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Business News

Time for a closer look at supermarket pricing

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Janelle Saffin looking at supermarket pricing.

Time for a closer look at supermarket pricing

 

Janelle Saffin MP , Member for Lismore

It is clearly time for an investigation into what’s happening with supermarket prices, and it’s good to see some action at the Federal level on that.

We have all seen the price of the weekly grocery shop going up at the same time as the big supermarket chains are reporting massive profits. (In the 2023 financial year, Woolworths reported a total net profit after tax of $1.72 billion, and Coles’ profit was $1.1 billion.)

I’ve had a lot of local farmers ask me what’s going on.  They want to know why the prices they are getting for produce have dropped so much, but supermarket prices haven’t come down.

While supermarket pricing and competition is a Federal Government matter, I am raising it here because it affects all of us and we’d like to know what action is being taken and what we can do.

The Federal Government has announced an inquiry into the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct which is a voluntary code which was set up to improve how supermarkets deal with suppliers.

The review is being led by Dr Craig Emerson, a former Federal Minister for Small Business and Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs and will look at how effective the code is, whether it should be made mandatory and whether it should include civil penalties.

There is also a Senate Inquiry underway into price gouging which is due to report back in May.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (13/1/24) Treasurer Jim Chalmers is in talks with the consumer watchdog the ACCC about launching a powerful inquiry into alleged price gouging by supermarkets. This is something that farmers want to see because it would force supermarkets to reveal their farmgate prices and contracts.

I would welcome an ACCC price inquiry as the strongest action because, as the Treasurer says – we want a fair go for families and for farmers.

Janelle Saffin looking at supermarket pricing.

Janelle checking prices while grocery shopping at Woolworths

Save on power bills

If you have suffered power bill shock lately, there are a few things you can do that could bring your bill down.

Electricity retailers are not allowed to charge exit fees or early termination fees when you decide to switch your supplier. You are free to find a better energy deal at any time.

And there is an quick online method for finding out the best deal. The Australian Energy Regulator has a website where you pop in your suburb, and provide the code from your latest power bill, and it calculates the best deal based on your usage.

One of my staff did the calculation and found she could save $400 a year by switching to another provider, so it’s worth investigating.

Also remember to check for any rebates you may be eligible for – there are a range of NSW Government energy rebates for low-income households, families, independent retirees and others.  Go to the website here.

 

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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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AGL and Cannon-Brookes Propose Solar Panel Plant at Former Coal Site

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Solar Panel Plant

AGL and Cannon-Brookes Propose Solar Panel Plant at Former Coal Site

 

In a groundbreaking move, energy giant AGL has joined forces with a technology company supported by its major shareholder, billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, to explore the establishment of a cutting-edge solar panel manufacturing facility on the premises of the decommissioned Liddell coal-fired power station.

This collaboration between AGL and Sydney-based SunDrive signifies a significant shift towards renewable energy initiatives, following the closure of the Liddell generator in the NSW Upper Hunter region nearly a year ago. The decision to cease operations at Liddell, which had reached the end of its operational life, underscores AGL’s commitment to transitioning its coal-fired power station sites in Victoria and NSW into sustainable energy “hubs.”

Damien Nicks, CEO of AGL, emphasised that the partnership with SunDrive marks a pivotal moment in the company’s journey towards creating low-carbon energy hubs, emphasising a holistic approach that integrates renewable energy generation, large-scale battery storage, and green technology manufacturing.

The proposed Hunter Energy Hub aims to adhere to circular economy principles and foster collaboration among industries committed to advancing the energy transition. Cannon-Brookes, renowned for his environmental advocacy and investment in clean energy ventures, has been instrumental in driving AGL’s strategic shift towards sustainable energy solutions.

Through his investment vehicle, Grok Ventures, Cannon-Brookes has championed initiatives aimed at tackling climate change and seizing opportunities in the clean energy sector. SunDrive, a start-up with ground-breaking technology developed at the University of New South Wales, stands at the forefront of solar cell innovation.

Backed by prominent investors, including Blackbird Ventures and Main Sequence Ventures, SunDrive has pioneered solar cell technology that utilises copper, a cost-effective and abundant alternative to silver. With the successful development of highly efficient solar cells, SunDrive envisions scaling up production at its first commercial-scale manufacturing plant within AGL’s Hunter Energy Hub.

Vince Allen, Founder and CEO of SunDrive, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration with AGL, highlighting the opportunity to introduce Australian-made solar technology to the domestic market. As SunDrive aims to revolutionise rooftop solar installations with its cutting-edge technology, the partnership with AGL signifies a significant step towards advancing Australia’s renewable energy sector.

Sidebar

  1. Collaborative Innovation: The partnership between AGL and SunDrive represents a collaborative effort to innovate within the renewable energy sector, leveraging AGL’s industry expertise and SunDrive’s groundbreaking solar cell technology.
  2. Sustainable Energy Transition: The proposed solar panel manufacturing plant at the former Liddell coal-fired power station reflects AGL’s commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy solutions.
  3. Circular Economy Principles: AGL’s vision for the Hunter Energy Hub priorities the integration of circular economy principles, aiming to create a low-carbon industrial energy hub that maximises resource efficiency and minimises waste.
  4. Technological Advancements: SunDrive’s patented technology, which replaces silver with copper in solar cells’ construction, demonstrates a significant advancement in solar technology, offering a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative.
  5. Economic Opportunities: The establishment of a solar panel manufacturing facility at the Hunter Energy Hub has the potential to create economic opportunities, including job creation and local investment, while contributing to Australia’s renewable energy goals.

 

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