on the Sizer Builders applications by the WA Industrial Relations Commission confirms business fears that the state’s new industrial relations laws give trade unions a very broad ‘right of entry’ to workplaces with little ability for employers to require reasonable behaviour by union officials.

The failure of the Sizer Builders application to revoke the right-of-entry authority issued to Joe McDonald leaves the union organizer with the worst record for workplace strife free to continue his disruptive activities with the blessing of the state.

The new right-of-entry provisions provide little in the way of safe guards against union abuse of the rules.

The Commission’s acceptance in this particular case of the legitimacy of safety concerns argued by the CFMEU, without rigorous testing, waters down what little protection the legislation supposedly provides to employers.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia

The Mines Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board Safety Survey Report 2002 is a constructive way forward to delivering continuous improvements in mining safety.

The report has confirmed the significant progress made by the mining industry in providing safer and more secure working environments for its employees.

Over the past ten years, the industry’s main safety indicator has improved by about 90 per cent, and the industry is committed to maintaining and improving this record.

While on some issues the mining industry needs to improve its performance, the industry’s commitment to safety was clearly evident from its support for the survey, which required complete openness and honesty from all participating mining companies.

The MOSHAB Safety Survey Report is available from www.doir.wa.gov.au.

Western Australian Farmers Federation

Sectors of the agricultural industry are set to lose again under a revised payroll tax-charging regime replacing a multi-tiered system with a single marginal rate of six per cent.

Although the taxation reform program proposes to raise the exemption, by increasing the tax rate the Government seems to have neglected to consider the ramifications on companies with a high number of employees, especially sub-contractors.

Many rural businesses such as shearing contractors, abattoirs and wool brokers spend more than $1.5 million a year on wages and will pay more under such a system.

These additional costs will be recovered from their farmer clients. It’s the farmers who pay and they cannot recoup these costs.

The proposed changes look to ensure the Gallop Government will come out in front, at the expense of labour-intensive industries.

It’s another example of government making value-added industries less competitive.

Payroll tax along with the superannuation levy and workers compensation premiums, have made the cost of labour in Australia extremely high and has created the overall effect of exporting jobs.

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