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Business News

SMALL BUSINESS OMBUDSMAN WELCOMES BANKING INDUSTRY PLEDGE TO FIGHT SCAMS

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SMALL BUSINESS OMBUDSMAN WELCOMES BANKING INDUSTRY PLEDGE TO FIGHT SCAMS

 

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has welcomed the significant commitment announced today by the banking industry to better support small businesses to combat scams.

Mr Billson said a $100 million upgrade across the banking sector to confirm who money is being paid to by matching names with account numbers will particularly benefit small businesses who too often fall victim to the invoice substitution scam.

“Nefarious cyber criminals can wreak havoc for a small business but sadly the number of scams and the size of the losses for small and family businesses is growing,” Mr Billson said.

“When a criminal impersonates your business, it not only costs you and your customers money but can damage your brand and lead to a loss of consumer trust and confidence and the ability to operate. Too often, it can be an enterprise-ending event for a small business.”

Scamwatch data shows small businesses lost $13.7 million to scams last year, a 95% increase compared to the previous year. The biggest contributor to these losses were payment redirection scams.

Mr Billson said small businesses had been particularly vulnerable to the invoice substitution scam – also called payment redirection scams or business email compromise – where cyber criminals get into their computer system and intercept emails to customers and insert different bank account details.

“A small business sends an invoice to somebody and the criminal changes the banking details. When it lands in the customer’s inbox, it looks legit and is a bill they were expecting so they pay it. The money goes to the criminal’s bank account and is quickly shifted, usually to crypto currency, and is gone,” he said.

“These jokers run off with the money, the customer has done their dough, and the small business hasn’t been paid.”

“ASBFEO has been highlighting the urgent need for a ‘confirmation of payee’ scheme to be introduced in Australia, noting similar programs operate in other countries offering a really practical safeguard. This ensures people can confirm they are transferring money to the person intended and that names are matched to BSB and account numbers.

“Today’s pledge by the banking industry to roll out a new confirmation of payee system will go a long way to stopping scammers being able to divert invoice payments by simply and silently changing a bank account number.”

Online Scam

ASBFEO has welcomed the significant commitment announced today by the banking industry to better support small businesses to combat scams.

Mr Billson noted the package of measures announced by the Australian Banking Association and the Customer Owned Baking Association will apply to commercial banks, customer owned banks, mutual banks, building societies and credit unions.

It will include more use of biometric checks and other controls to prevent scammers opening fraudulent bank accounts in other people’s names by using stolen information from driver’s licences, passports and other identity documents.

There will also be increased warnings and payment delays for suspicious transactions, limits on high-risk payment channels, which can include crypto platforms, and greater intelligence sharing across the banking sector using the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange.

However, Mr Billson said beating the scammers relied upon everyone being at their best by doing what they can to tackle the scourge of cyber crime and to “listen to our Spidey senses if something doesn’t seem right”.

“Business owners wouldn’t leave the door open with the light on at night when there’s no one there, so they must take the right steps and safeguards in the digital world,” he said.

“Telecommunication companies are trying to do their bit via what’s called a ‘clean pipes’ initiative, where they cut off a lot of cyber threat traffic through the telecommunications infrastructure.

“And just last week the Australian Government announced two programs offering small businesses practical help to minimise the chance of falling victim to a cyber attack and to better prepare them to bounce back.

Mr Billson said next week is Scam Awareness Week and an ideal time for small business owners to take a few extra moments to check they have appropriate safeguards in place.

“Scamwatch says 3 in every 4 scam reports involve criminals pretending to be people we should trust,” Mr Billson said.

Information can be found here:

  • The new National Anti-Scam Centre says small business owners who fear they have fallen victim should contact the Report a Scam website and dedicated resources to combat scams can be found here.
  • The Australian Cyber Security Centre, through the cyber.gov.au website, provides resources and guides for small businesses on how to manage information and secure your business, including a free Cyber Security Assessment Tool that can help identify the cyber security strengths of a business and learn how to improve cyber security here.
  • The website also contains information on how to recover and small businesses can report cyber attack incidents through 1300 CYBER1.
  • Our ASBFEO website includes simple steps and a checklist to better protect your small business and we have a video offering tips which can be viewed here.

 

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Australian unemployment dropped in March as part-time jobs surged; but this caused an increase in under-employment

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Australian unemployment

Australian unemployment dropped in March as part-time jobs surged; but this caused an increase in under-employment

 

In March 2024, ‘real’ Australian unemployment dropped 78,000 to 1,358,000 (down 0.5% to 8.7% of the workforce) as employment reached an all-time high of over 14.2 million.

However, the composition of the workforce changed – part-time employment surged 295,000 (up 6.1%) to 5,164,000 (a new record high). Unfortunately, there was a substantial decrease in full-time employment, down 256,000 (down 2.7%) to 9,103,000 as the composition of the employment market changed significantly.

The rise in part-time employment was correlated to the increase in under-employment, up 75,000 to 1576,000 (10.1%, up 0.5%). In total a massive 2.93 million Australians (18.8%, unchanged) were unemployed or under-employed in March.

The March Roy Morgan Unemployment estimates were obtained by surveying an Australia-wide cross section of people aged 14+. A person is classified as unemployed if they are looking for work, no matter when. The ‘real’ unemployment rate is presented as a percentage of the workforce (employed & unemployed).

  • Employment reaches new record high of over 14.2 million in March:

Australian employment increased 39,000 to 14,267,000 in March. Part-time employment drove the increase, up 295,000 (up 6.1%) to a new record high of 5,164,000 while full-time employment dropped 256,000 (down 2.7%) to 9,103,000.

  • Australian Unemployment dropped in March with 78,000 fewer looking for work:

In March 1,358,000 Australians were unemployed (8.7% of the workforce, down 0.5%), a decrease of 78,000 from February driven by fewer people looking for part-time work. There were 763,000 (down 70,000) looking for part-time work and 595,000 (down 8,000) looking for full-time work.

  • Overall unemployment and under-employment was unchanged in March at 18.8%:

In addition to the unemployed, a further 1.58 million Australians (10.1% of the workforce) were under-employed, i.e. working part-time but looking for more work, up 75,000 from February. In total 2.93 million Australians (18.8% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in March.

  • Comparisons with a year ago show rapidly increasing workforce driving employment growth:

The workforce in March was 15,625,000 (down 39,000 from February, but up a massive 641,000 from a year ago) – comprised of 14,267,000 employed Australians (up 39,000 from a month ago) and 1,358,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 78,000).

Although unemployment and under-employment remain high at 2.93 million, there has been a surge in employment over the last year – up by 693,000 to a new record high of 14,267,000.

Australian unemployment

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2024)
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – March 2024. Average monthly interviews 5,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

Compared to four years ago in early March 2020, in March 2024 there were almost 800,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+3.2% points) even though overall employment (14,267,000) is almost 1.4 million higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

ABS Comparison

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 8.7% is more than double the ABS estimate of 3.7% for February but is approaching the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 10.3%.

The latest monthly figures from the ABS indicate that the people working fewer hours in February 2024 due to illness, injury or sick leave was 521,700. This is around 140,000 higher than the pre-pandemic average of the five years to February 2019 (382,100) – a difference of 139,600.

If this higher than pre-pandemic average of workers (139,600) is added to the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 1,533,000 we find a total of 1,673,600 people could be considered unemployed or under-employed, equivalent to 11.3% of the workforce.

 

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Construction Giant LVX Global Group Enters Administration, Putting 25 Jobs at Risk

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LVX Global Group

Construction Giant LVX Global Group Enters Administration, Putting 25 Jobs at Risk

 

In a significant development within the Australian construction sector, a prominent company, formerly valued at $30 million just nine months ago, has entered administration, placing 25 jobs in jeopardy.

LVX Global Group, a leading infrastructure engineering firm headquartered in Australia, took a drastic step on Wednesday morning as five of its subsidiary companies appointed administrators in a bid to revamp their financial situation. Specialising in strategy, engineering, and project management within the building sector, LVX operates primarily from its headquarters in Adelaide and boasts a global presence across more than 20 countries.

Having contributed to major national projects such as Brisbane Airport and Sydney’s Botanical Gardens, LVX has also collaborated with the Sunshine Coast Council on crucial initiatives like lighting, communications, and electrical services for the Mooloolaba seafront. Despite its illustrious portfolio, LVX now finds itself in dire straits, with administrators actively seeking potential buyers for the entire business or select assets while the fate of 25 employees hangs precariously in the balance.

LVX Global Group CEO Corey Gray

LVX Global Group CEO Corey Gray

The company’s decline from its former glory is particularly striking given recent reports suggesting plans for a lucrative stock exchange debut through an initial public offering, which pegged its value at $30 million. Now, Ken Whittingham and Mark Robinson from insolvency firm Fort Restructuring have stepped in as administrators to navigate LVX through these turbulent times.

In their statement to news.com.au, the administrators indicated that while LVX has several national projects currently underway, decisions regarding their continuation remain pending. Expressing a commitment to explore all viable options, the administrators are actively pursuing a sale of LVX as a “going concern” and are open to considering a deed of company arrangement (DOCA) to potentially salvage the situation.

Amidst earlier plans for capital raising and optimistic revenue forecasts, LVX’s financial performance took a nosedive, with revenues totalling $13.3 million in the 2022 financial year—a significant increase from $7 million in the previous comparable period. Despite projections of $15 million in revenue for the 2023 financial year, internal presentations from last year painted a different picture, highlighting the company’s downward spiral.

LVX’s unfortunate downturn adds to a growing trend of national construction companies grappling with financial woes. Earlier instances include Rork Projects, facing debts nearing $30 million across multiple states, and Project Coordination, a seasoned industry player with half a century of operations, which succumbed to administration just two weeks ago, further underscoring the widespread crisis plaguing the construction sector.

 

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CSIRO invests $20 million to drive SME innovation

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SME innovation

CSIRO invests $20 million to drive SME innovation

 

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has committed a substantial $20 million investment aimed at enhancing access to crucial research and development (R&D) opportunities for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), with the goal of fostering their growth and innovation.

This funding infusion will empower CSIRO’s SME Connect team to support up to 750 SMEs through an array of comprehensive programs and initiatives. These initiatives encompass facilitation, training, dollar-matched funding, and assistance for start-ups and SMEs seeking engagement in company-led research projects.

Among the supported programs is CSIRO Kick-Start, a flagship initiative of SME Connect. Since its inception in 2017, the Kick-Start program has facilitated over 280 company-led R&D projects, boasting alumni companies with a collective market value exceeding $2 billion.

Dr. Doug Hilton, Chief Executive of CSIRO, underscores the profound significance of this investment and its transformative potential for Australia’s critical SME sector. He emphasizes the pivotal role SMEs play in driving Australia’s future, serving as bastions of innovation and solutions to societal challenges.

Dr. Hilton states, “CSIRO’s fundamental role as the national science agency is to create benefits for Australia, including driving SME productivity, sustainability, and growth through enhanced access to R&D opportunities and research support, fostering a resilient and diverse economy.”

SMEs constitute the backbone of Australia’s economy, accounting for 99.8% of businesses, contributing over half of the gross domestic product (GDP), and employing 68% of the private sector workforce.

CSIRO’s SME Connect team has a proven track record of supporting start-ups and SMEs across various industry sectors, including technology, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy, health, and biosecurity.

Simon Hanson, Director of CSIRO’s SME Connect, highlights how this investment bolsters Australian innovation by providing practical avenues for SMEs to leverage the expertise and facilities of the national science agency. He stresses the importance of collaboration between industry and the research sector for the longevity and success of Australian SMEs.

Hanson notes, “This funding enables us to bridge the gap between industry and academia, fostering meaningful collaborations and facilitating innovation and growth within the SME ecosystem.”

Goterra, an award-winning start-up based in Canberra, exemplifies the success stories emerging from CSIRO’s SME Connect programs. Olympia Yarger, Founder of Goterra and a CSIRO Kick-Start alumni company, developed an innovative waste management system utilizing insects to process food waste, resulting in a 97% reduction in greenhouse gases.

Yarger lauds CSIRO’s Kick-Start program for connecting Goterra with leading scientists who provided world-class research capabilities and pivotal support in exploring business opportunities, alternative technological advancements, and industry connections.

For businesses intrigued by the potential of R&D to address their challenges, CSIRO’s SME Connect offers a suite of programs tailored to support R&D initiatives. These include CSIRO Kick-Start, Innovate to Grow, Generation STEM Links, RISE Accelerator, and the Collaboration Readiness Levels tool.

For further information on CSIRO’s SME Connect programs, visit their website here.

Sidebar:

  1. CSIRO’s commitment to fostering SME innovation through R&D funding.
  2. Success stories like Goterra, showcasing the tangible benefits of CSIRO’s programs for SMEs.
  3. The diverse range of industry sectors supported by CSIRO’s SME Connect initiatives, promoting innovation across various fields.

 

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