#AceNewsReport – Aug.05: The telco announced today local or national calls to a fixed line or Australian mobile from a Telstra payphone would no longer incur a charge: The move means the days of scrambling for 50 cents in change, or devising a code involving a predetermined number of rings were effectively over…..
#AceDailyNews says that local, national and calls to mobiles will now be free from Telstra payphones and the company said around 11 million calls were made from its payphones last year, including 230,000 calls to critical services such as 000 and Lifeline.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the move to make every payphone free would cost the company around $5 million a year:
“Just watching over the last 18 months how they’ve played a role in emergency situations through the bushfires in keeping people connected and particularly those that are vulnerable and disadvantaged, I just thought we’ve got to a point where we can make this free,” he said
“It’s not not a big deal for Telstra.”
“It just means people don’t have to worry about having a pocketful of coins if they need to make a phone call in an emergency.”
Mr Penn said Telstra had no plans to remove any of the payphones, and the number of phones the company maintained was determined by the federal government.
The phones have previously been made free to communities affected by natural disasters, or in remote indigenous communities.
Telstra has also offered free Christmas and New Year calls from its payphones for the past five years.
Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle said it was a “game changer” for people who couldn’t afford a mobile phone, or have had to leave dangerous domestic situations.
“Many vulnerable Australians don’t have access to a mobile phone so it’s really important for them to break down that sense of social poverty, social isolation to connect with a friend, or to connect with a service,” he said.
“During COVID we’ve seen the spotlight shone on isolation and the reality is there is a proportion of Australians that suffer from social isolation every day of their lives.”
#AceDailyNews reports that ACCC Investigation leads to Lorna Jane Pty Ltd admitted that, between 2nd & 23 July 2020, it falsely represented to consumers that its LJ Shield Activewear “eliminated”, “stopped the spread” and “protected wearers” against “viruses including #COVID19”. The misleading representations were made on in-store signage, on its website, on Instagram, in emails to consumers and in media releases.
The claims made by Lorna Jane about its LJ Shield Activewear included “Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So” and “LJ SHIELD is a groundbreaking technology that makes transferal of all pathogens to your Activewear (and let’s face it, the one we’re all thinking about is Covid-19) impossible by eliminating the virus on contact with the fabric”.
“Lorna Jane falsely promoted its LJ Shield Activewear as eliminating or providing protection from COVID amidst growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Australia,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“The whole marketing campaign was based upon consumers’ desire for greater protection against the global pandemic.”
“The $5 million in penalties imposed by the Court highlights the seriousness of Lorna Jane’s conduct, which the judge called ‘exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous’,” Mr Sims said.
Lorna Jane also admitted that it had falsely represented it had a scientific or technological basis for making the ‘anti-virus’ claims about its LJ Shield Activewear, when no such basis existed. The company admitted that it did not have any scientific testing results showing the effectiveness of LJ Shield Activewear on viruses, including COVID-19, nor did it have any scientific results or evidence which would establish the truth of the representations.
Lorna Jane also admitted that director and Chief Creative Officer, Ms Lorna Jane Clarkson, authorised and approved the LJ Shield Activewear promotional material, was involved in crafting the words and developing the imagery used in the marketing campaign, and personally made some of the false statements contained in a media release and an Instagram video.
The judge also said he had taken into account that ‘the conduct emanated from a high managerial level within the company’ and ‘was directed by Ms Clarkson’.
“This was dreadful conduct as it involved making serious claims regarding public health when there was no basis for them,” Mr Sims said.
“This type of conduct is particularly harmful where, as here, consumers cannot easily check or monitor the claims made.”
Before the start of a hearing on liability, Lorna Jane cooperated with the ACCC, making admissions and agreeing to make joint submissions regarding the imposition of penalties totalling $5 million.
The Court also ordered by consent that for a period of three years, Lorna Jane is restrained from making any “anti-virus” claims regarding its activewear clothing unless it has a reasonable basis for doing so, must publish corrective notices across the mediums utilised in the marketing campaign, must establish a consumer law compliance program, and must pay the ACCC’s costs.
Lorna Jane is an Australian-owned company that manufactures and retails women’s activewear, founded by its co-director Lorna Jane Clarkson. It has 108 stores in Australia, as well as a number of international stores, including in the USA and New Zealand.
On 17 July 2020, the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) issued three infringement notices to Lorna Jane in connection with its marketing campaign, with penalties totalling $39,960. The TGA’s infringement notices related to Lorna Jane’s failure to register goods on the Australian register of therapeutic goods, a breach of the advertising code and Lorna Jane’s failure to seek TGA approval prior to making certain claims.
On 21 December 2020, the ACCC instituted proceedings against Lorna Jane Pty Ltd for alleged false and misleading claims and against Lorna Jane Clarkson for allegedly being knowingly concerned in the conduct.
Lorna Jane claimed that the substance it marketed as “Lorna Jane Shield”, when sprayed on its activewear fabric, would eliminate viruses including COVID-19, when they came into contact with the fabric, protecting the wearer from contracting or spreading such dangerous viruses, including COVID-19. It described the technology as ‘ground breaking’, and claimed that the substance permanently adheres to the garments, making transferal of pathogens, including COVID-19, to the garments impossible, eliminating viruses on contact.
These example images were used across various media that formed part of the LJ Shield Activewear marketing campaign in July 2020:
#AceNewsReport – July.22: Baby bouncers, rockers and recliners can be potentially deadly for infants, and the public health advice remains for infants to sleep on a flat, firm surface without pillows or bumpers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
#AceDailyNews says infants can suffocate when sleeping in so-called ‘infant inclined products’, such as bouncers, rockers, swings, loungers, bassinet-type products, wedges, recliners and sleep accessories due to the incline, curvature of the backrest and soft sleeping surface according to ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said…..
“We are looking for feedback about these products to address the risks of injury and death.”
In the US, 73 infants died in incidents in infant inclined products between January 2005 and June 2019. There have been no fatalities in Australia that are reported to be directly attributed to infant inclined products.
“We are urging parents and carers to check if they have any of these products and to stop using them. You should contact the manufacturers directly to seek a refund,” Ms Rickard said.
“Often, baby products are handed down to family or friends when a child outgrows them. Make sure you do not unknowingly pass on a dangerous product.”
The ACCC has today published an issues paper with options to address the hazards of inclined sleeping products, and is seeking feedback from stakeholders, including consumer representatives, medical professionals, as well as manufacturers and retailers of infant inclined products.
There are currently no mandatory or voluntary standards in Australia that specifically apply to infant inclined products.
The issues paper outlines a range of options for stakeholders to contribute feedback to, including mandatory safety and information standards, bans, consumer education and improved on-product warnings and is seeking input into the potential costs and effectiveness of options to address the risks associated with infant inclined products.
On 12 July 2019: ACCC initiated a safety review of infant inclined products following reports of infant fatalities in the United States in bouncers, rockers and recliners. Due to the impact of COVID-19, this work was temporarily paused in early 2020.
Implementing strategies to prevent injuries and deaths to infants caused by sleeping products identified as unsafe is a Product Safety Priority for the ACCC this year.
‘Infant Inclined Products’ are a broad category of products used by parents and caregivers that position infants at an inclined angle. There are a number of different products potentially falling within this category such as rockers, bouncers, swings, co-sleepers and bassinet-type products.
The ACCC is particularly concerned about sleep products that are designed, or marketed as suitable for an infant to sleep in, with a sleep surface that has an incline greater than 10 degrees.
Advice for consumers:
If you have infant inclined sleeping products at home consider whether you want to continue using them.
If you continue to use the products:
Never leave your infant unattended.
Stop using the product when your baby begins to roll.
Put the product on a flat floor surface, away from potential hazards.
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of the product.
Remember to only place infants to sleep on a flat, firm surface.
#AceNewsReport – July.09: The Dairy Code requires most dairy processors to publish on their websites, on 1 June each year, standard form milk supply agreements to cover all the circumstances in which they intend to purchase milk in the coming financial year on their websites. This allows farmers to compare processors’ minimum prices and contract terms.
ACCC Report: Issued Brownes Dairy two infringement notices for publishing two standard form milk supply agreements (exclusive and exclusive A2) on its website in June 2020 which allegedly did not comply with the Dairy Code by:
not specifying a definite end date of the supply period;
allowing Brownes Dairy to unilaterally vary the agreement in circumstances other than those specified in the Dairy Code;
allowing Brownes Dairy to unilaterally vary the agreement without the variations being in writing; and
allowing Brownes Dairy to unilaterally reduce the minimum price for milk supplied (‘unilateral prospective step down’) in circumstances other than those specified in the Dairy Code.
“It is critical that processors take active steps to ensure compliance with the Dairy Code so that farmers have the certainty and transparency in relation to milk supply agreements that the Code is intended to provide,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“One of the requirements of the Dairy Code is that processors ensure their milk supply agreements are compliant before publishing them on their websites, and in this instance Brownes Dairy published two supply agreements that were allegedly non-compliant with the Code.”
Brownes Dairy has addressed the ACCC’s concerns in the 2021-22 agreements which it published last month. Brownes Dairy also undertook to write to farmers that it had contracts with, advising that it will only exercise its rights under existing agreements to the extent they are consistent with the terms of these new agreements.
“Ensuring compliance with the Dairy Code remains an ACCC priority. We are continuing to assess agreements published on 1 June this year, and any identified breaches may result in the ACCC taking enforcement action where appropriate,” Mr Keogh said.
Brownes Dairy is one of three major processors in the WA milk market, and is supplied by 50 dairy farms in WA’s South West.
The Dairy Code came into effect on 1 January 2020. It is a mandatory industry code regulating the conduct of farmers and milk processors in their dealings with one another.
It aims to improve the clarity and transparency of trading arrangements between dairy farmers and those buying their milk.
Under the Dairy Code, a processor must, on or before 2.00pm on 1 June each year, publish on its website:
one or more standard forms of milk supply agreements; and
for each standard form milk supply agreement, a statement setting out the circumstances in which the processor would enter into the agreement.
The publication obligations of the Dairy Code apply to all processors with an annual aggregated turnover of $10 million or more in the previous financial year.
All processors and farmers, regardless of size, must at all times deal with each other in good faith under the Code.
Additional Case Notes:
The Dairy Code of Conduct is an abbreviation for the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes—Dairy) Regulations 2019.
The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened a civil penalty provision of the Dairy Code.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Dairy Code.
#AceNewsReport – July.07: Over the last 40 years, international crude oil prices in inflation-adjusted terms were on average around USD 61 per barrel. In March 2021 monthly average crude oil prices were above this long-term average for the first time since December 2019.
#AceDailyNews reports petrol prices rise on the back of higher international crude oil prices and according to the ACCC’s latest petrol monitoring report, the average retail price for petrol across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth was 133.4 cents per litre (cpl), an increase of 12.0 cpl from the December quarter 2020. Adelaide experienced the largest increase at 18.0 cpl and Brisbane the smallest at 9.6 cpl.and what we are experiencing in Australia is a flow-on effect of higher international crude oil and refined petrol prices,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“The OPEC cartel controls a huge amount of global oil supply. Its agreements to restrict supply means higher crude oil prices which largely influence refined petrol prices. The higher price of Mogas 95, the benchmark for refined regular unleaded petrol in the Asia-Pacific region, means we are paying more for petrol at the bowser,” Mr Sims said.
Retail prices in Australia are primarily determined by international refined petrol prices, as shown in the following chart.
Source: ACCC calculations based on data from FUELtrac, OPIS, Argus Media and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Note: The area to the right of the dotted vertical line represents the March quarter 2021.
The retail petrol price in Australia can be divided into three components: the petrol that goes into the tank, taxes, and the costs and margins of wholesalers and retailers.
In the March quarter 2021, the cost of petrol and taxes were nearly the same, and together made up 82 per cent of the average retail price of petrol.
“A large proportion of what consumers pay when filling up their car is fuel excise tax, and some of this, in effect, is used by the government to fund Australia’s roads,” Mr Sims said.
Demand for petrol remained below pre-pandemic levels
Demand for petrol in the March quarter 2021 remained below pre-pandemic levels, with petrol sales volumes across Australia declining slightly between the December 2020 and March 2021 quarters.
“In the second half of 2020 national petrol sales partially recovered when some COVID-19 restrictions were eased. However lockdowns in Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and parts of Sydney, and floods in New South Wales and Queensland, contributed to sales declining slightly in the March quarter 2021,” Mr Sims said.
Average sales for the quarter were around seven per cent lower than quarterly average sales volumes in calendar year 2019, but seven per cent higher than quarterly average sales volumes in calendar year 2020.
Gross retail margins fell in the quarter
Average gross indicative retail differences in the five largest cities fell slightly for the second consecutive quarter, however they still remain relatively high. In the March quarter, they were 15.8 cpl, a decrease of 1.6 cpl from the previous quarter.
Gross indicative retail differences are the difference between retail prices and terminal gate (or wholesale) prices, and are a broad indicator of gross retail margins. As they include retail operating costs, they should not be interpreted as actual retail profits.
Lower petrol demand from the effects of COVID-19 likely contributed to the high gross indicative retail differences in 2020, and this may have continued in the March quarter.
“There are some fixed costs involved in petrol retailing and businesses may have been setting retail prices higher than they otherwise would to offset lower sales volumes,” Mr Sims said.
South Australia introduces fuel transparency scheme
In March this year the South Australian Government commenced its fuel price transparency scheme, which will be trialled for the next two years.
“Our industry report released in June 2021 revealed that independent chains generally have the lowest prices in capital cities. Fuel price transparency schemes help customers to make more informed purchasing decisions and find the cheapest petrol,” Mr Sims said.
A range of commercial apps and websites are available to help motorists in South Australia find the lowest prices. These include the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia’s new myRAA app, as well as other apps and websites such as FuelPrice Australia, MotorMouth, Pumped and PetrolSpy.
“It’s great news that South Australian motorists now also benefit from access to real-time prices through the new scheme. They join motorists in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory who can access real-time fuel prices through similar schemes,” Mr Sims said.
Regional prices were below prices in the five largest cities
Average petrol prices across 190 regional locations for the March quarter were 130.1 cpl, 3.3 cpl lower than prices in the five largest cities. Average prices across these locations have been lower than those in the five largest cities for the third consecutive quarter.
“Petrol prices have traditionally been higher in regional areas, where there is generally less competition, so three consecutive quarters of lower prices than major capital cities is good news for people filling up at the bowser in the regions,” Mr Sims said.
On 16 December 2019, the Treasurer issued a new Direction to the ACCC to monitor the prices, costs and profits relating to the supply of petroleum products in the petroleum industry in Australia and produce a report every quarter. This is the sixth quarterly petrol monitoring report under the new Direction.
#AceNewsReport – July.05: The Court found Captain Cook College implemented a system of unconscionable conduct from 7 September 2015, when it removed consumer safeguards from its enrolment and withdrawal processes for online courses under the former VET FEE-HELP loan program to improve its financial performance.
During a period of about three months following these changes, Captain Cook College enrolled over 7,000 consumers in online courses in subjects such as business, project management and human resource management, and claimed over $50 million from the Commonwealth under the VET FEE-HELP program for about 6,000 of those consumers.
“Captain Cook College enrolled vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers in courses they were unlikely to ever complete or receive any vocational benefit from despite incurring a large VET FEE-HELP debt. Over 90 per cent of the affected consumers did not complete any part of their online course, and about 86 per cent of them never even logged into their course,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Captain Cook College engaged in egregious conduct that sought to maximise its profit at the expense of students who were left with a debt and at the expense of the Commonwealth, which made substantial payments under the VET FEE HELP scheme, which was funded by taxpayers.”
The Court found that “…the college well knew that its dramatic increase in revenue and turnaround in profits was substantially built on [VET FEE-HELP] revenue in respect of students who may have been the victims of [course advisors’] misconduct, were unsuitable for enrolment, should not have been enrolled and who would gain no benefit whatsoever from their enrolment, yet who incurred very substantial debts to the Commonwealth as a result of their enrolment.”
In addition, Captain Cook College was found to have breached the Australian Consumer Law in its dealings with five individual consumers by engaging in unconscionable conduct, making false or misleading representations and failing to comply with the requirements for unsolicited consumer agreements.
The Court also found that the college’s parent company, Site Group International Limited (Site Group) and its former chief operating officer Blake Wills were knowingly concerned in Captain Cook College’s system of unconscionable conduct.
The Court will decide penalties and other orders in relation to Captain Cook College, Site Group and Mr Wills at a later date.
As part of a settlement with the ACCC in June 2020, former Captain Cook College CEO Ian Cook admitted that he was knowingly concerned in Captain Cook College’s system of unconscionable conduct. The Court disqualified Mr Cook from managing corporations for three years and ordered that he pay $250,000 in penalties and make a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.
The Commonwealth has already cancelled the debts of eligible consumers enrolled with Captain Cook College between 1 January 2015 and 31 January 2016 under the VET FEE-HELP Student Redress Measures. This includes all consumers that were affected by Captain Cook College’s system of unconscionable conduct that did not complete any part of their course.
The VET FEE-HELP Student Redress Measures came into effect on 1 January 2019. The measures provide a remedy for eligible students who, due to the inappropriate conduct of their VET provider, incurred debts under the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme.
If it’s confirmed you incurred your debt because of inappropriate behaviour by your provider, the Ombudsman may make recommendations to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to cancel your VET FEE-HELP debts.
More than $2.8 billion in VET FEE-HELP debt has been re-credited to over 152,800 students since 2016, the majority through the VET FEE-HELP Student Redress Measures.
Productivity Partners Pty Ltd trading as Captain Cook College was a provider of online VET FEE-HELP diploma courses.
Captain Cook College was established in 1998, and was acquired by Site Group (ASX:SIT) in 2014. It ceased substantive trading at the end of 2016.
#AceNewsReport – Jun.25: Major falls in wholesale electricity costs and new laws requiring retailers to pass on cuts are likely to result in lower electricity bills in 2021, despite residential consumption rising by 10 per cent and household bills increasing by 7 per cent in 2020:
#AceDailyNews says ……The ACCC’s latest electricity markets report, released today, shows that #COVID19 restrictions had significant impacts on electricity bills, with households using 10 per cent more electricity as people spent more time at home, and small businesses using 17 per cent less due to reduced onsite business activity.
“COVID-19 had a major effect on electricity use last year. Many households that were already experiencing financial difficulty had higher electricity bills to pay, and although lower bills for small businesses would normally be something to celebrate, it wasn’t a welcome outcome in the context of a pandemic recession,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
While the pandemic changed electricity consumption patterns in 2020, average wholesale spot prices, which are the prices that retailers pay day-to-day for uncontracted electricity, fell by 50 per cent between mid-2019 and early 2021. This has been partially offset by higher spot prices in May and June, due to several factors including a major generator outage in Queensland. Overall, however, the ACCC expects retailers’ wholesale costs to remain low relative to recent years.
The ACCC is looking to see if electricity retailers have lowered their prices in line with these wholesale price reductions, so households and small businesses see the benefit.
“We expect 2021 to be a better year for households and small businesses as large reductions in the wholesale cost of electricity continue to flow through to people’s bills,” Mr Sims said.
The Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct (PEMM) law that came into effect in June 2020 requires electricity retailers to make reasonable adjustments to their prices in line with their costs of procuring electricity.
ACCC analysis in March this year revealed that if all customers in eastern and southern National Electricity Market states were to switch to the cheaper deals that are available, or benefit from retailers lowering the prices of their existing plans, the annual savings would be about $900 million compared to June 2020.
“The ACCC is currently investigating a number of electricity retailers’ prices to see if recent wholesale price reductions are being passed on to consumers, as required by law,” Mr Sims said.
It’s better to be on a market offer
The report shows that seven per cent of residential customers were still on more expensive standing offers in 2020, but more and more households have shifted to cheaper market offers in recent years.
The median price under a residential standing offer was 18 per cent more expensive than the market offer. A typical household still on a standing offer could save almost $200 per year by switching to a median market offer.
The proportion of small business customers on standing offers in 2020 was 16 per cent, which is more than double the residential proportion, and this percentage has not dropped over the last three years.
For a typical small business customer, the median standing offer was 35 per cent more expensive and the annual saving from switching to a median market offer was almost $350.
“We are concerned about the high number of small businesses that are still on more expensive standing offers,” Mr Sims said.
“Standing offers were originally intended to be a safety net for customers to get a basic service at a reasonable price, but over time they became some of the highest-priced plans. Reforms were introduced to cap standing offers and protect customers from very high prices, but people can still save more on a market offer.”
“Many small business owners on standing offers wouldn’t be aware what plan they’re currently on, so the best way to get cheaper electricity is to visit the Energy Made Easy website and compare offers,” Mr Sims said.
Solar customers are paying less
The report also reveals the contrast in electricity costs for solar and non-solar customers.
In 2020, prices paid by solar residential customers were 29 per cent lower than those paid by non-solar residential customers, after accounting for any feed-in tariffs. The average household with solar paid $94 less on their quarterly bill, despite using more energy from the grid.
Prices paid by solar small business customers were 31 per cent less than non-solar small businesses.
Solar customers on premium feed-in tariffs, which are the legacy subsidised rates that were set at much higher levels, had median annual rebates of $858 for residential and $1993 for small business.
“Solar installation in homes and small businesses has been one of the biggest changes in the electricity sector over the last decade,” Mr Sims said.
“The early solar adopters who are receiving premium feed-in tariffs are getting great deals, but we remain concerned that these rates are being subsidised by non-solar customers.”
“Customers on hardship or payment plans have the lowest rates of solar, so you have to question how fair it is for these people to be subsiding the costs of solar customers,” Mr Sims said.
Quarterly bills for residential customers
Source: ACCC analysis of retailer billing data. Figure shows interquartile ranges and median values in real 2020 dollars.
Quarterly bills for small business customers
Source: ACCC analysis of retailer billing data. Figure shows interquartile ranges and median values in real 2020 dollars.
Annual solar rebates and effective feed-in rates received by residential customers (FY 2019–20)
Source: ACCC analysis of retailer billing data. Figure shows median values by region in real 2020 dollars.
Notes: ‘Negotiated’ represents customers who are on current market rates and who receive lower feed-in tariffs. ‘Premium’ represents customers who are early solar adopters and who receive higher feed-in tariffs.
This report examined the residential and small business billing data of 11 electricity retailers, who together supply the vast majority of electricity customers across the National Electricity Market states of New South Wales, South Australia, South East Queensland and Victoria.
Western Australia and the Northern Territory are not connected to the National Electricity Market. Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and regional Queensland are not included in the report as most customers in these areas are on regulated offers.
In August 2018, the then Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, directed the ACCC to hold an inquiry into the prices, profits and margins in relation to the supply of electricity in the NEM. This is the fifth time the ACCC has reported as part of this inquiry.
#AceNewsReport – June.24: A new regulatory model for Australia’s National Broadband Network is one step closer after a telecommunications industry roundtable last week brought together NBN Co, broadband retailers, industry groups, consumer representatives and government:
ACCC Called the roundtable after NBN Co announced it would be seeking to revise its special access undertaking, which is a key part of the regulation that governs the prices NBN Co can charge retailers.
“Getting the regulatory framework for the NBN right is a key priority for the ACCC this year. This roundtable was the first step in that process and it was pleasing to see stakeholders coming together to discuss the issues in an open, constructive way,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.
“It is clear that the NBN pricing construct is a key issue for stakeholders, and the Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) component of NBN’s pricing model was a particular focus of discussion.”
Under the current regulation, broadband retailers pay CVC charges in order to access a certain amount of bandwidth. Most participants called for the removal of CVC charges, while some proposed pricing models that had a reduced CVC component.
“There was general agreement that a future regulatory framework should encourage efficient use of, and investment in, the network infrastructure. Similarly, participants agreed that arrangements should support a range of retail offerings that represent value for users,” Ms Brakey said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of access to reliable broadband for businesses and households, and the roundtable event covered measures to support access and affordability, particularly for low income consumers.”
To help frame the discussion at the roundtable, the ACCC issued a short discussion paper to participants ahead of the event. The discussion paper is available on the ACCC website.
The ACCC is also preparing a summary of the key issues raised at the roundtable, for release in the coming weeks.
NBN Co’s carriage services are taken to be declared under Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which provides access seekers a statutory right to access the services and enables the ACCC to regulate the terms and conditions of access, such as price, to apply where the terms of access cannot be agreed.
A special access undertaking provides the access provider, in this case NBN Co, the means to propose the regulated access terms to apply and related matters for acceptance by the ACCC.
To encourage open discussion, the roundtable was conducted under Chatham House rule. The ACCC will not be attributing comments to individual participants.
#AceNewsReport – June.24: After analyzing 29 cosmetics containing the highest amounts of PFAS, these products were found to contain four chemicals that further break down into other highly toxic PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid, which can cause cancer and low infant birth weights, per Science News.
Waterproof mascara and long-lasting lipsticks contained the highest levels of organic fluorine, an indicator of PFAS: They are linked to severe health effects such as cancer, hormone disruptions, weakened immune systems, and low birth weights: The toxic chemicals are found in various everyday consumer products, including non-stick cookware, pizza boxes, stain repellants—and even cosmetics, according to a new study published last week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
Kindness & LoveX❤️ says Be kind to yourselves always check out the ingredients of products used on the skin or body as they may cause problems be safe friends, readers and followers Amen
Cosmetics designed to stay on longer or marketed as “wear-resistant,” “long-lasting,” and “waterproof” contained the highest levels of PFAS. (Deerstop Via Wikicommons under CC BY 2.0)smithsonianmag.com June 22, 2021 3:03PM:
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals containing 9,000 different compounds that have been around since the 1940s. PFAS do not break down and accumulate in the environment and human body over time. The substances persist for long periods of time, hence the nickname “forever chemicals.”
More than half of all cosmetics tested in the study contained high levels of toxic Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), reports Mathew Daly for the Associated Press. The study is the first to screen cosmetics for the total amount of PFAS present in make-up.
University of Notre Dame researchers tested 231 frequently-used makeup products, including liquid foundation, concealer, blush, lipsticks, and mascara, reports Tom Perkins for the Guardian.
Approximately 82 percent of waterproof mascaras, 63 percent of foundations, and 62 percent of liquid lipsticks contained at least 0.384 micrograms of fluorine per square centimeter of product spread out, reports Maria Temming for Science News.
“Moreover, the types of products that tested positive for high levels of fluorine—and thus likely to contain PFAS—are often used close to and around the eyes and lips,” Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist at the Icahn School of Medicine, who was not part of the study, tells CNN’s Sandee LaMotte.Various products tested contained high levels of fluorine (Green Science Policy Institute)
The eyes, skin, and lips are vulnerable to absorption of the toxic chemicals. PFAS are absorbed through thin mucus membranes close to the mouth and tear ducts. Lipstick is more likely to be accidentally ingested, and wearers may consume up to several pounds of the cosmetic throughout their lives, explains study co-author Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame, in a statement. Besides direct exposure through makeup, PFAS can end up in drinking water after being washed off the skin, Science News reports.
PFAS are added to cosmetics to increase their long-term wearability and make skin appear shimmery and smooth, CNN reports. The compounds increase durability, product consistency and water resistance. Because PFAS do not breakdown in water, cosmetics designed to stay on longer or marketed as “wear-resistant,” “long-lasting,” and “waterproof” contained the highest levels of the chemicals, the Guardian reports. However, the researchers were unsure if cosmetic companies are aware that their products are infused with fluorine.
“It’s not clear whether the brands are actually saying ‘Give us PFAS to use in our products or asking for a thickener, for example, or something functional without paying too much attention to what’s in it,” says study co-author Tom Bruton, a chemist at the Green Science Policy Institute, to the Guardian.
In 88 percent of all tested products, the label did not disclose PFAS to the consumer, making it almost impossible to avoid the toxins, reports CNN.
While half the makeup tested contained PFAS, the other half did not, which demonstrates that products can be manufactured without the chemicals, the Guardian reports.
#AceNewsReport – June.23: The New South Wales economy has been given a positive bump, with the state expected to return to surplus in three years, as it continues to recover from the pandemic.
NSW Budget 2021-22 Report: ‘Winners & Losers as the bouy the economy and expect a surplus within 3yrs as they recover from the pandemic’
The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo has been allocated $500 million in the budget for a major overhaul.
A decision to close the museum was reversed by the state government last year and instead it will now be revamped with a focus on fashion and design.
It’s expected a design competition will be held this year to reorient the building’s entrance with a public square connecting it to Pyrmont and Darling Harbour.
The total spend so far on both the Ultimo and Parramatta sites is about $1.4 billion.
Sydney’s sizzling property market over the past year has resulted in an extra billion dollars spent in stamp duty revenue than anticipated.
The revenue earned from stamp duty has been calculated at $9.379 billion for the 2020-21 financial year.
It means stamp duty is now the state’s largest taxation revenue source, overtaking payroll tax.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet admits it’s a blow for home buyers who already have to fork out huge amounts of money, in addition to the purchase price of their home.
“The worst thing about stamp duty is that it stops many young families from getting into the property market,” he said.
“We need to look at better ways of doing things and Government’s shouldn’t just rely on rivers of gold from volatile taxes.”
Neutral: Public Service:
The State Government has scrapped its controversial wage cap for public-sector workers and will reinstate the 2.5 per cent increase policy.
In last year’s Budget, the Government decided to introduce a cap of 1.5 per cent.
It was a move that angered unions because it impacted hospital workers, paramedics, and police on the frontline during the pandemic.
The Government has now described the reversal as a “financial thank you”, it could now afford.
“The pandemic has meant making sacrifices and difficult decisions,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“This included wage restraint during the worst of the crisis.”
It’s also a sign of a rebound for the state’s economy and the hit to the state’s revenue hasn’t been as bad as predicted.
The 2.5 per cent increase will be reinstated from next month.
One of the biggest investments in this years’ budget will go towards TAFE NSW.
More than $2 billion is being put into the construction of TAFE campuses, new facilities, and resources across the state, from Moruya to Western Sydney.
Nearly $6 million will go towards 16 undercover training facilities, $19 million towards technologies, and $11.4 million towards the centres in Cobar, Bateman’s Bay, Jindabyne, Hay, Tomaree, Nambucca Heads, and Byron Bay.
Winner: Local Court:
The Local Courts will see a small win in this budget, with eight new magistrates appointed over the next four years.
The investment of $56.1million will go towards the roles, boosting resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid. The number of magistrates will reach a record total of 149.
Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the roles would be filled in both regional and metropolitan courts.
“The extra magistrates will help to reduce the trauma of waiting for hearing dates and attending court on victims, witnesses and families,” Mr Speakman said.
“We’re committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases.”
Neutral: Child Care:
Rather than a win, this measure is a continuation of last year’s preschool announcement.
Parents will continue to benefit from the free pre-school scheme which has been extended as part of this year’s budget.
The program began during the height of COVID-19, allowing parents of 44,000 children who attend community preschools to benefit from more than $2,000 in savings. .
The Government has allocated $150 million in the budget to provide 15 hours of free preschool each week for children aged three to five.
The program is now extended beyond the year, with a new intake expected in January 2022.
Winner: Family Support:
There’s a lot in this year’s budget for women and families, including $60 million over two years for domestic violence frontline services to help hold perpetrators to account and raise awareness of available support.
Another $32.5 million will go to the Staying Home Leaving Violence Program over the next four years to expand the service across the state.
The Government has also unveiled 5 days of bereavement leave for public sector workers and their spouses following a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Parents of premature children in the public sector will also be eligible for special leave from the date of birth until the date the birth would have been expected normally. After that parental leave kicks in.
From July, the new provisions will be available for full-time and part-time government employees.
Families with pre-school children aged three to six will be given $100 vouchers to go towards swim lessons, as part of a $43.9 million investment.
The vouchers will be redeemable at registered swim schools.
International border restrictions have hit the NSW economy hard.
Mr Perrottet said keeping borders shut was costing the state $300 million a month.
The loss of migrant workers continues to be felt as greater pressure is placed on our own labour force.
Student migration has also been affected, with $1.8 million lost by the education sector alone.
The budget estimates each international student contributes 0.36 new jobs, meaning in the last year the state lost around 15,000 jobs from this cohort.
As part of a plan to kickstart the ailing education sector, 250 international students a week are being phased back into the state, with special quarantine arrangements to be put in place.
Winner: Electric Cars:
Getting drivers into an electric car will be a priority for the Government after agreeing to more than $400 million in tax cuts for electric vehicle owners.
Stamp duty will be waived for electric cars under $78,000 and $3,000 in rebates will be offered for the first 25,000 people to buy battery and hydrogen fuel cell cars under $68,750.
The Government has said it aims to increase the number of electric cars sold by 50 per cent by 2030.
Loser: Social Housing:
While the government has outlined $2.4 billion to social housing projects, this includes $446.1million already announced in last year’s budget.
The Government estimates more than 800 new houses, as well as upgrades to 16,500 properties, will be delivered in the next two years.
Regional NSW is facing a 50,000 deficit in social housing, according to the community housing industry association of NSW.
Winner: Rural Fire Fighters:
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) will get $268.2 million to upgrade trucks, drones and to fit out two new Black Hawk helicopters.
RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers called the investment necessary to learn from the recent Black Summer bushfires.
“This commitment will assist by increasing mitigation crews on the ground, getting aviation assets in the sky, and most importantly providing safer trucks for our firefighters.”
The funding is in line to meet the 76 recommendations outlined in the NSW Bushfire Inquiry earlier this year.
NSW residents paid more than $3 billion in fines and regulatory fees in 2021-22, which is forecast to grow by 2.3 per cent on average over four years.
NSW residents also lost $2.9 billion to gambling a figure that’s expected to rise to $3.3 billion in 2024-25.
The government expects $141.8 million to be spent on racing and sports wagering over the four years to 2024-25, with revenue revised up by 18.2 per cent. It puts this down to an increase in online gambling and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Winner: Western Sydney:
Sydney’s third CBD, to be known as Bradfield, will be given a huge funding boost to kickstart development.
The Government has allocated $1.15 billion to establish the construction site for the city centre, as well as $943 million to connect the nearby Western Sydney Aerotropolis to the Sydney Metro.
Another $138.5 million will go towards building a high-tech facility to house $22.9 million worth of equipment for research institutions.
There will also be a major road upgrade to link Badgerys Creek to the new airport, including the Northern Road between Narellan and Penrith and the M12, which has been given $269.4 million.
Winner: Community Sport:
A new $200 million fund has been created to build new community sporting facilities, including updating change rooms, lighting and accessibility for women and people with disabilities.
From the fund, $100 million will be available this year and another $100 million next year.
Sport Minister Natalie Ward said the focus would be on getting the community into sport.
“With thousands of sporting clubs and associations across NSW, the fund will see more inclusive, fit-for-purpose facilities built across the state,” she said.