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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2010
43 YEARBOOK 2010 CATTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA Marking a decade of drought, 2009-10 also threw up unprecedented bush fires, flooding rains, the global financial crisis, cyclones and the swine flu pandemic. The NFF opposed the move because it could inadvertently capture bona fide primary production business assets, despite the policy intent aimed at closing a loophole that enables shareholders or their associates to utilise luxury company assets tax-free. Failure to make these amendments would have been catastrophic for many farms, and would have required many farmers to go through a complex, costly and time consuming process to change their farm business structures to avoid major cash-flow issues. Following NFF negotiations, the Federal Government agreed to amend the non-commercial loan rules to see farmers exempted from the changes. This ensured that farmers would not be unintentionally affected by the new legislation through their legitimate use of company assets owned exclusively for business use. In addition, the Government committed to a 'residence exemption', ensuring that farmers would not be required to pay rent to themselves for use of the farm homestead. PASTORAL AWARD The NFF recorded an historic victory in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) in 2009, successfully defending the retention of the flexible and straight forward hours-of-work provisions under threat from the Federal Government's Award modernisation reforms. The Pastoral Industry Award (PIA) has provided a 'flexible hours-of-work' clause reflecting the practical needs of the sector for decades. Yet the AIRC, in its January 2009 draft of the modern Pastoral Award, sought to obliterate the clause and replace it with no less than four costly and highly restraining conditions. The result would have seen minimum wage hikes of 10% at the bottom end, scaling all the way up to a massive 100% (in the case of the dairy sector). The NFF, with the assistance of the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund (AFFF), engaged Senior Counsel to ensure that farmers had the best possible legal representation to fight the Award changes head on. » National Farmers' Federation A YEAR OF EXTREMES Surely 2010 will have more positives than last year for our farmers who have been whiplashed by extremes on all fronts. For the National Farmers' Federation (NFF), dealing with the federal policy settings in response to the onslaught of man-made and natural disasters has been extreme and the political landscape ever-changeable. Last year both sides of federal politics were committed to an emissions trading scheme, as late as December. The NFF fought tooth and nail to ensure that the agreed deal struck between the Rudd Government and Turnbull Opposition excluded agriculture, while providing opportunities for farmers through offsets. We also succeeded in ensuring that farm costs -- both direct and indirect -- under the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) were appropriately dealt with. All up, this is a deal no other sector of the economy could get... a fact not lost on many of our Canberra counterparts. With Tony Abbott's ascension to the Liberal leadership we have ensured that Coalition climate change policies also exclude agriculture, but recognise the positive role farmers can play in carbon abatement. In effect, it's best of both worlds for Australian farmers. Nevertheless, we will be pressing both sides of politics in the lead up to the federal election... whenever it may be. TAX EXEMPTION As part of the 2009-10 Federal Budget, the Government announced that it would tighten the non-commercial loan rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Division 7A) to prevent shareholders and their associates avoiding tax on distributions and benefits they receive from private companies. Under the proposed legislation, farmers holding assets, such as land, as a company asset would be required to pay arms-length market rates to that company (therefore, subjecting that income to company taxation rates) for use of the land by the farm enterprise.