The week in brief February 24 2015

All the smaller - and occasionally bizarre or humorous - SME newspieces from Australia and abroad from the past week.

All the smaller - and occasionally bizarre or humorous - SME newspieces from Australia and abroad from the past week.

Almost 11,000 Aussie workers have been back-paid more than $16 million following mediation, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Ombudsman said that over the last two years its mediators had assisted thousands of employees and employers to resolve their workplace disputes voluntarily. The $16 million had been paid out without the need for the Agency to formally intervene. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said a communication breakdown is often central to a workplace dispute and that small business in particular is finding the Fair Work Ombudsman’s mediation service a timely and efficient way of dealing with issues. Read more here.

Following the recent interest rate cut by the RBA, three of the big four banks have now announced cuts to interest rates for business customers. While NAB announced its interest rate cut (0.25 per cent) shortly after the RBA announcement, ANZ has now joined the party, saying it will cut business lending rates by 0.25 per cent. And for small business loans backed by residential property, CBA will cut their interest rate 0.25 per cent. Westpac is yet to make an announcement on the subject.

The head of a Scottish organisation that helps small businesses tap into university expertise will this week showcase how the initiative could be replicated on our shores. Siobhán Jordan, director of the publicly-funded Interface partnership, is in the country to meet representatives of the Australian government and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to highlight the benefits of closer collaboration between industry and academia. On Wednesday Feb 25 Siobhán will address the 50th anniversary meeting of the Australian Industrial Research Group. Read more here.

Hedge fund manager Bill Browder, once the largest foreign investor in Russia, estimates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wealth at $US200 billion — which would make him by far the richest man in the world. Says Browder, “After 14 years in power of Russia, and the amount of money that the country has made, and the amount of money that hasn’t been spent on schools and roads and hospitals and so on — all that money is in property, Swiss bank accounts, shares, [and] hedge funds managed for Putin and his cronies.” To put Putin’s suggested wealth in perspective, Bill Gates, who is considered the world’s richest man, has a net worth of a paltry $US79 billion. Read more here.

Marine Business reports that highly regarded business champions from the global boating industry and domestic economic and social commentators will be on hand marine15 for a series of business-focused briefings for the 500+ delegates event organisers expect to welcome to the Gold Coast on Sunday May 3. All will deliver key messages to inform, educate and inspire, leaving delegates with new advice, learnings and renewed drive to push their business forward. Read more here.

If you’ve got a hardcore fascination with office stationary – and let’s face it, who doesn’t get giddy at the sight of a fancy new pen – then Stationary News has published an interesting piece about why office products are anything but stationary. The article traces the evolution of office stationary from the first patent for the humble paper clip – awarded in the US to Samuel B. Fay, in 1867 – through to the current day. Read more here.

Radio Australia reports that there’s confusion over whether the Papua New Guinea government is planning to force the foreign owners of SMEs in the country to sell their businesses to locals. Reports say PNG’s Trade and Commerce Minister Richard Maru told Parliament this week that a master plan outlining the policy to force foreign business owners out of the country will be presented to parliament soon. Business groups say they haven't been consulted and the plan will send the wrong signals to both foreign and domestic investors. Read more here.

According to research conducted by Node4, the number of SMEs in the UK that outsource their IT infrastructure has increased six-fold over the past year. Six per cent now pass on these responsibilities to external parties, compared to just one per cent last year. 60 per cent of those surveyed claimed that outsourcing these functions gave them peace of mind, while 70 per cent claim they would fail without this critical IT infrastructure within just one day. Read more here.



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