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THE days of scraping car rego stickers off windows are over in Western Australia, which tomorrow becomes the first state to abolish them.

Cutting-edge technology being used by West Australian police has made the stickers redundant, saving millions of dollars.

Police superintendent Lance Martin said hand-held computers were now providing officers with instant advice on registration expiries — as well as an extraordinary amount of other data — simply by tapping in a request.

A car’s owner, previous owners, registration status, even the engine number, were all available within seconds to officers on the beat.

“We can also do detailed searches on people, we can access the criminal records of every person in Australia, we can bring up their mugshots,” he said.

“I can even have an officer carrying one of these hand-held devices in the middle of Broome (1660km from Perth) and pull up an electronic mapping system to track where that officer is in real time, accurate to about five metres. It’s amazing.”

Western Australia is the only state with the hand-held TADIS-lite computers, which have revolutionised life for officers on foot patrol, horseback, pushbikes and motorbikes.

They were rolled out over the past few months.

Superintendent Martin said the expanded access to computers was “the tipping point” for getting rid of car stickers and motorbike tags. Previously, if police spotted an expired registration tag, they had to radio through to base and then wait for someone to run the registration on the land-based computer system.

“It was a very time-consuming approach,” he said.

“Today they just type in a registration number (from their hand-held computer) and within seconds they’ll have all of the information associated with that vehicle.”

The innovation had made the visible stickers irrelevant.

The West Australian technology is fast becoming the envy of forces across the nation, many of whom have sent delegations to Perth to examine it.

It began with larger TADIS computers fitted to police cars, reportedly the most advanced in Australia, and progressed this year to the unique hand-held version.

“Other states are particularly interested in the hand-held units,” Superintendent Martin said.

“This is far bigger than the registration stickers.

“Just in the metropolitan area now with our mobile data devises, we can do over six million enquiries a year. It’s massive.”

The West Australian Department of Transport, which administers vehicle registrations, confirmed it also had been approached by other states about the decision to phase out registration tags.

To ensure drivers were comfortable with the change, they can now phone a hotline or check online to clarify the status of their registration.

Source  :  www.theaustralian.com.au

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DAILY shark patrols will begin next month as part of a $1.1million plan by Surf Lifesaving WA to keep beachgoers safe this summer.

Surf Lifesaving spokesman Chris Peck said $500,000 would be spent keeping the Westpac rescue helicopter in the air for three hours every day from mid-December to the end of February.  This year’s safety plan also included spending $600,000 on 30 emergency response points at secluded beaches and 27 beach surveillance cameras. And 4300 lifesavers will patrol beaches.

It is a significant investment in using technologies to combat coastal incidents, Mr Peck said.  It is the biggest presence we have ever had. Mr Peck said the State Government had agreed to provide thousands of dollars to help operate daily helicopter patrols.  The helicopter will fly for three hours between 6.30am and 2pm.

He said the public wanted more beach patrols in summer, with many people unhappy that aerial shark patrols had operated only on weekends and public holidays.  Mr Peck said ideally aerial patrols would operate five hours a day, but there wasn’t enough money to keep the helicopter in the air longer.

I think the pressure probably came from the public to have a service mid-week, he said.  The fact that something is up there (the helicopter) looking after them gives people a sense of security.  I would have liked another two hours so that we were flying five hours a day.  It would have enabled us to spread our patrol coverage a little more broadly.

Mr Peck said the use of emergency response points and surveillance cameras would help save lives. The response points are like emergency freeway phones.  Beachgoers can push the button and say to an operator I have seen a shark, someone is caught in a rip so we can get a team to that beach quickly he said.  The beach surveillance cameras don’t just take images, they gather data.  Whether it’s looking for sharks or missing people in the water, it has the functionality to assist as a third eye.

Source www.news.com.au

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The Tax Office today reminded Australia’s 11.8 million taxpayers to start getting ready to lodge their tax returns.                                                                                                

Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the Tax Office has a range of information and assistance available to help people meet the 31 October 2009 deadline.

“From 1 July, people can prepare and lodge their return online using e-tax, which is free, secure and easy to use software which in most cases processes your return within 14 days.

“As well as calculators, help screens and links to rulings, you can also download information from third parties directly into your tax return, including payment summaries, government payments such as pensions and allowances, bank interest and private health insurance details.

E-tax can be accessed free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week from our website at www.ato.gov.au,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.

Government and third party information will be available to download progressively from 1 July. You can subscribe to an alert service within e-tax which will let you know when the information becomes available.                                                                                                                                                                                         ato

People can still lodge using TaxPack 2009 or the short tax return for individuals 2009.

TaxPack 2009 is available from most newsagents, Tax Office shopfronts or the Tax Office website from 1 July.

If you used the short tax return last year you’ll receive a copy in the mail shortly.

Mr D’Ascenzo also reminded people to contact their tax agent as soon as possible.

“If you’re using a tax agent for the first time or using a different one from last year you need to contact them by 31 October 2009,” he said.

“Only registered tax agents can charge a fee to prepare and lodge a tax return.

“However some people present themselves as tax agents when they are not.

“Registered tax agents are regulated by the Tax Agents’ Board and have the qualifications and experience to handle your tax affairs.”

Visit the Tax Agents’ Board website http://www.tabd.gov.au or call 1300 362 829 to check if your agent is registered.

Compliance focus

We cross-check tax returns against a wide range of data including financial institution data, state and territory revenue and property sales information and Australian stock exchange data.

Help and assistance

If people have questions or need assistance they should visit the Tax Office website www.ato.gov.au or phone the Tax Office on 13 28 61 between 8.00am and 6.00pm weekdays.

The Tax Office can provide you a more personalised service if you provide your tax file number when you call.

source  :  www.ato.gov.au

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THE Rudd Government has dumped one of its key election promises, the Grocery Choice price monitoring website, after supermarkets failed to provide enough information to make the site reliable.

After a meeting today with major supermarkets, Competition Minister Craig Emerson announced that the measure – an election promise that was aimed at keeping grocery prices low – would not proceed, The Australian reported.

“Upon close examination of the data requirements for reliable price information, I have formed the view that it is not feasible to generate that information in a timely manner, “ Dr Emerson said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    website cost of living in oz

The scheme had been due to be up and running next week.

The dumping of Grocery Choice comes after the Government last year abandoned FuelWatch after it was defeated in the Senate.

Mr Rudd campaigned heavily prior to the election on easing the cost-of-living pressures on working families and increasing competition in the petrol and grocery sectors.

Both FuelWatch and Grocery Choice were criticised for not putting downward pressure on prices.

Earlier this month it emerged that the consumer advocate Choice would be forced to go it alone on the website as the major supermarket chains continued to drag their feet over supplying price data.

Choice took over the running of the website from the Rudd Government, which launched it after campaigning on easing cost-of-living pressures before the election.

The $13 million site, which originally launched last August, was heavily criticised for displaying information that was too general and outdated to be useful.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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The end of financial year can be a stressful time for small business owners, and that time is now upon us once again.  For those of you who are behind and not ‘in shape’ for the end of end of financial year financial year… don’t panic, right now there is still a very small window of time for you to get prepared for the end of financial year, but that time is ticking by.

How can you get in shape?

Before 30 June make it a priority to ensure all your bookkeeping and reconciliation is up-to-date, follow up payment of overdue invoices, pay outstanding bills and pay all super contributions (this should not only be for your employees, but for yourselves too). 

With all your reconciliation up-to-date, such as your receivables, payables, bank accounts and inventory, once 30 June is here you will only have one month to reconcile and you can then move on to completing your BAS.  Getting on top of this will ease some of the stress you may feel when preparing your end of financial year documentation.

For small business owners with employees, remember that you will also need to reconcile your payroll and send out payment summaries to your employees (before 14 July 2009).

Following the completion of all your reconciliation and BAS, it’s time to run your end of financial year reports.  Having all your records and reports prepared prior to visiting your accountant will really save you time and money. 

If you’re having difficulties with these tasks, speak to your accountant or bookkeeper, or alternatively a range of online resources, and even accounting software providers, have information on completing these activities.

If you’re having difficulties with these tasks, Don’t forget to backup all your data.  You will also need to keep copies of your accounting records for at least five years (an ATO requirement).

It is also important now to prepare for the 09/10 financial year, as no doubt you want everything to be ‘AOK with the ATO’.

A number of new Federal Government compliance changes will apply from 1 July 2009 and these will affect small businesses.  Information about the new compliance requirements is available from the ATO, or your accountant will also be able to update you on the changes.

If you use accounting/payroll software, you will need software updates that address the compliance changes.  Ensure you’re scheduled to receive the compliance update from your provider, so that you’re compliant for 09/10.

This time of year is also good to consider what improvements you could make to your work practices to stay in shape and make the 09/10 end of financial year less stressful.  For example, implement work practices that ensure you stay on top of your bookkeeping requirements, keep up-to-date with inventory, cash flow and debtors and follow task lists.

Yes, the economic downturn is having an impact on businesses and the pressure is really building, but this presents you with the opportunity to select your own course.

It’s important that you take a step back and look at the ‘big picture’.  Instead of only responding to daily issues, now is the time to develop and implement a sound business plan for overcoming future challenges.

Don’t be afraid to seek specialist advice.  Talk to your accountant.  They can not only help you with tax and accounting related matters, but they can also help you with your business planning, financial goal setting, cash flow and making sure your business is running at its best.

Remember… It’s important to be prepared!

Source  :  www.livenews.com.au

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Treasurer Wayne Swan has taken aim at Australia’s biggest home lender, labelling it selfish for lifting its mortgage and business lending rates.  swan_rudd_hand_400

Other banks have refused to rule out following the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA’s) surprise decision to lift its home and business loan rates by 10 basis points to offset higher funding costs.

The opposition said the government’s huge debt burden was putting pressure on interest rates, while a prominent market economist said it may force the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to cut the official rate again to counter any impact from CBA’s move.

CBA said it took Friday’s decision “reluctantly”, but at a standard variable mortgage rate of 5.74 per cent, up from 5.64 per cent, it was still the lowest on the market.

The rate hike will add $18 a month to repayments on a $300,000 home loan over 25 years.

The bank said it had absorbed as much of its additional funding costs for as long as it could.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the bank’s wholesale funding costs remain high and continue to increase as previous long term funding matures and is replaced with new funding at significantly higher cost,” CBA group executive of retail banking services Ross McEwan said in a statement.

Such reasoning drew no sympathy from the treasurer.

There are ups and downs when it comes to those decisions over time, but there are few decisions I can think of that are more selfish than this one,” Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane.

“I think Australians, rightly, will be furious with the Commonwealth Bank.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd echoed those sentiments during a speech to a business lunch in Brisbane.

“We are all in this together – businesses, workers, government and the Reserve Bank – and today’s decision by the Commonwealth Bank runs counter to this nationwide effort,” Mr Rudd said.

The other three major banks – ANZ, National Australia Bank and Westpac – said their rates were constantly under review.

NAB said it had no current plans to raise its home loan rate but noted “all Australian banks” had been incurring significantly higher funding costs for some time.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the government was putting pressure on interest rates by running up a huge debt.

“Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan feigned outrage about this interest rate increase, yet they are directly responsible for it,” Mr Hockey told reporters in Sydney.

“This is the beginning. You will end up with higher interest rates directly as a result of the spending binge of the Rudd government and the massive debt they are accruing.”

Home buyers may be enjoying the lowest mortgage rates in 41 years, but have already missed out on about 30 to 40 basis points of the RBA’s total 425 basis points of official rate cuts, with banks refusing to pass on the cuts in full because of the cost of funding.

For small businesses it has been even worse, being short changed by about 140 basis points.

The CBA’s decision comes in a week that saw massive boosts to both consumer and business confidence, as well as data showing sustained growth in home lending – sucked in by low mortgage rates and a more generous first home owners grant.

April mortgage data showed loan demand has grown for seven straight months to a 14-month high, as well as record demand from first home buyers and the strongest interest from investors in nearly two years.

It also showed that the banks have cornered more than 92 per cent of all loans – a 33-year high.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said CBA’s decision could well be countered by another cut by the RBA.

“If it does have an impact, particularly on confidence in the housing market, which has been the most encouraging source of recovery in the Australian economy, it may bring a rate cut back on the table at the Reserve Bank,” Mr Evans told Sky News

Source  :  www.thedaily.com.au

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