Update from the Queensland Small Business Commissioner – March 2022
From the Commissioner
I am pleased to confirm that the services we provide have been expanded and made permanently available to small businesses, with the passing of the Small Business Commissioner Bill 2021 through parliament this week. Following Royal Assent, the new legislation will take effect on 3 May 2022.
We will provide a full breakdown explaining what the permanent legislation will change and what it means for business in next month’s newsletter; however, any small business tenants or their landlords with outstanding and unresolved matters related to COVID rent relief negotiations are encouraged to seek our assistance as soon as possible.
Since starting nearly two years ago, we have:
- received roughly 7,500 direct contacts and enquiries from small business
- case managed nearly 1,000 business tenancy disputes and delivered almost 600 free mediations
- welcomed 30 Queensland councils into our Small Business Friendly program which is helping to boost awareness of small business needs, increase support, and reduce administrative and regulatory red tape burdens.
Triaging and case managing such a high volume of commercial disputes has taught us some valuable lessons:
- despite good intentions, not everyone is skilled in the art of communication and problems can arise in commercial relationships quickly and easily
- once that happens, it can be difficult to turn a relationship around without some help – utilising a neutral third party, such as our assistance team or our mediators can restore the lines of communication and help to re-set the relationship
- mediation is a facilitated conversation, and the parties are in control of the outcome (rather than having a decision made for them in a court or tribunal)
- parties to a dispute often describe their mediation experience as beneficial even if they don’t reach an agreement on the day – the mere fact of getting everyone ‘to the table’ can be a much-needed circuit breaker.
For businesses impacted by the recent flood events in the South-East, we have an updated document highlighting all the latest support, grants, loans and other helpful advice on our website. You can also visit and speak to the staff at any of the support hubs that have been set up across the South-East. For businesses in Brisbane City Council, council has set up hubs in collaboration with the Queensland Government at the following locations:
- Suburban Business Hub (16 Aspinall Street, Nundah) 8:30am – 4:30pm Monday to Friday
- The Clubhouse Moorooka (76 Koala Road, Moorooka) 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday
- Brisbane Business Hub (Level 2, 155 Queen Street, Brisbane) 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday
You don’t need to make an appointment, just walk in.
I also wanted to assure you that we have been and are continuing to advocate on COVID related issues affecting small business. We are aware of a range of concerns regarding the isolation rules for close contacts, mandatory vaccination requirements for workers in healthcare settings and the vaccination requirements for customers of hospitality and other venues. We have been regularly raising these concerns and other issues with both the Minister for Employment and Small Business and Queensland Health to ensure you are being heard.
Queensland Small Business Commissioner
Help for flood affected businesses
If you’re a small business who has been adversely affected by the South East Queensland floods, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is urging you not to stress about your tax compliance.
For flood affected businesses located within one of these local government areas (LGAs), the ATO is offering a range of practical options to support small businesses, including:
- Help with activity statements and instalment notices
- Reconstructing your tax records
- Early access to your money
If your situation is more urgent, there are more options available via the support in difficult times section of the ATO website, which you can access here.
JCU Australia Tax Clinic (Northern Queensland) and the Griffith Tax Clinic (Southern Queensland) are friendly, student-run clinics where you will receive information and advice from university taxation students under the supervision of experienced tax practitioners.
These clinics aim to assist small businesses in meeting or complying with their taxation affairs. You can contact the clinics who may be able to help your business with the below:
- applying to have penalties cancelled
- responding to notices from the ATO
- negotiating a payment plan
- if you are dissatisfied with an assessment and want to know what your rights are.
Support for tourism and travel industries
If you’re a travel agent, inbound tour operator, or tour wholesaler you may be eligible to apply for round three of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program, which is now open.
Your business may be eligible for grant payments ranging from $7,500 to $90,000. Grants are open now and close 20 April 2022 at 5pm.
You can view the eligibility criteria for these grants here and start your application here.
From Monday April 18, 2022 international cruise ships will allowed to enter the eastern seaboard of Australia. To help the broader tourism industry (including those offering cruise shore trips) there will be an industry update event held at the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal on Thursday April 7, 2022.
During the session, the Deputy Chief Health Officer will discuss the health protocols and you will hear from cruise industry representatives who will discuss product and experience alignment and itinerary planning. If you cannot attend the event in person you can attend via video conferencing. RSVP here.
Small Business Friendly program update
We’ve had an extremely busy month welcoming five new councils to the Small Business Friendly (SBF) family, bringing our total number of SBF members up to 30!
Congratulations to Cook Shire Council, Burke Shire Council, Cloncurry Shire Council, Flinders Shire Council, and Sunshine Coast Council for signing the SBF charter and pledging your support to your local small business communities. We look forward to working with you, and your local chambers of commerce and industry groups to put the needs of your small business communities front of mind when making important decisions which will affect their operating environment.
If you’re not familiar with the SBF program or would like some more information so you can start a conversation with your council, you can find out more about the SBF program here.
Main Streets of Australia Week- 16 to 22 May
Mainstreet Australia invites local councils, chambers, and small businesses to celebrate the inaugural Main Streets of Australia Week, from 16 to 22 May 2022.
How you can get involved:
- Organise an event, campaign, or promotion – you can then register your activity on the Main Streets of Australia Week calendar
- Use the campaign materials in the lead up to, and during the Week, in store and on your social media
- Support your main street and other small businesses during the week.
Find more information and resources here.
Small business dealings with digital platforms
For many small businesses, using platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple is integral to their daily business operations.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commissioner (ACCC) has been made aware of some instances where businesses are experiencing problems interacting with these digital platforms to get fake negative reviews removed, or are in dispute over their account being suspended or experiencing problems with account termination decisions. To help the ACCC gain a better understanding of how many businesses are facing these issues and to try to reduce these problems, they are conducting a short survey.
If you want to be part of the solution, you can help by completing their short survey, which is open until 29 April 2022.
Director identification number
If you want to become a company director (or are already one), you are now required (by law) to apply for a director ID. A director ID is a unique identifier that helps prevent the use of false or fraudulent director identities.
You’ll need a director ID if you’re an eligible officer (i.e. a director, or acting in that capacity) of:
- a company, a registered Australian body or a registered foreign company under the Corporations Act 2001 (Commonwealth)
- an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act).
When you must apply for your director ID depends on when you first became a director:
- New directors appointed for the first time between 1 November 2021 and 4 April 2022 must apply within 28 days of their appointment.
- From 5 April 2022, intending new directors must apply before being appointed.
- Existing directors appointed before 1 November 2021 have until 30 November 2022 to apply
Applying for a director ID is quick and free. For more information and to apply for a director ID visit the Australian Business Registry Services website.