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Business News

OMBUDSMAN APPLAUDS CYBER SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS

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New support announced today by the Australian Government to help small businesses combat cyber attacks is extremely welcome

OMBUDSMAN APPLAUDS CYBER SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

New support announced today by the Australian Government to help small businesses combat cyber attacks is extremely welcome, says the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson.

“One of the biggest fears a small business has is that they will be targeted and wiped out by a cyber attack and we are pleased our strong advocacy for greater sector-wide support has been heard,” Mr Billson said.

“The latest chilling report from the Australian Cyber Security Centre is that a cyber attack happens every six minutes and when a small business is hit, on average they suffer a financial loss of $46,000.

“Some never recover from the assault on their operations and their reputation and today’s announcement offers practical help to minimise the chance of being a victim and better prepare small businesses to bounce back.

“These announcements will provide the type of concierge-style support we have advocated for to assist small business to be as prepared as they can be by providing a free check on their readiness and then advice on actual practical steps that can be taken to further strengthen their business.

“This will include one-to-one support in the event of an attack to help a small business rebound and recover.”

Mr Billson said small business would greatly appreciate the two programs announced by Small Business Minister Julie Collins and Cyber Security Minister Clare O’Neil.

Under the announcements, $7.2 million will create a voluntary cyber health check program to allow businesses to undertake a free, tailored self-assessment of their cyber security maturity and determine the strength of their cyber security measures with educational tools and materials they may need to upskill. Those with a high-risk exposure will be able to access a more sophisticated, third-party assessment to provide additional security across national supply chains.

New support announced today by the Australian Government to help small businesses combat cyber attacks is extremely welcome

New support announced today by the Australian Government to help small businesses combat cyber attacks is extremely welcome

A further $11 million will be spent on the Small Business Cyber Resilience Service to provide one-on-one assistance to help small businesses navigate their cyber challenges, including walking them through the steps to recover from a cyber attack.

“Small businesses can’t hope to have the same sophisticated resources and teams of cyber experts as larger companies who still fall victim to ever more sophisticated attacks,” Mr Billson said.

“Small and family businesses are sadly a preferred target for some of the scammers and cyber-criminals and these new programs will give small business greater confidence they are not alone.

“The most prominent type of attack is a cyber-criminal will tap into a small businesses email system, intercept an invoice that’s going out from the business and put in some different bank account details.

“The unsuspecting customer is expecting the bill and probably knows the amount they have to pay so when it arrives they just settle that account.

“However, the money goes to some joker on the other side of the world, is quickly converted into crypto currency and is gone.

“Other attacks involve phishing scams, where a small business receives an email that looks okay, but it allows entry into their digital infrastructure and the criminals demand a payment for to access your own information.”

Mr Billson said there are simple steps a small business can take right now including having multi-factor authentication, sophisticated passwords or pass phrases, making sure not everybody’s got full access to all parts of your technology, having secure backups of critical data and checking with the Cyber Security Centre at www.cyber.gov.au

Mr Billson said that the voluntary cyber health check program, as well as third-party assessments and assistance, should be built into a new right-sized privacy compliance framework for small business, given the government’s decision to remove the small business exemption from the Privacy Act.

“Incorporating cyber-security guidance and Consumer Data Right rules into actionable steps for small businesses to meet their privacy obligations will help protect small businesses, reduce compliance burdens and address priority privacy concerns for individuals,” Mr Billson said.

 

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Business News

NHVR launches operation to boost heavy vehicle safety in the construction industry

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NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

NHVR launches operation to boost heavy vehicle safety in the construction industry

 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.  

NHVR Chief Operations Officer Paul Salvati said the operation will commence this month and run for four weeks across NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, ACT, and TAS.

“Throughout the operation, we will prioritise education in the first instance to ensure operators and drivers have a clear understanding of the risks associated with non-compliance during heavy vehicle transport activities in the construction industry, and know how to manage them,” Mr Salvati said.

“Drivers and operators should always be practicing safe behaviours, such as implementing a daily check list to ensure the mechanical safety of vehicles, or utilising measuring devices, such as tape measures or height sticks, to confirm the vehicle and its load are within allowable dimensions.

“Managing safety risks can help prevent injuries and fatalities, avoid financial loss for the business, evade legal sanctions, enhance business reputation, and create a culture where informed safety decisions are made.”

Reflecting on last year’s construction focused national operation, Mr Salvati provided insights into the compliance outcomes.

NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

“In the last operation, from 1 March to 15 April 2023, the NHVR’s on-road officers inspected more than 1,200 vehicles, and we saw encouraging signs of compliance,” Mr Salvati said.

“Overall, 56.4 per cent of heavy construction vehicles were compliant across all HVNL categories, with especially high compliance across mass and loading.

“The results however, in the mechanical compliance category were indicative of the work we still have to do.

“Of the defective components identified, the most serious were in brakes, body and chassis, while others were found in lights and reflectors.”

Mr Salvati said the regulator is urging all operators and drivers working in the construction industry to keep safety front of mind.

“Heavy vehicle hazards in the construction industry traditionally include loads not being properly restrained, vehicles exceeding mass or dimension limits and of course, the mechanical safety of vehicles, especially heavy rigid truck, and trailer combinations.

“These may seem like standard risks, but they are amplified – especially on a construction site – by time pressures, constant loading and unloading, and the frequency of travel alongside other motorists on major roads and thoroughfares.”

Regulatory Advice for managing the risks of heavy vehicle transport activities in the construction industry can be found on the NHVR website.

 

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Quinn Family Rescues Sara Lee from Administration

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Sara Lee

Quinn Family Rescues Sara Lee from Administration

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The Gold Coast family, renowned for their successful rescue of the Darrell Lea chocolate brand from receivership over a decade ago, has once again emerged as saviours, this time for the embattled dessert-food brand Sara Lee.

In a deal announced by the company’s administrators, a private company owned by Klark and Brooke Quinn has stepped in to acquire Sara Lee’s Australian and New Zealand business, offering a lifeline to the 200 jobs that were hanging in the balance since the company faced financial turmoil late last year. While the financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, the agreement is seen as a beacon of hope for the struggling brand.

The administration of Sara Lee, led by Vaughan Strawbridge, Joseph Hansell, and Kathryn Evans of FTI Consulting, has been navigating the company through a challenging period marked by debts exceeding $50 million. Despite the financial strain, Sara Lee has remained an iconic brand and a category leader in the frozen desserts market. The commitment and dedication of both staff and consumers have played a pivotal role in sustaining the business during these turbulent times.

Reflecting on the journey, Strawbridge acknowledged the resilience of the Sara Lee team and expressed gratitude for their unwavering support throughout the administration process. He emphasised the importance of the brand’s legacy and its significance to both employees and customers alike.

Sara Lee

Sara Lee Apple Pie

The Quinn family, synonymous with success in the Australian business landscape, has a proven track record of turning around struggling brands. Having previously founded VIP Petfoods, Klark Quinn spearheaded the rescue of Darrell Lea in 2012, orchestrating a comprehensive restructuring that revitalised the confectionery business. Under his leadership, Darrell Lea experienced remarkable growth, with earnings nearly doubling to $23 million and annual sales exceeding $110 million by the time of its sale six years later.

With their acquisition of Sara Lee, the Quinns aim to continue their legacy of revitalising iconic Australian brands. Klark and Brooke Quinn expressed their pride in restoring the Aussie-made-and-owned stamp to the Sara Lee brand, reflecting on their fond memories of enjoying Sara Lee apple pie and vanilla ice-cream with their family. While their immediate plans for Sara Lee remain undisclosed, their successful offer underscores their commitment to preserving and enhancing the brand’s heritage.

Given the Quinns’ history of successful exits, it is plausible that they may pursue a private equity exit for Sara Lee in the future once the business is back on track. Over the past nine years, the family has orchestrated exit deals totalling $610 million with Quadrant Private Equity through the sale of VIP Petfoods and Darrell Lea. The acquisition of Sara Lee marks yet another chapter in their entrepreneurial journey, reaffirming their status as key players in the Australian business landscape.

It’s worth noting that the Australian-based Sara Lee manufacturing business operates under license from the global trademark owner, enabling it to operate in Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia, and the Middle East. As the Quinns embark on this new venture, they are poised to leverage their expertise and resources to steer Sara Lee towards a brighter future, ensuring its continued success for years to come.

 

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December Retail Sales Dented by Black Friday and Cost-of-Living Pressures

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Black Friday

December Retail Sales Dented by Black Friday and Cost-of-Living Pressures

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The shift towards Black Friday sales and ongoing cost-of-living pressures contributed to a 2.7 per cent decline in Australian retail spending to $35.2 billion in December 2023, as per seasonally adjusted data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). However, in trend and year-on-year terms, there was a marginal increase.

According to ABS head of retail statistics Ben Dorber, the decline in December stemmed from reduced discretionary spending, as consumers moved their usual December expenditures to November to capitalise on Black Friday sales. This trend underscores the growing popularity of Black Friday events and the impact of financial pressures on consumer behaviour.

Despite the significant seasonally adjusted decline in December, retail turnover saw a slight 0.1 per cent increase in trend terms, indicating subdued underlying retail spending amidst volatile movements leading up to Christmas.

Black Friday

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) highlights a modest 0.8 per cent increase compared to December 2022, with department stores notably recording a 3.7 per cent growth. Other sectors, including other retailing, cafes, restaurants, and takeaway, as well as food, also experienced modest growth. However, clothing, footwear, accessories, and household goods saw slight declines.

While most states and territories saw year-on-year growth, New South Wales experienced a 0.6 per cent spending decline.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra attributes December’s results to the projected cautious Christmas spending due to budget constraints. He notes the impact of Black Friday on December trading, with many consumers opting for early gift purchases during the November sales event.

Despite challenges, department stores performed well in December, leveraging Boxing Day sales and promotional events leading up to Christmas.

Looking ahead, ANZ Research economists anticipate continued weak growth in the first half of 2024, with potential for improvement in the second half. Factors such as easing inflation, fiscal support, tax cuts, and a November rate cut are expected to support household incomes and boost spending later in the year.

 

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