Workers' compensation changes come a step closer

Significant changes are soon to be introduced that will impact the way in which workers seek compensation for injuries sustained while on the job. The Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 was passed by Parliament on September 17 and is now seeking assent before it becomes legislation. Its introduction is likely to leave many of the nation's businesses in search of an employment lawyer as they discover how it will impact their operations.

Among the changes is that the current limitation on workers' entitlement to seek damages would be lifted. At present, a permanent impairment of at least 5 per cent must be demonstrated for all injuries sustained at work.

Further amendments also mean firefighters will be able to claim if they suffer from one of 12 specified diseases, providing it has been obtained through their line of work. Potential employees will no longer be required to supply evidence of the history of their compensation claims when applying for roles.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) has suggested that some of the measures could have a negative impact on small business operations. It reflected on legislative changes brought into force in 2013, which the group believes had more of a positive impact on the corporate landscape. Two years ago, a threshold was introduced for common law claims.

CCIQ Director of Advocacy Nick Behrens said: "This undoubtedly had a positive impact on average premiums payable by employers through the scheme, which ultimately encourages small business in Queensland to invest in their business and employ more staff."

If you are interested to learn how this Bill is going to affect your operations, speak to the legal experts at McCarthy Durie Lawyers. We are up to date on all the latest legislation and can help your business stay on the right side of the law.


CCIQ welcomes Brisbane's new commercial contracts policy

Brisbane City Council's Innovative Proposals Policy (IPP) will provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with greater opportunities to commercialise their ideas, a leading industry organisation has claimed.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) said the scheme would enable businesses to overcome one of the biggest hurdles when getting new ideas to market – securing contracts.

CCIQ Stephen Tait claimed the IPP would allow local government and businesses to work together more closely.

"Brisbane City Council's new IPP is a significant step in the right direction and will assist businesses looking to enter a commercial relationship with council to provide an innovative service or product," he added.

"Not only does the IPP open the door for business opportunity, it adds rigour and expertise to enable businesses to take advantage of the opportunities to work with council."

Companies should contact a commercial lawyer before entering into any new contracts to ensure they are fully aware of the terms of an agreement. An experienced law firm can take you through every step of the process, including ways to protect your intellectual property (IP).

In fact, IP is one of the key areas the new innovative proposals initiative is expected to strengthen. The plan is to streamline the council's current procurement processes so that it can benefit from cutting-edge business tenders in a more transparent way, while still protecting business's IP.

"Currently there are no set guidelines for dealing with tenders classified within the 'innovative' category, and this proposal will give businesses more clarity as to how their ideas will be considered and what they will be assessed on," said Lord Mayor Graham Quirk.

He said the IPP would help cement the council's reputation as a progressive destination for new ideas and partnerships with the business community.

If you would like to know more about commercial arrangements and public-private joint ventures, please talk to our expert legal team.


5 steps to starting a new business

Setting up a business is an exciting time for entrepreneurs, but there are a number of steps individuals must complete before opening their doors to trade.

The best way for potential business owners to ensure they are thoroughly prepared from a legal perspective is to contact commercial lawyers in Queensland. In the meantime, here are five steps the state government recommends undertaking to get up and running.

1. Secure licences and registrations

New businesses will often need specific licences or registrations, including health and safety credentials or environmental permits. The specific documentation required is based on various factors, including industry, number of employees, business structure and location, among others.

2. Register a business name

The process for registering a name differs depending on the organisation's business structure. However, all businesses – including companies, partnerships, sole traders and trusts – must register with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

3. Tax registration

The Australian Taxation Office is usually the next stop, which is where owners must register their business for tax purposes. Again, the type of business and number of employees will have an impact on tax obligations. However, Goods and Services Tax and Fringe Benefits Tax are two of the most common charges.

4. Register a trade mark

Trade marks ensure a business's goods and services are easily identifiable. Words, phrases, logos, letters, sounds and a range of other distinguishing attributes can become trade marks. A registered brand has more legal protection should anyone infringe on their trade mark.

5. Domain name registration

Most modern businesses need a website, which means they must register a unique domain name. There are various domain name types – including .com.au, .net.au and .org.au – some of which have specific requirements.

If you would like to know more about setting up a business in Queensland, please get in touch with expert commercial lawyers to discuss your needs.


Foreign property buyers 'will not face new state taxes'

There will be no new state taxes introduced for overseas property investors purchasing a house in Queensland, according to the treasurer.

Curtis Pitt reassured foreign buyers that recently announced changes in Victoria regarding stamp duty and land tax surcharges will not be replicated in the Sunshine State.

From July this year, overseas investors hoping to enter the Victorian real estate market will need to pay a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge, while a 0.5 per cent land tax levy will be introduced in 2016.

However, Mr Pitt quickly ruled out similar charges for those interested in Queensland properties. In fact, he said the state is keen to attract investment from abroad.

"In the lead up to the election, we made it very clear that we wanted to provide certainty to businesses and investors, and that we would not be changing the existing revenue policy settings this term of government," he explained.

Anyone unsure about state taxes relating to property purchases in Queensland are advised to contact local conveyancing specialists to ensure the process runs smoothly.

Activity in the real estate market could be set to climb following the Reserve Bank of Australia's recent reduction in the base interest rate. The institution lowered the key economic indicator to record lows of 2 per cent in May.

Property Council of Australia Queensland Executive Director Chris Mountford said the Palaszczuk government's decision to maintain state taxes at the same level should be applauded.

"This action will strengthen Queensland's position on the global investment map. In particular, it creates a compelling case to invest in Queensland over Victoria," he stated.

For more information on buying, selling or developing properties in Queensland, please get in touch with experienced lawyers who are adept at dealing with all areas of conveyancing.


114 year-old Australian college can't be sold due to founder's will

The historic Australian all-women's university Sweet Briar College will be closing later this year. The Business Insider Australia reported on March 10 that the college will not be able to sell the property nor the 3,250 acre lands of the campus as per the last will and testament of the founder, Indiana Fletcher Williams. 

Context 

In 1900, Williams stipulated in her will that her estate must be used to establish a school for young women to honour her daughter, Daisy. The will states "no part of the said Sweet Briar Plantation and the two tracts of land adjoining … shall at any time be sold or alienated by the corporation", however it granted power to lease or hire certain areas so long as they were not needed for the school's activities. 

Due to this explicit clause, the college can not legally sell the lands or property to compensate any debts or administrative costs of running the school. Possible legal solutions include applying the doctrine of cy-près, which allows the judge to amend the will, but keep the changes as close as possible to the intentions and principles of Williams' will. In this context, that might mean not selling the college but rather transferring ownership to another charitable organisation or not-for-profit education provider for women. 

Benefits of a legally advised will 

In 1901, William's family challenged the will yet her wishes prevailed and her bequest created the college. This historic example serves a key lesson for estate planning and will makers, which is that having a well-crafted and legally advised will ensures the will maker's demands and desires are respected even hundreds of years later. The purpose of a last will and testament is to protect one's assets and to distribute all possessions in accordance with one's own wishes. The best way to confirm this occurs is to solicit expert legal advice on estate planning


3 things to consider when choosing your will's executor

There is a lot to carefully consider when drafting your last will and testament. In particular, selecting the right person to be your executor requires a lot of deliberation.

In Queensland, the duties expected of an executor are diverse and often require them to be financially adept. It is essential to think long and hard if the person you name as the executor of your will has the right skill set for the job. Essentially, the executor has the same rights as the deceased if he or she was alive.

These three considerations can help ease the decision process.

1. Will they be able to perform the duties expected? 

An executor's duties include finding and notifying beneficiaries, checking and protecting assets, identifying debts and liabilities, confirming insurance for assets and seeking a grant of probate from the Supreme Court of Queensland.

The executor often needs to prepare tax returns, financial statements or get income tax clearances. They have a large responsibility in the process of distributing the estate. Will they be able to efficiently manage these tasks? The estate's Solicitor and Accountant will assist but ultimately the responsibilities lie with the executor.

2. How do they handle pressure?

Losing a loved one can be one of the most traumatic experiences in life. Keeping in mind the demanding range of tasks expected of an executor, evaluate how they managed previous challenges in their life. Reviewing how they performed under stress or in the midst of an emotionally difficult time can help make your decision. 

3. Would it be better to name multiple executors?

Estate planning changes from person to person depending on what best suits their needs. Usually, only one or two people are names as an executor in a will, however there isn't technically any limit imposed. It might be beneficial in some cases to name several executors. This can help ease the pressure for grieving loved ones. It also allows an executor who is unable or unwilling to act to renounce his responsibilities and allow the other executor/s to act.

Sometimes, the best course of action is to name a solicitor as one of the executors as they have years of professional legal experience dealing with such matters and can offer an independent, unbiased view. Their expertise can help provide structure and planning for executor duties, giving loved ones time to mourn. The costs of administering an estate will commonly be lower when a Solicitor is the executor as he does not need to consult anyone else in acting in the best interests of the estate.

Make sure to consult with expert lawyers during your estate planning process, to gain advice that is specific to your needs. 


Small Business Week is nearly here

Queensland companies are encouraged to network with experts, government and other organisations during small business week, which kicks off next week (September 1-6).

Queensland has around 410,000 small businesses, according to the Queensland Government Business and Industry Portal. A small business employs fewer than 20 people. These organisations are an integral part of all Queensland's industries, making up 96 per cent of the total number of businesses in the state and providing employment for 50 per cent of private sector workers. 

The portal states that small businesses involvement in the events will help them "become more productive, sustainable and resilient". There are more than 200 free or inexpensive events organised throughout Queensland next week. 

There were 4,500 people involved in 91 activities and events at the 2013 Queensland Small Business Week. The business and industry portal said that 70 per cent of attendees last year were owner-managers, 53 per cent had been in business for more than 10 years and 13 per cent were start ups.

Reasons for attending the event included networking (20 per cent), learning (18 per cent) and wanting to expand operations (14 per cent). 

A selection of the events will be hosted by the Queensland Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games Jann Stuckey. One of these events is Are you a Small Business Tiger? How Do You Become One?

This event will include a panel of experts who will talk about how businesses can significantly increase revenue in the next year. This can be achieved through management of cash flow, recruitment and selection, business expansion and how the growth of a business is financed. High-growth start ups will also be discussed.

If you are a small business in Brisbane or Redlands, a commercial lawyer can discuss any legal issues surrounding commercial agreements and contracts.


Two experts to discuss local business structures

Two local experts will be discussing how Redland City business owners can achieve the "right fit" for their business, without all the complicated jargon. 

McCarthy Durie Lawyers partner Jon McCarthy and Robins Accountants partner Trish Hale, will conduct a workshop on how to structure a business in order to optimise profits, minimise tax and maximise protection of personal wealth. To achieve these goals it is important to understand your business, your goals, possible obstacles and the opportunities your business can create. 

Both Mr McCarthy and Ms Hale will be available following their presentations to answer questions from the audience and generate discussion on business structures in Redland City. 

The aim of the workshop, which will be run by the Redland City Chamber of Commerce, is to help local business owners understand appropriate business structure options for their enterprises without all the complicated terminology. 

Mr McCarthy is a commercial and property lawyer with a wealth of experience in property development law. His experience includes community title schemes, retail and commercial property development and taxation planning. He also specialises in company and trust law. Ms Hale specialises in accounting and taxation for small-to-medium sized businesses and is a member of the National Institute of Accountants. 

If you are interested in talking to an commercial lawyer in Redland City about how to structure your business or need tips for improving it, here is your chance to come along and engage with two local experts.

The workshop is to be held at the Alexandra Hills Hotel on Wednesday July 30 2014 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The cost is $30 for Redland City Chamber of Commerce members and $40 for non members.