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New financial crime guide warns the finance sector and Australians about ‘cuckoo smurfing’

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New financial crime guide warns the finance sector and Australians about ‘cuckoo smurfing’

AUSTRAC has released a new financial crime guide to warn businesses and their customers about the dangers of a money laundering method known as ‘cuckoo smurfing’.

Criminals use the ‘cuckoo smurfing’ method to move illegal funds into Australia and to disguise the profits of their criminal activities. It generally relies on exploiting the legitimate bank accounts of individuals and businesses here in Australia. The Australian account holder will commonly be expecting genuine funds to be deposited into their account from a friend, relative or business partner overseas.

Often these recipients are unaware that the funds transferred into their accounts have in fact come from criminals using funds generated from drug dealing and other serious criminal activities. The ‘cuckoo smurfing’ financial crime guide helps businesses know what to look for and when to report to AUSTRAC. At the same time new educational materials developed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in collaboration with AUSTRAC are also available for the public on how to spot and protect themselves from cuckoo smurfing.

AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose PSM, said if businesses identify behaviour that indicates potential cuckoo smurfing, they must report it to AUSTRAC so together we can disrupt criminal syndicates targeting the bank accounts of Australians. “This method has been used by criminal syndicates involved in crimes that inflict serious harm on our community such as drug trafficking, slavery, fraud and corruption. We rely on financial businesses to report to AUSTRAC and partner with enforcement to stop these criminal syndicates and protect members of the Australian community.”

Money transfer businesses, banks and financial institutions should monitor for indicators of potential criminal activity including cash deposits appearing inconsistent with expected transaction activity of an account holder, cash deposits conducted on the same day across multiple branches and ATMs and multiple cash deposits predominately in amounts under $10,000. Members of the Australian public expecting to receive funds from overseas, should review their bank account activity and report any unexpected and suspicious transactions. Any individual or company can be targeted, some of the most at risk customers include Australian expatriates, Australian exporters and international students studying in Australia.

If members of the public notice any suspicious activity occurring in their bank account, including the warning signs above, they should immediately report it to their bank in the first instance, or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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How Australian Women Entrepreneurs are Defying the Odds to Build Successful Businesses

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How Australian Women Entrepreneurs are Defying the Odds to Build Successful Businesses

 

One-third of Australian businesses are led by women, and this number is steadily increasing. Women entrepreneurs in Australia are not only more educated than their male counterparts but are also pioneering innovations in social impact and environmental sustainability. However, significant barriers persist, including gaps in opportunities, networks, resources, and investment.

Key Findings from the Women’s Agenda Report

A new report from Women’s Agenda, in partnership with Commonwealth Bank and CommBank Women in Focus, sheds light on the challenges and opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Australia. The report, which surveyed over 1,000 women business owners and startup founders in April 2024, highlights the following:

  1. Optimism and Determination: Despite the challenges, 75% of respondents are focused on expansion, and over half plan to hire new talent within the next year.
  2. Social Impact: A significant 56% of women-led businesses are dedicated to making a positive impact in areas such as care, health, social justice, and combating family violence.
  3. Economic Challenges: Inflation and the cost of living are major hurdles, with 74% citing these as primary challenges to growth. Additionally, over a third of respondents feel that current government policies negatively impact their businesses.
  4. Talent Shortages: More than one in five women entrepreneurs are struggling with finding and retaining talent.
  5. Gender-Based Barriers: Bias from prospective investors and unpaid care obligations are additional burdens for women founders.

Expert Insights and Strategies

Julie Mathers, CEO of Snuggle Hunny, sees current economic challenges as opportunities for entrepreneurs to become more focused on their businesses. She believes that surviving the current “storm” will make businesses stronger and more resilient.

Dr. Elaine Stead, a venture capitalist with Main Sequence, emphasizes the importance of networks. She advises women entrepreneurs to leverage their networks for support and survival during tough economic times. She underscores that the first priority for small business owners should be to survive the immediate challenges before focusing on growth.

Opportunities and Support Networks

The report highlights that access to networks is the top driver of success for female founders. Over 80% of respondents identified their biggest support as a network that includes other women entrepreneurs, stakeholders invested in their success, and supportive personal connections. This finding underscores the importance of relationship-building in business.

Conclusion

Despite facing numerous challenges, Australian women entrepreneurs are demonstrating resilience and optimism. Their commitment to innovation and social impact, combined with their determination to overcome barriers, is driving their businesses forward. The findings from the Women’s Agenda report reveal that with the right support, networks, and resources, women-led businesses can thrive even in challenging economic climates.

 

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Fair Work Commission Upholds 3.75% Increase in Australia’s Minimum and Award Wages to Tackle Cost-of-Living Pressures

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Fair Work Commission Upholds 3.75% Increase in Australia’s Minimum and Award Wages to Tackle Cost-of-Living Pressures

 

In a significant move aimed at bolstering the economic security of Australian workers, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has announced a 3.75% increase in both the minimum and award wages, effective from July 1. This decision, following extensive deliberation, reflects a multifaceted approach to address prevailing cost-of-living challenges while fostering equitable economic growth.

The national minimum wage is set to rise to $24.10 per hour and $915.91 per week, based on a standard 38-hour workweek. This increment, amounting to approximately $33 extra per week, is poised to benefit approximately 2.6 million workers nationwide, constituting approximately 20.7% of the Australian workforce.

The FWC’s decision is underpinned by a thorough assessment of prevailing economic conditions, with a keen focus on ensuring that wage adjustments align with forecasted wages growth for the year 2024. This strategic approach seeks to strike a balance between addressing immediate cost-of-living pressures and facilitating sustainable wage growth in the long term.

Furthermore, the commission’s rationale acknowledges the unique vulnerabilities faced by workers reliant on modern award minimum wages. These employees, often engaged in part-time, casual, or predominantly female-dominated roles, constitute a significant portion of those affected by the wage increase. By providing a modest real wage boost, the decision aims to uplift the economic wellbeing of these segments of the workforce, thereby fostering greater income equality.

However, the FWC’s deliberations also took into account the broader economic landscape, recognizing the diverse impacts of the wage increase across different industries and sectors. While overall labour market conditions remain robust, certain sectors face distinct challenges, necessitating a nuanced approach to wage adjustments to ensure sustained growth and stability.

In response to the ruling, stakeholders from various quarters have articulated their perspectives. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has welcomed the decision, hailing it as a significant victory for workers’ rights and economic justice. Conversely, business organisations have expressed apprehensions regarding the potential impact on operational costs, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grappling with existing margin pressures.

For SME owners like Edward Clayton, the wage increase presents a dual-edged dilemma. While recognising the imperative of fair wages to address cost-of-living pressures and retain a motivated workforce, he also confronts the challenge of balancing increased labor costs with maintaining competitive pricing strategies.

Against this backdrop, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy has emphasised the importance of ensuring that wage growth remains in line with inflation, thereby safeguarding macroeconomic stability. While the wage increase serves as a crucial mechanism to address immediate affordability concerns for workers, policymakers remain vigilant against potential inflationary risks, underscoring the imperative of productivity-driven growth to support sustainable economic outcomes.

As the wage increase takes effect, its ripple effects are poised to reverberate across the economic landscape, shaping consumer spending patterns, business operations, and overall market dynamics. While providing much-needed relief for workers grappling with escalating living expenses, the decision underscores the intricate interplay between wage policies, economic resilience, and the pursuit of inclusive prosperity for all Australians.

 

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Organic Growth: Toby O’Grady’s journey from volunteer farmer to sustainable agriculture business owner

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Organic Growth: Toby O’Grady’s journey from volunteer farmer to sustainable agriculture business owner

 

By Sarah Waters

The closest Toby O’Grady got to farming when he was young, was kicking a soccer ball behind the cane fields in Condong.

He wasn’t born into farming and didn’t really think about it until he travelled to Europe at the age of 20 and an opportunity to volunteer on a crop farm came up.

“2015 was when I first discovered farming, and that was via traveling as a way to see the world but in a really affordable way by volunteering,” Toby said.

“I just happened to have some really good volunteers around me, who taught me about what agriculture is and how important it is.”

For two years Toby worked on farms in England, including orchards, egg production farms and mixed vegetable farms, which all focused on selling direct to customers.

When he arrived home, he sought job opportunities on farms in NSW which focused on regenerative agriculture.

As his experience and passion in land rehabilitation and sustainable organic farming practices grew, he decided it was time to start his own farm.

In 2022, he put out a call to landowners in the Northern Rivers looking for land to lease for his ‘Ag-Venture’ which would produce certified organic fruit and vegetables, he could sell.

“I always wanted to do it myself – put into practice the things that I’ve learnt and do different trials and innovations.

“Even though we’ve been farming as a civilisation for many thousands of years, we still haven’t fully figured it out.

“I also wanted to get into the environmental side of it and the clean food side of it.”

Toby received more than 30 offers from landowners, but he decided to choose a three-acre plot of land at ‘Johny’s Garden’ in Duranbah to farm.

The area is known for its ferrosols (krasnozem) soil, which has favourable agronomic properties.

Toby put together a strategy on how he could make an income, while practising new farming methods and focusing on research and development.

He drove up and down the coast talking to people who he thought might be interested in buying directly from him.

Then there were crop rotation plans, the purchasing of equipment, seed orders and an irrigation system that had to be set up.

Toby O’Grady is a first-generation farmer, who started his organic vegetable farm two years ago

Toby O’Grady is a first-generation farmer, who started his organic vegetable farm two years ago

Soil samples were tested to see what the soils were lacking for optimum plant and soil health.

“This was all then considered for how to implement growing organic vegetables,” Toby said.

“I ordered compost and organic amendments to be applied to the soil to correct mineral deficiencies within the soil.

“Some areas we began planting in immediately, however most of the farm was planted out with a mixed species cover crop.”

Toby had a strong focus on producing nutrient-dense organic produce and used compost and bio stimulants to increase biological activity in the soil.

These practices encourage vigorous root growth, nutrient uptake and weather-resilient growing conditions.

Cover cropping was used to help with soil fertility, weeds, pests, disease and biodiversity.

A few months after Toby started to work the land, he had his first harvest of root vegetables, leafy greens and a range of herbs, which he supplied to local health shops.

He was encouraged to apply for the Mur’bah (Murwillumbah) Market, which he began to sell at each Wednesday, and it has since become the highlight of his week.

Fast forward two years later, and he now fills up his ute with about 50 crates of produce each week that he supplies to six local health shops.

Eventually, he plans to scale-up his business, but not until he has refined his farming practices and new methodologies.

In the meantime, he said his organic farming business brings in a relatively comfortable income.

“I can do this because I have a great lease agreement that’s super affordable.

“The owners, who are retired farmers, are sentimental about keeping the land and the soil productive – producing quality food, supporting the community, dreams and livelihoods.

“I’d also like to note how important the supporters, buyers and retails shops, are in making this business possible.

“Supporting local and regenerative farms, makes for a more abundant and rich ecology – cleaner rivers, air and food.”

Despite access to land being inextricably linked to having a farm, Toby wants to show farming can be an accessible career even if you’re not born into it.

“You can do an apprenticeship for a plumber, you can go be an electrician, but there’s not really any clear path for farming – for first generation farmers – which is what I’ve found.

“I’d like to advocate for better opportunities in the future for new people who are keen to start farming, because there are a lot of people who are.”

You’ll find Toby O’Grady and his organic produce, sold under the banner of Johny’s Garden at Murwillumbah Farmers Market each Wednesday.

You can follow more of his organic farming journey on Instagram @ag_venture.

Toby O’Grady is also available for available for home garden, small farm designs and consultations.

 

For more rural news, click here.

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