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May 2016

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30 May 2016
by Angus Grigg

Murray Goulburn, Blackmores flop on infant formula

Murray Goulburn and Blackmores are struggling to break into the $600 million local infant formula market, as personal shoppers sending Australian products to China shun their new ranges.

The latest figures from Aztec Data show each company has secured less than 0.1 per cent of the market, compounding the woes of Murray Goulburn which has seen its listed units tumble after cutting milk prices and its profit outlook.

The struggling dairy company sold just 46 units of its NatraStart infant formula in chemists and supermarkets for the week ended May 8, according to Aztec. [Read More...]

30 May 2016
by AAP

Australian women wrap up first World Series rugby sevens title

Australia beat Spain in the quarter-final of the World Series to clinch the title in France

Australia’s first world rugby sevens champions dropped just their second tournament of the season at the year-ending leg of the women’s series in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday.

Having already clinched the title by beating Spain 35-0 in the quarter-final, the Pearls were eventually beaten 29-19 by Canada in the competition’s final.

The final result mattered little though, as the world title – along with a 14-5 defeat of former world champions New Zealand in the semi-final – come less than three months before the competition’s inaugural appearance at the Rio Olympics. [Read More...]

29 May 2016
by Latika Bourke

Jacqui Lambie lashes Cory Bernardi on Kitchen Cabinet

Jacqui Lambie chats to Annabel Crabb over a meal of Tasmanian salmon and salad.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has hit out at conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, describing the South Australian as displaying a "born with a silver spoon up my rear end" attitude and referring to him as an "arsehole".

A self-deprecating Senator Lambie, who appeared on the ABC's Kitchen Cabinet on Thursday night, also called for Tasmania's parliamentary representation to be halved, with the number of Senate seats to be slashed from 12 to six. She joked she had only won her seat because of her extended family - her mother has 19 siblings. [Read More...]

29 May 2016
by Adam Gartrell

Liberal candidate Chris Jermyn implodes at Bill Shorten event

Chris Jermyn abruptly packs up his listening post in the rain at Sunbury Square.

A Liberal candidate's bid to gatecrash one of Bill Shorten's campaign events has backfired spectacularly with a car-crash media interview.

Chris Jermyn found himself unable to articulate the Coalition's health policies before declaring his hatred for journalists and beating a hasty retreat.

After appearing outside a Bill Shorten press conference holding his own election posters, Liberal candidate Chris Jermyn became rather media shy. [Read More...]

29 May 2016
by RT

Spectacular Vivid 2016 light festival kicks off in Sydney

[Photo Gallery - View More...]

28 May 2016
by Jim Middleton

The federal budget and the end of ABC Fact Check

According to an authoritative news division source, the timing was “determined by the government; it’s their budget not the ABC’s.”

Just before Christmas, ABC news director Gaven Morris and one of his offsiders, Bruce Belsham, called together about 20 senior reporters and executive producers. They had bad news. The Turnbull government was refusing overtures to discuss the national broadcaster’s 2016 budget.

However, they assured the gathering that in assessing any future cuts, it would not be a case of “last on, first off” – that they should not assume any of the initiatives developed as a result of the Gillard government gifting ABC News $20 million in 2013 for three years would be scrapped. One of those was the fact-checking unit. [Read More...]

28 May 2016
by Karen Middleton

Scott Morrison's black hole serves its campaign purpose

Their attack on Labor’s economic figures may have backfired, but the Coalition’s campaign HQ is just happy the focus is back on the economy.

At Coalition campaign headquarters, the view of Tuesday’s unfolding news conference with Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann blasting Labor over a costings “black hole” was that their performance was a bit mixed.

The pair started out accusing the opposition of having a $67 billion gap between spending and savings and ended up conceding their own calculations could be out by $35 billion, prompting journalists to ask if there was a “black hole in the black hole”. [Read More...]

28 May 2016
by John Kelly

Scoring the Treasurers’ Debate

The National Press Club Treasurers’ Debate held yesterday was one where the average voter, having watched it, would have come away feeling the wrong man was in the job.

Despite a quite articulate but very long winded opening address by Scott Morrison we still don’t know what the Coalition plan is to manage the economy, should they be returned to government on July 2nd.

Chris Bowen, by contrast, seemed to have the nuts and bolts locked down. Perhaps that is why he looked the more relaxed. [Read More...]

28 May 2016
by Sandi Keane

WTF! A secret deal that sees Abbott replace Turnbull in the Lodge?

Have Abbott and his cohorts stitched up a secret deal with Turnbull to hand back the baton after the election? Margaret Simons once told Sandi Keane she had a nose for news. Has it gone to her head? You be the judge!

When Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, rumours keep circulating about a secret deal hatched by Abbott’s Monkey Pod conspirators that would see their neoliberal warrior back in the Lodge. "On yer bike, Tony… in yer dreams," I thought — at first…

Then, in February this year, Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher’s media radar registered a supersonic blip when Clive Palmer came out with a “WTF” jaw-dropper in Question Time.

He asked the Prime Minister if he were just a “seat warmer" — a "switcheroo" no less: [Read More...]

27 May 2016
by Waleed Aly

Three weeks in, it's still an election about nothing in particular

There are flashpoints – negative gearing, maybe some health funding, possibly even boats – but there's no central, definitive theme.

When was the last time anyone voted for anyone? Barack Obama in 2008. Maybe Kevin 07? Other than that, examples are thin on the ground. Australians didn't vote for anyone at all in 2010, voted against Labor (and certainly not for Abbott) in 2013, and have now very quickly fallen out of love with Malcolm Turnbull almost as thoroughly as we dropped Rudd. This year Americans will either vote against Donald Trump and put Hillary Clinton in the White House, or they'll vote against politics altogether and put Trump there. An average of national polls this week put Trump slightly ahead. Yes. [Read More...]

27 May 2016
by Mark Eggleton

Whistle-blowers need to be heard, not victimised

Australian organisations need to make employees feel that reporting wrongdoing is the right thing to do, especially in the wake of recent events in the financial sector as well as at retailers such as 7-Eleven. This was one of the key points raised at the recent Risk Culture roundtable co-hosted by The Australian Financial Review and KPMG.

Managing director of the Australian Bankers' Association, Steven Munchenberg, says there needs to be a major focus on transparency and accountability and part of that is about "making people feel it's the right thing to do to blow the whistle internally and, if they are still not satisfied, externally" [Read More...]

27 May 2016
by Ben Eltham

No Ideas And No Idea: The Barnaby Joyce Show

The Deputy PM’s inelegant attempt to draw attention back to immigration policy shows just how lacking in ideas his government remains.

The Deputy Prime Minister is not known for his eloquent oratory; he has a tendency to mangle his expressions in a way that can be endearing and incomprehensible in turn.

But last night’s outburst connecting the banning of live cattle exports to Indonesia with Australia’s ever-controversial border protection policies has got Joyce into more trouble than usual. [Read More...]

25 May 2016
by David Donovan

The Free Enterprise Foundation, Michael Yabsley and Arthur Seenodonors

I know nothing...

Former Liberal Party money man Michael Yabsley has put Arthur Sinodinos in an untenable position by belling the cat on what he knew about illegal developer donations.

Earlier this week, a former Liberal Party official admitted to committing a criminal offence by concealing illegal acts committed under his oversight.

At least, that was the way it appeared when the Liberal Party's former federal treasurer, Michael Yabsley, told ABC Four Corners he was aware of illegal donations being made to his Party during his time in charge. [Read More...]

25 May 2016
by Ben Eltham on

Treasurer Scott Morrison. The Real Black Hole Is In The Coalition’s Credibility

Morrison and Cormann have launched a major attack on Labor’s costings, accusing the party of threatening to blow the federal budget. Given the approach the Coalition took to the 2013 election, and the damage they have done to the nation’s bottom line since, it’s a bold feat of hypocrisy even by Canberra standards, writes Ben Eltham.

According to the Coalition, Labor has a “black hole” in its costings. Depending whether you believe the Coalition or not, the total blow out in Labor’s costings could be $67 billion, or even as much as $199 billion over the next decade. [Read More...]

23 May 2016
by John Maycock

The cruel pension eligibility tricks facing Australia's disabled

According to the Turnbull Government, if you are 'able to get out of bed in the morning ... you are not impaired enough to warrant being paid the Disability Support Pension'.

Simply put, according to the government, only those eligible for the Disability Support Pension (DSP) are deemed unfit for work — everybody else is fit for work to some degree.

In other words, you cannot be unfit for work if you fail the DSP inquisition — bear in mind that you are only allowed to be temporarily incapacitated on Newstart and that after a certain length of time, you are forced to apply for the DSP. And here it is, the yardstick of disability that is used to test your incapacity. Are you able to get out of bed in the morning? You can? Well, you are not impaired enough to warrant being paid the DSP. [Read More...]

23 May 2016
by Nick McKenzie

Mafia adviser's meetings with Malcolm Turnbull, MPs

Greg Hunt (right) with Mr Madafferi at a meeting in Parliament House.

Slain gangland lawyer and Mafia associate Joe Acquaro spent two decades cultivating, and donating to, senior Liberal politicians on behalf of alleged crime figures, even having a meeting with Malcolm Turnbull.

Leaked documents and photos tell the inside story of the political activities of Mr Acquaro, who considered himself the long-standing legal, business and political adviser for Melbourne's alleged Calabrian Mafia cell, and whose political access raises serious questions about Australia's donations regime.

Slain gangland lawyer Joseph "Pino" Acquaro, was allegedly involved in a struggle with key Mafia figures before he was gunned down in a Melbourne street Tuesday morning. [Read More...]

23 May 2016
by Angus Grigg

China's biggest retailer bets on Australian products

In 36 minutes during China's Singles Day sale last year, e-commerce retailer JD.com sold 30 tonnes of Devondale milk powder from Australian dairy producer Murray Goulburn.

On the same day it moved 10,000 bottles of Swisse's Liver Detox supplement in 18 minutes, proving yet again the giant sales on offer for the right foreign products in China.

Putting aside the tiny margins attached to such promotion days, these numbers show how quickly e-commerce has come to dominate China's retail landscape. [Read More...]

23 May 2016
by Pepe Escobar

Beware what you wish for: Some War Truths

MiG 29 fighter jets.

So foreign ministers from the 28 NATO member-nations met in Brussels for a two-day summit, while mighty military power Montenegro was inducted as a new member.

Global Robocop NATO predictably discussed Afghanistan (a war NATO ignominiously lost); Iraq (a war the Pentagon ignominiously lost); Libya (a nation NATO turned into a failed state devastated by militia hell); Syria (a nation NATO, via Turkey, would love to invade, and is already a militia hell).

Afghans must now rest assured that NATO’s Resolute Support mission – plus “financial support for Afghan forces” – will finally assure the success of Operation Enduring Freedom forever.

Libyans must be reassured, in the words of NATO figurehead secretary Jens Stoltenberg, that we “should stand ready to support the new Government of National Accord in Libya. [Read More...]

22 May 2016
by AFL

AFL Table after Round 9

22 May 2016
by David Tyler

Goodbye fearless leader. A desperate Turnbull plays the Tony Abbott card of hate.

Man overboard or not, the government’s election campaign is all going to plan. Perhaps that’s the problem.

Every top conservative political campaign, these days, embraces expensive, designer-consultants. Accordingly, the Coalition reaches for top shelf Crosby-Textor ready-made, off-the-peg, four-point election campaign template with dead cat on table. It’s world’s best practice with a dinkum Aussie link: Abbott’s victory in 2013 hugely increased demand for their consultancy services. They made their name with a boat-stopper. [Read More...]

22 May 2016
by Peter Hartcher

The 28 words that sealed Malcolm Turnbull's fate

Tony Abbott endorsed the government's re-election this week with the words: "This is my legacy, this is Malcolm Turnbull's legacy, this is our legacy, and that's why it's so important that we re-elect a Coalition government on July 2."

Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk jobs and growth, the media wants to ask about Peter Dutton and refugees. Michael Koziol tells us how it unfolds. It cost Turnbull a very great deal to earn that endorsement. To keep Abbott's policies intact, Turnbull had to surrender some of his own. To keep faith with his party's conservative elements, he broke faith with much that the Australian people expected from him.

In earning those 28 words of approval, Turnbull lost the approval of 3.25 million voters over the past six months, based on the fall in his approval rating in the Fairfax Ipsos poll. [Read More...]

22 May 2016
by RT

Magnitude 5.9 quake hits central Australia at 10km depth

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has hit Australia some 460 kilometers southwest of the town of Alice Springs in the country’s Northern Territory, the US Geological Survey has reported.

According to USGS, the epicenter of the quake occurred at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers.

There have so far been no reports of casualties or destruction so far. [Read More...]

22 May 2016
by Karen Middleton

Labor’s bid to make health central to election

In the outer suburbs of the big cities, where many a marginal seat lies, people are talking about the economy with a level of big-picture analysis that has some MPs surprised.

“They’re asking, ‘Where are we headed as a country, for my kids and my grandkids?’” one Liberal MP says.

It’s a slightly new take on the usual hip-pocket-nerve debate that tends to dominate election campaigns, as much about how life will be into the future as how it is now. And as focus on the budget begins to give way to the campaign proper, voters are starting to consider whose policies will – or won’t – make life harder. [Read More...]

22 May 2016
by Martin McKenzie-Murray

Inside the Brett Whiteley Lavender Bay fakes trial

One of the paintings at the centre of the trial: Blue Lavender Bay.

An art dealer and conservator convicted of dealing in fake Brett Whiteleys now face a lengthy stint in jail. But the twists and turns in the five-week trial proved more colourful than the paintings themselves.

Guy Morel was suspicious. At the art conservatory in which he worked, he began hearing whispers of mysterious paintings being made in his boss’s storeroom. “I thought you knew,” a colleague told Morel in 2006. Morel did not, but he wanted to. Soon, his curiosity would become alarm.

Encouraged by his colleague, Morel waited for an opportune time to inspect the room. It was often locked, but the room’s separating wall did not reach the ceiling – it was a tall partition, leaving a gap at the top. While his boss was away, Morel placed a chair on a bench and, standing on the chair, with an extended arm blindly snapped photos of the room. Then he stepped down and inspected the digital images. He was shocked. [Read More...]

21 May 2016
by Tony Blackshield

A Day in court

Senator Bob Day’s attempt to stymie the government’s Senate voting laws was doomed from the start. But the High Court proceedings may have achieved one of the senator’s aims.

When Malcolm Turnbull announced on 8 May that he had pulled the trigger for a double dissolution, he was obviously untroubled by the fact that the High Court had not yet reached a decision on the challenge by the Family First senator, Bob Day, to the Senate voting reforms. When the Court announced its decision just five days later – in a single unanimous judgement that “none of the… arguments has any merit” – the prime minister’s assessment was vindicated [Read More...]

21 May 2016
by Rossleigh

The Independent NBNco AFP Police Officer

Ok, I guess you’ve all heard about the Australian Federal Police raid on Labor offices and the homes of Labor staffers.

And I guess you’ve heard the various accusations and counter-accusations today. Labor calling it politically motivated, while Turnbull is upset that the integrity of the AFP is being questioned. [Read More...]

21 May 2016
by AAP

Three convicted of female genital mutilation should go to jail, court told

Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri was convicted of acting as an accessory after the fact

Lawyer for Shia Muslim sect followers given minimum 11-month custodial sentence wants house arrest but prosecutor argues for general deterrence.

Three followers of a Shia Muslim sect convicted in Sydney of female genital mutilation offences should receive jail time rather than home detention in order to deter others, a court has heard. [Read More...]

20 May 2016
by James Massola

Greens leader Richard Di Natale fails to declare home, pays au pairs low wage

Richard Di Natale and his wife, Lucy Quarterman, on their 20-hectare Deans Marsh property.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale failed to declare his family farm in Victoria's Otway Ranges for 15 months, breaching parliamentary rules and potentially placing him in "serious contempt" of the Senate.

A visit to the farm of the new Greens leader makes for an eventful day out. And Senator Di Natale has paid three au pairs to help with his family as little as $150 a week after tax, or $3.75 an hour - based on a standard 40-hour week - as well as room and board worth $300 a week.

He says he made up the difference and paid above minimum wage requirements [based on advice from a payroll services company] and by requiring only 25 hours of work a week. [Read More...]

20 May 2016
by Jane Lee

AFP raids ALP offices in Melbourne over NBN 'leaks'

The Australian Federal Police are raiding Labor Party offices in Melbourne over the alleged leak of documents from the National Broadband Network.

Shadow finance spokesman Tony Burke confirmed the raids on Thursday, saying they were in relation to allegations about documents which revealed that the NBN roll-out was slower and more expensive under the Coalition than under Labor.

In an explosive development in the middle of a federal election campaign, Mr Burke said the revelations about the NBN had caused "immense damage" to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as former communications minister and questioned the timing of the raids. [Read More...]

20 May 2016
by Tess Lawrence

Sophie Mirabella's fistful of dollars

The Sophie Mirabella bribe scandal shows up the tenuous nature of Australia's democracy.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA'S "LIGHT BULB" MOMENT was blown to oblivion on Sky News last month, when she shoved a middle finger in a live socket, sabotaging her delusion that the good people of Indi would ever consider re-electing this political harpy as their Federal representative.

The shameless admission, that had she beaten incumbent Independent Cathy McGowan in the 2013 federal election, locals would be rewarded with $10 million for a much needed extension to the Wangaratta Hospital, provided yet another squalid example of the contempt in which voters are held by toxic politicians, in this instance, the Coalition. [Read More...]

19 May 2016
by John Passant

Billions in tax rorts for the rich still untouched

The 2016 Budget robs the poor to pay the rich. Its cuts to social welfare and other government payments and programs all had one target in mind—to fund tax cuts for big business. The handouts to business will cost $48 billion over ten years.

Both major parties are also sprouting changes to various legislated tax havens like superannuation, the capital gains discount and negative gearing.

Many contributions to superannuation funds are taxed at 15 per cent, saving those on the top marginal tax rate 32 per cent in tax. Most superannuation payments to retirees are tax free, meaning someone like former NAB bank boss Don Argus with a family super fund balance of $15 million pays no tax on his “pension” of say $500,000 a year. These superannuation concessions cost about $30 billion a year, and about $12 billion goes to the top 10 per cent of income earners. [Read More...]

19 May 2016
by Corey Oakley

An election that raises real issues but presents few real alternatives

If there was one thing the Liberal government didn’t want, it was an election dominated by the politics of class and wealth inequality.

That’s the reason the 2016 budget abandoned the language of “ending the age of entitlement” and “lifters versus leaners”, opting instead for the inoffensive sounding “jobs and growth”. It’s why the Liberals tried to hide the truth about their $50 billion of corporate tax cuts and agreed to minor cuts to superannuation concessions for the super-wealthy. It’s why, faced with Labor’s demand for a royal commission into the Liberals’ banker mates, the government announced expanded powers for ASIC and trumpeted (unconvincingly) its determination to clean up the banking sector.

Unfortunately for Turnbull, truth, on occasion, will come out. [Read More...]

19 May 2016
by Peter Mares

Robes rally for fairer courts

Barristers and solicitors have taken the unprecedented step of rallying to demand an increase in legal aid funding. Will it come to wigs on the picket lines?

Tuesday’s protest was timed to coincide with Law Week but also fell in the second week of a federal election campaign.

It was at the polite end of the protest spectrum. As the hundreds of people rallying outside Melbourne’s County Court threatened to block pedestrian access along Lonsdale Street, solicitor Mark Woods reminded them that the Queen’s footpath must remain free to passing traffic.

But in the legal world, politeness often combines with passion, and this demonstration was no exception. Having called on us all to respect the right of way, Woods went on to describe what was happening inside the court complex that was our backdrop. [Read More...]

19 May 2016
by David Leyonhjelm

The nanny state wants to think for us

The Senate Nanny State Inquiry, which I chaired, has ended due to the election. Its seven short reports, available on the Parliament House website, make sobering and even disturbing reading.

Throughout the inquiry – during public hearings and in submissions – three things about Australian public health lobbyists came to worry me: a conceited arrogance in the face of evidence from overseas; a desire to make laws 'for the greater good', and the belief that 'appropriate' intellectuals know better than the rest of us. [Read More...]

18 May 2016
by Michael Gordon

No, Prime Minister, you can't airbrush away the damage done on Nauru and Manus

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after he visited Border Force onboard the Cape Jervis patrol boat with local member Natasha Griggs in Darwin on Tuesday.

Until now, Mr Turnbull has been content to let Peter Dutton do the dirty work, serving up his daily tally of the number of Labor MPs who have ever expressed the slightest discomfort with any elements of Coalition (or Labor) border protection policy.

Now, with a Border Force patrol boat to provide the photo opportunity, Mr Turnbull has stepped up to declare that Labor doesn't have the courage, or the will, or the conviction to stop the boats. [Read More...]

18 May 2016
by nxt.org.au

Editor: For all people looking for alternatives to vote for, check out the policies of NXT. There are worse options.

Nick Xenophon Team: Policy Principles

For us, policies are all about principles that guide our actions. These principles are set out to inform Australians of our legislative views.

Parliamentary members and candidates are encouraged to propose and debate the most workable solutions and options possible. [Read More...]

18 May 2016
by Jenna Price

How the federal government is destroying the evidence

The federal government continues to push a sickness tax. If you are sick, you will pay more for being sick. No-one will be immune.

The decision by the Coalition to continue the freeze on Medicare rebates for general practitioners will have a huge impact on those who work at the front line. The vaccinators. The blood pressure takers. The mole and freckle checkers. The collectors of Pap smears. The very people you visit when you feel like hurting yourself or feel you can't go on.

The Opposition leader says Medicare needs to be protected and stay in public hands.
But it will have an even bigger impact on you. [Read More...]

17 May 2016
by Denis Bright

Bill Shorten in the Regions and the Leaders’ Forum

Momentum in Capricornia: Bill Shorten and Chloe

From the Regions to Sydney, Bill Shorten’s campaign seems to be bringing back support from Labor voters who sought refuge with minor parties in 2010 and 2013.

Fresh from strategic visits to Tasmania, North and Central Queensland, Bill Shorten has been acclaimed by the audience of the People’s Forum in Windsor NSW as the preferred winner by a 49 to 29 vote margin with 29 undecided voters.

However, neither leader made major communication errors.

Only Peta Credlin in her capacity as Sky News commentator had words of caution for the Prime Minister. Her perceptions of him as Mr Harbourside Mansion would inevitably become a liability across Western Sydney in juxtaposition with Bill Shorten’s social market commitments. [Read More...]

17 May 2016
by Andreas Bimba

Rest in Peace

Image of Toyota's Altona car assembly plant

Rest in Peace, another few hundred thousand Australian workers and their families. Labor Senator Kim Carr today fails to deliver for the Australian automotive industry, writes Andreas Bimba.

Yesterday morning (16 May 2016) Labor Senator Kim Carr effectively rubber stamped the appalling policy and actions of the Liberal/National Party-Tony Abbott led federal government in late 2013 that will lead to the imminent closure of much of Australia’s car manufacturing industry and its 200,000 associated jobs.

The last three Australian car manufacturers, Ford, Holden and Toyota will be closing their Australian car manufacturing operations later this year and in 2017. A major policy announcement by the ALP that they would undertake substantial change to Australia’s current industrial policy settings that would force a rethink on viability by the three remaining local car manufacturers, or probably more realistically by some new entrants, was the last real chance that the industry had to continue operations in a substantial way but this did not happen today. [Read More...]

16 May 2016
by John Passant

In defence of Duncan

Duncan Storrar

Duncan Storrar asked a question on Q&A on Monday night and then made a comment that, with blinding clarity, highlighted the unfairness of the Budget and the wealth shifting agenda of the ruling class. Here is part of his exchange with Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer and Chief Executive of Australian Industry Group Innes Willox.

“I’ve got a disability and a low education, that means I’ve spent my whole life working for minimum wage. You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people,” he said, addressing federal minister O’Dwyer.

“If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life,” he went on. “That means that I get to say to my little girls, ‘Daddy’s not broke this weekend. We can go to the pictures’. Rich people don’t even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don’t I get it? Why do they get it?” [Read More...]

16 May 2016
by David Tyler

Turnbull’s first week a train wreck in a campaign derailed by some home truths.

When the going gets tough on the campaign trail, Australians discovered last Wednesday, the tough may just get up and leave. Golden dummy spit award this week goes to caretaker PM Malcolm Turnbull, former Siberian gold prospector, barrister, property investor and sometime man about western Sydney who left town hell-bent on rescuing a nation from reckless spending on health and education, lower house prices, a bogus Labor tax on carbon and other dark forces of unreason including misty-eyed sentimentality for asylum-seekers.

It was a hell of a call but he would rise to it. On week one of his union-busting, work interning, corporate tax-cutting election campaign proper, the PM was out to convince an increasingly sceptical electorate – and anyone else who might show up to his show down – that he has the ticker to win. [Read More...]

16 May 2016
by Kaye Lee

Piss off ya nasty old bludger...

According to a 2015 headline in Rupert Murdoch’s rag, The Australian, “No, the rich don’t pay a ‘fair share’ of tax. They pay all of it.”

The hypocrisy of a Murdoch-owned entity discussing tax is overwhelming.
In 1999 the BBC published an article clearly setting out Murdoch’s well-known strategy for tax avoidance...

“in the four years to 30 June last year, Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation and its subsidiaries paid only A$325m (£128m) in corporate taxes worldwide. That translates as 6% of the A$5.4bn consolidated pre-tax profits for the same period.

Further research reveals that Mr Murdoch’s main British holding company, Newscorp Investments, has paid no net corporation tax within these shores over the past 11 years. This is despite accumulated pre-tax profits of nearly £1.4bn. Payments were made in some years, but in others rebates were claimed.

…analysts suggest Mr Murdoch’s team broadly employ three strategies: [Read More...]

16 May 2016
by Tim Colebatch

Labor braves some dark AAA questions

Don’t lose it: shadow treasurer Chris Bowen at the National Press Club last Tuesday

We might not like talking about it, but the ratings agencies have noticed Australia’s debt, And so has Labor.

The Turnbull government was courageous indeed to put a big company tax cut at the centre of its economic policy. And shadow treasurer Chris Bowen was equally courageous this week in pledging that Labor would maintain Australia’s AAA credit rating, come what may.

It was brave, first, because anything Labor says on debt allows the Coalition and its media allies to revive the image of “debt and deficits,” which they have successfully defined in the minds of many voters as the legacy of the last Labor government. Bowen knows that, but he decided that the best way to counter the image was to tackle it head on. [Read More...]

16 May 2016
Joshua Robertson

Campbell Newman defamation case: taxpayers cover $525,000 payout

Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman signs copies of his biography Can Do: Campbell Newman and the Challenge of Reform

Campbell Newman has cost Queensland taxpayers more than half a million dollars in costs to settle a defamation suit over his comments when premier that lawyers for bikies were “part of the criminal gang machine”.

Newman and his former attorney general Jarrod Bleijie are understood to have settled a suit brought by solicitors Chris and Daniel Hannay with a $525,000 payout. [Read More...]

15 May 2016
by Alan Austin

Coalition corruption: They are not even embarrassed about it

The Panama Papers, media investigations and Turnbull Government members themselves reveal corruption is endemic. And becoming more brazen.

Ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott openly admits that Coalition ministers serve first and foremost the corporate sector — and expect to be rewarded for it. In a speech to the Parliament last week, he said,

“The member for Groom Ian McFarlane was the resources minister who scrapped the mining tax ... It was a magnificent achievement ... and I hope that the sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place.”

There is a long history of state and federal ministers going into well-paid jobs after politics. In some cases, soon after. And often in the industry they previously regulated — or deregulated. But never has this been so blatantly spruiked. [Read More...]

15 May 2016
by Urban Wronski

Turnbull Show collides with reality; coalition suffers massive setback.

Duncan Storrer

The government has lost the plot with its election agenda. After conning the Governor General into granting assent for a double dissolution with the fiction that its blocked ABCC legislation was mission critical, the PM has since dropped the issue in a bid to sell his economically innumerate and unsaleable budget, another work of fiction, in a change of tack which is engaging the community in ways that can only further hurt his fast-receding election prospects.

Turnbull’s first tack, however, is to normalise the use of off-shore companies to reduce tax. Defending his role as a company director in an offshore company set up by Mossack Fonseca on the dubious grounds that “it certainly would have paid tax in Australia if it had paid any tax at all”, he unerringly puts his finger on the problem that such companies are set up to minimise tax. [Read More...]

08 May 2016
by Laura Tingle

Jobs For The Boys: Turnbull government makes 103 last minute appointments before poll

Australia has six new ambassadors, a new Reserve Bank Governor and 76 new or reappointed members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as part of a wave of 103 appointments – including former politicians – made in the dying days of the current parliament.

While many of the appointments and reappointments are entirely uncontroversial, the Coalition's enthusiasm for making so many appointments that will run during the life of whoever forms the next government – without consulting the opposition – will raise some eyebrows and runs contrary to the Coalition's own bitter protests about Labor making such appointments in the past.

In the current case, the appointments include appointing judges to the Federal Courts to fill vacancies that haven't yet occurred. [Read More...]

08 May 2016
by Tony Walker

Malcolm Turnbull's Senate nightmare

Australian Senate Chamber

On election night on July 2, Malcolm Turnbull and his Coalition brains trust will be paying more than usual attention to Senate voting for the simple reason that a Turnbull government would continue to be hostage to the vagaries of upper house numbers.

As the country's political establishment embarks on the second longest election campaign in Australia's history, in the klieg lights of a 24-hour news cycle the battle for the Senate will be a preoccupation, even an obsession. [Read More...]

07 May 2016
by Urban Wronski

Morrison’s dangerous, deluded dud budget a dead giveaway.

Jobs and growth. Scott Morrison may not be the smartest treasurer we’ve seen but, my, how he loves to parrot a slogan. He’s not referring to the more than 1000 jobs which will be axed from the community services sector following federal budget cuts to homelessness services, mental health programs and community legal centres.

Nor is he talking about the efficiency dividend of $1.2 billion which will see another swag of public service jobs disappear despite his government’s promise not to make any further public service cuts.

“This is a continuation of a policy that meant one in three phone calls to the Medicare, Centrelink and child support agencies went unanswered last financial year, 22 million calls missed in total,” says CPSU leader Nadine Flood. [Read More...]

07 May 2016
by Simon Evans

Is Nick Xenophon the 2016 kingmaker in waiting?

Kirby Manning and Lachlan Aird. Xenophon supporters.

Depending on how the cards fall on election day, Nick Xenophon may become the 2016 version of Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine, who secured riches for his state by holding the balance of power when Prime Minister John Howard reigned.

South Australia needs it. The state has the highest unemployment rate in Australia. Naval shipbuilder ASC will cut 640 jobs by the end of 2017, puncturing the euphoria of a $50 billion submarines contract announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull which only surfaces by the mid-2020s. [Read More...]

07 May 2016
by Ben Eltham

Forced Internships Don’t Create Jobs

The government has run into trouble with its plan to create internships for young unemployed people. Should they really be surprised?

As the dust settles on Budget 2016, it’s clear that one of the most controversial aspects of Scott Morrison’s “ten year plan for the economy” is the budget’s plan for youth employment.

The blowback has certainly surprised the government. On budget day, Morrison was enthusiastic about the youth employment measures, mentioning the work he had done on the subject as Social Services Minister, and the feedback he’d gathered from welfare groups and experts like Patrick McClure. [Read More...]

07 May 2016
by Jon Altman

The Half Billion Dollar Black Slush Fund, Controlled By Nigel Scullion

Indigenous affairs minister Senator Nigel Scullion.

For over 40 years, royalties from mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory has been directed towards Aboriginal projects. But which projects, and why?

When the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in 1976 there was great optimism that the return of ancestral lands to their rightful owners might result in economic improvement, sometimes thought of just in mainstream ways, sometimes in accord with Aboriginal aspirations and wishes.

At the stroke of a pen in 1976, lands that had been reserved for exclusive Aboriginal use under the Crown Lands Ordinance – about 20 per cent of the Northern Territory – was vested in land trusts and was the real estate property of traditional owners. Subsequently Aboriginal ‘land rights’ ownership (as distinct to ‘native title’ determination) has expanded to just on 50 per cent, after a protracted claims process. [Read More...]

06 May 2016
by Paul Connolly

Kangaroos face Kiwis in climate of international rugby league indifference

No laughing matter. Mal Meninga takes charge of the Kangaroos for the first time with interest in the Australian rugby league side on the wane.

Like Easter eggs in January and Christmas trees in September, State of Origin’s approach is spotted earlier and earlier every year. You could say it’s a reminder of where the game’s priorities lie when it comes to representative football. As if to reinforce this idea the NRL has been calling Friday’s Anzac Test match between the Kangaroos and New Zealand in Newcastle the Downer Test. Bit harsh, what? But is it fair?

Oh, right, sorry, Downer is an engineering mob, and the game’s naming rights sponsor, so it’s simply an unfortunate juxtaposition of words. Sadly, however, it’s apt enough in a climate where the first Kangaroos Test match in 12 months has been shunted off to a regional capital, and where the Kangaroos captain, Cameron Smith, has acknowledged a general apathy about the game and appealed for support from the public. “I think if everyone can get behind our team that would be great,” Smith said. [Read More...]

06 May 2016
by Helen Davidson

Norfolk Islanders propose hosting 'open' detention centre for asylum seekers

An aerial image of Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island could become an offshore processing centre for asylum seeker boat arrivals in return for the Australian territory retaining self-governance, according to a new proposal.

Norfolk Island could use existing houses and accommodation to allow refugees and asylum seekers to live free on the island, under a proposal from a former resident. [Read More...]

06 May 2016
by Mark Kenny

Election 2016: Flat end to the 44th Parliament a bad look for Liberals

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen moves a motion during question time.

For Malcolm Turnbull, it had triumphant moment written all over it. Yet still it fell flat. Curiously so.

All the elements were there. A dominant, loquacious Prime Minister. A bullet-proof economic plan. A revitalised leadership team. A national broadcast replete with the attention of the national press gallery. And most importantly, the advantage of having the last word of the 44th Parliament with which to frame a crucial double dissolution election contest.

When the PM finally got to his feet after a fulminating tirade from Labor's economic spokesman, Chris Bowen, he could not even keep his own troops interested. [Read More...]

06 May 2016
by Mark Kenny

Labor budget reply: Bill Shorten unveils $71 billion in savings

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten delivers his budget reply speech.

A massive $71 billion in budget savings has been identified by Bill Shorten as the Labor leader carved out an alternative budget position ahead of the federal election to be called at the weekend.

Bill Shorten delivered a solid performance as he presented Labor's alternative vision for the nation's expenditure. [Read More...]

05 May 2016
by John Lord

“What was the point of your three years in office?”

1 Leigh Sales got it right when she asked the Treasurer; “What was the point of your three years in office?” On the eve of an election it is a relevant question to ask a government who in order to gain office accused the Government of the day of absolute carnage in terms of running the economy. And then proceeded to triple the debt of the Government it so condemned.

Without doubt this is a bland budget. It doesn’t scare anyone particularly, but nor does it inspire. It doesn’t hide three years of Abbott and Hockey’s incompetence. It just asks that we forgive and forget and give them another chance.

After saying revenue was not a problem it proceeded to use three Labor policies to raise some. [Read More...]

05 May 2016
by Inga Ting

Tobacco tax rise comes after cigarette prices soar 343 per cent in 20 years

On Tuesday the federal government announced it will increase the tobacco excise by 12.5 per cent a year for the next four years.

The plan will cause the price of a packet of 25 cigarettes to rise to about $40, up from $25 today.

Bitter though it may be for smokers, the hefty price rise is nothing new. [Read More...]

05 May 2016
by Paul Karp

Government refuses to table $650m cut to diagnostic imaging services

Decision to delay on legislation raises prospect cut will not be made until after Senate rises, preventing opportunity to disallow it before parliament dissolved

On 3 May, the Senate passed a Labor motion ordering the rural health minister to produce the legislative instrument which would give effect to the diagnostic imaging services cut.

The government has refused to table a regulation cutting $650m from diagnostic imaging services such as breast cancer screening, suggesting it will not allow the Senate a chance to disallow the cut before parliament is dissolved. [Read More...]

05 May 2016
by Ben Doherty

Manus Island detainees launch high court bid to be moved to Australia

More than 900 men are held on Manus Island, something Papua New Guinea’s supreme court declared illegal last week.

They allege Australia and Papua New Guinea governments have committed gross human rights violations, constituting ‘crimes against humanity’

More than 750 refugees and asylum seekers detained on Manus Island have taken their case to the high court of Australia, alleging crimes against humanity by the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments, and seeking an injunction for their immediate return to Australia. [Read More...]

04 May 2016

Budget 2016: The budget in five minutes

The Treasury expects non-mining investment will pick up.

Your five-minute guide to Scott Morrison's first budget. [Read More...]

04 May 2016
by Mark Mulligan

Reserve Bank of Australia cuts cash rate to fight deflation

Tuesday's rates decision coincides with the federal government's third budget.

The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday cut the cash rate to a record low of 1.75 per cent in a bid to head off falling prices and an economic downturn.

The cut, the first in a year, came less than a week after a shock drop in core inflation to well below the central bank's 2 per cent to 3 per cent target band.

Tuesday's historic interest rate reduction coincides with the federal government's third budget, which is expected to be mildly stimulatory despite pressure to narrow the deficit [Read More...]

04 May 2016
by John Birmingham

Australia Post's $9 pick-up service enough to make me go postal

Australia Post's well-paid executives won't have to answer to angry customers who've just been told they have to pay for a package they know the sender already paid for.

As a rule I try not to do business with criminal organisations. It never ends well. Because of this I'll be cutting ties with Australia Post.

Australia Post customers are furious at plans to charge them up to $9 if parcels aren't picked up within five days. Courtesy Seven News Melbourne. Like most people, residual fondness and simple inertia kept me using the old dinosaur even as it cut services, increased prices and turned the local post office into a Two Dollar Shop full of one dollar crap with 10 dollar price tags. But this latest plan to charge people to pick up undelivered parcels is the end. [Read More...]

03 May 2016
by Urban Wronski

About Scott Morrison, and a Budget preview.

Scott and Mal and the red teapot

Scott Morrison does not enjoy the trust of his leader or his nation. Malcolm Turnbull put his finger on his distrust of his Treasurer when he said Morrison “knew of the plan to bring the budget forward by a week to May 3, but that he was not part of the inner circle.”

A successful treasurer cannot be excluded; a wallflower in his own party’s dance to the music of time. If your boss won’t even trust you with the budget’s date, why should the nation trust you with any other budget details? [Read More...]

03 May 2016
by David Leyonhjelm

Election predictions for house and senate

When the politicians convene in Canberra in the depths of winter later this year, the headlines will read 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'.

Prime Minister Turnbull will flash a forced smile as he walks past journalists on his way into a much-diminished joint party room; empty chairs will mark the defeat of various Liberal members. Journalists will reflect on Bill Shorten's growing stature after a disciplined election campaign. [Read More...]

03 May 2016
by Marianna Papadakis

Foxtel hits out at proposed copyright changes

Foxtel has criticised changes proposed by the Productivity Commission, including allowing Australians to circumvent "geo-blocking".
Meanwhile, lawyers have raised concerns that some changes could stifle innovation and inhibit economic growth.

A Foxtel spokesman said the company disagreed with the Productivity Commission's views on geo-blocking, saying if Foxtel was not able to licence relatively inexpensive content from overseas it could not afford to invest in the much more expensive Australian content that it created. [Read More...]

03 May 2016
by Philip Wen

Operation Fox Hunt: Law council says extradition treaty with China is 'a joke'

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before their meeting in Beijing in April.

Beijing: The national peak body representing the legal profession in Australia has urged the federal government not to ratify an extradition treaty with China, citing concerns the mainland's criminal justice system lacked procedural fairness and was "steadily marching in the wrong direction".

Addressing the parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in Canberra on Monday, the Law Council of Australia said there was no way to guarantee those extradited would be granted a fair trial, nor were there any effective measures to prevent torture or China going against diplomatic assurances and administering the death penalty. [Read More...]

03 May 2016
by Reuters

Australian Craig Steven Wright reveals himself as Bitcoin's mysterious mastermind Satoshi Nakamoto

Craig Wright was confirmed as Bitcoin founder on Monday.

Australian tech entrepreneur Craig Wright on Monday told the BBC he was the creator of controversial digital currency Bitcoin, ending years of speculation about a person who until now has gone by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto.

The BBC said Wright gave technical proof supporting his claim to using Bitcoins known to be owned by Bitcoin's creator. It said prominent members of the Bitcoin community had also confirmed Wright's claim and said Wright repeated the claim to The Economist and GQ. [Read More...]

02 May 2016
by Tom Allard

East Timor's Xanana Gusmao says small nations angry with Australia, and will put bid for UN seat in peril

Former East Timor president, Xanana Gusmao, in Sydney last week.

Australia's bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council is under threat due to its refusal to negotiate directly with East Timor over the disputed maritime boundary, the former president of the fledgling state, Xanana Gusmao, says.

In an interview, Mr Gusmao - still a hugely influential figure in East Timor and its government - said his country would not actively support Australia's bid, adding that many developing nations were alarmed by Australia's stance on the border in Timor Sea, which it says is denying tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue that should be rightfully East Timor's. [Read More...]

02 May 2016
by Malcolm Mackerras

A High Court challenge that could cause Malcolm Turnbull to scrap the election

The High Court is set to hear a challenge to the government's Senate reforms.

Before the full bench of the High Court, and beginning today at 2.15pm, case Number S77 of 2016 between Plaintiff Robert John Day and two defendants from the Commonwealth of Australia will begin.

Intervening between now and then, Malcolm Turnbull will continue to be very careful with his words. According to Michael Gordon in The Canberra Times on April 20, he said this on the previous day, Tuesday: "My intention is, after the budget, an appropriate time after the budget has been delivered, I will be asking the Governor-General to dissolve both houses of the Parliament for an election which I expect to be held on July 2." [Read More...]

02 May 2016
by Greg Jericho

Inflation is scarily low – but it's Morrison who needs to act, not the RBA

Falling fruit prices helped drive lower inflation in the March quarter. The Coalition’s policy of letting the private sector boost demand hasn’t worked

Falling prices are a sign of lack of demand but that is a problem for government to fix in the budget rather than the central bank.

Last week’s inflation figures showed that prices actually fell on average in the first three months of this year. The figures set off strong speculation that Tuesday will see an interest rate cut from the Reserve Bank. But while low inflation is a sign of a lack of demand in the economy, the latest figures suggest that the treasurer, Scott Morrison, is the one who needs to act, rather than the RBA governor, Glenn Stevens. [Read More...]

01 May 2016
by Peter Hannam

'Perilous': Bureau of Meteorology boss Rob Vertessy exits with climate warning

Weathering BoM: Rob Vertessy steps down as chief executive of the Bureau of Meteorology.

Australia faces a "perilous" water security future from climate change even as the Turnbull government eyes budget cuts to water programs and CSIRO halves climate investment, Rob Vertessy, the outgoing head of the Bureau of Meteorology, says.

Reservoirs in the Murray-Darling basin are now close to their lowest levels since the Millennium Drought and Tasmania is also facing "serious" issues", Dr Vertessy told Fairfax Media on Friday, his final day as the bureau's chief.

Professor Matthew England examines why the recent slew of record-breaking hot weather has climate scientists alarmed. "Water shortage is a problem and climate change is going to be intensifying the drought and flood cycle," he said, noting that water demand is increasing. "Australia faces a really perilous water security challenge in the future." [Read More...]

01 May 2016
by James Wheeldon

Heads must roll at corporate regulator ASIC

Greg Medcraft, the chairman of beleaguered corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), has had an interesting career.

Ten years ago, in January 2006, the one-time Melbourne accountant who made it big on Wall Street was sharing a Las Vegas stage with B-list comedian David Spade. The event was the “one-of-a-kind industry dinner” at the annual conference of the American Securitisation Forum (ASF), a lobby group that Medcraft co-founded and chaired for several years before he joined ASIC.

Securitisation is the process by which lenders bundle together individual debts – such as residential mortgages – and then sell “tranches” of the bundle to so-called “sophisticated” investors. Securitisation brought us collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs) and other arcane financial instruments that you may be familiar with if you saw or read The Big Short. It also helped bring us the global financial crisis: it was the inevitable bursting of a bubble in the market for those securities that sparked the greatest financial shock since the 1930s. [Read More...]

01 May 2016
by Atreyee Chowdhury

Waleed Aly vents his ire on Port Arthur filmmaker

Waleed Aly

Waleed Aly, an Australian writer, academic, lawyer, media presenter, musician and co-host of Network Ten’s news and current affairs television program, The Project, has criticised a film maker for allegedly spreading false information in his film, ‘Bryant – The Port Arthur Massacre.’

In his show, Aly hinted that the film maker could be making a film on the assassin, Martin Bryant, to garner sympathy or raise conspiracy theories.

Aly accused director Paul Moder of encouraging conspiracy theories. He criticised the film on Port Arthur massacre killer Martin Bryant and said that the film spreads false and potentially upsetting conspiracy theories. He also said that the timing to release such a film is inappropriate because the anniversary of the massacre is drawing close. [Read More...]

01 May 2016
by Jonathon Ireland

Mirabella: Unwitting corruption whistleblower

Sophie Mirabella

Jonathon Ireland discusses former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella's recent claim that $10 million in hospital funding was withdrawn from the community because she was not re-elected — effectively admitting that Coalition funding is decided on partisan political considerations.

I have never held the former member for Indi in any high regard. Her political persona as an MP revealed few personal attributes beyond untethered ambition and a complete disregard for decency.

Her catalogue of distasteful moments includes a wonderful photo with Tony Abbott in front of the infamous ‘Juliar ... is Bob Brown’s bitch’ banner and a look of contemptuous disgust when Simon Sheikh collapsed next to her on the set of ABC’s Q&A.

Ever the inflammatory conservative mouthpiece, she was embarrassingly ditched by her electorate in the 2013 election, in the midst of a national swing which propelled the Liberal Party to government.

Sophie Mirabella’s political career has been little more than a comical demonstration of the ability of blindly ambitious people to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. If anything, her real achievement is the dogged determination to prevent us from writing one final obituary on her political career.

Now she has returned to recontest the seat of Indi. This return has brought on her latest controversy. [Read More...]