Monthly Archives:November 2018

The Greens have launched a new bid to force the nation’s biggest miners to pay up under the mining tax, raising the pressure on Julia Gillard to admit the deal signed off with the three biggest miners in 2010 was botched.

The minor party, whose support is crucial to the Labor government’s survival, wants to fix the underperforming Minerals Resource Rent Tax to fund schools, dental health, and disability insurance.

Armed with fresh data from the new Parliamentary Budget Office, it will build on its existing motion to plug the royalties hole with a second amendment limiting the scope of the biggest miners, such as BHP Billiton, Xstrata, and Rio Tinto, to deduct asset values from current earnings.

Along with other cross-benchers and the opposition, the Greens believe Ms Gillard and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, were outmanoeuvred by the big three when cutting the new MRRT deal following the leadership change from Kevin Rudd.

The Greens say closing the loophole which allows state governments to lift royalty charges which must then be refunded by Canberra, would save more than $2.2 billion.

Its other change would close a further loophole which allows the big miners to write off the market value of existing assets over a number of years rather than deducting the lower book value over just five years.

It says this would secure more than $4 billion in revenue by 2016-17 and an extra $1.8 billion a year.

”Labor is taking more money off single parents than it has collected from the mining tax,” the deputy leader, Adam Bandt, told Fairfax Media.

Its move comes as the failure of the tax, which raised just $126 million in its first six months, emerges as a potential flash-point for the Labor leadership.

MPs loyal to the Prime Minister are fuming at public criticism of the tax this week by Mr Rudd, the chief whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, and others.

Mr Rudd used a Sky News interview on Tuesday to remind colleagues that the original Resource Super Profits Tax had been stronger but had been replaced with the watered down MRRT by Ms Gillard and Mr Swan after the leadership change of mid-2010.

He said it was never right for governments to take a backward step when pursuing the national interest.

Amid the tension, an email from an ALP supporter to Mr Rudd on Wednesday was distributed widely among Labor MPs, reviving memories of the bitter personal campaign against the former prime minister’s character last year.

”Mr Rudd, your disloyalty to your leader and party is shameful,” wrote a retired school teacher, Sue Martin, of Avalon Beach.

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Working together … Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with indigenous leaders Shirley Peisley, left, and Lowitja O’Donoghue. Reaching out … Julia Gillard meets indigenous leaders including Djawa Burarrwanga from Yirrkala at Parliament House on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIA has moved one step closer to recognising its first people in the country’s founding document after one of the Federal Parliament’s rare moments of unity between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

The two leaders committed themselves to address what the Prime Minister called ”the unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story” and the Opposition Leader dubbed it ”this stain on our soul”.

The passage through the lower house of an Act of Recognition was met by applause from the public galleries and from indigenous leaders including Patrick Dodson and Lowitja O’Donoghue who had been invited to witness the moment from the floor of the House.

The legislation recognises the ”unique and special place” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and is designed to give momentum for constitutional recognition after the election.

It passed the House of Representatives on the fifth anniversary of the apology by the former prime minister Kevin Rudd to the stolen generations.

”We must never feel guilt for the things already done in this nation’s history, but we can – and must – feel responsibility for the things that remain undone,” Ms Gillard told Parliament.

”No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation’s fabric than amending our nation’s founding charter.”

Speaking from handwritten notes, Mr Abbott told Parliament Australia was the envy of the world, except for the fact that ”we have never fully made peace with the first Australians”.

”We have to acknowledge, that pre-1788, this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now, and until we have acknowledged that we will be an incomplete nation and a torn people,” he said.

Ms Gillard described the absence of recognition in the constitution as ”the great Australian silence” and expressed the hope legislation for a referendum could pass next year.

Mr Abbott applauded the former Labor prime minister Paul Keating’s Redfern speech of 21 years ago and paid tribute to those on both sides of politics who played roles in progress towards recognition. ”So often in this place we are protagonists. Today, on this matter, we are partners and collaborators,” he told Ms Gillard.

Despite the support for the Act of Recognition, question time was interrupted on Wednesday afternoon by a small group of protesters in the public gallery. ”You have been served!” the indigenous Australians chanted, while throwing some sheets of paper on to the floor of the House, protesting that they had not been included in the constitution.

Originally, Labor had planned to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous people by this year, but it was deferred because of a lack of community awareness.

Both leaders acknowledged that the challenge of agreeing on the wording of the referendum remains. Mr Abbott said: ”It won’t necessarily be straightforward to acknowledge the first Australians without creating new categories of discrimination which we must avoid because no Australians should feel like strangers in their own country.”

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples welcomed the passage of the Act of Recognition but said the hard yards in achieving substantive constitutional reform were just starting.

with Judith Ireland

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Optimistic … Coalition voters were responding to the election announcement and were feeling more confident because they expected a change of government.COALITION voters are suddenly confident about the economy, moving clearly into positive territory for the first time in two years.

In the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence survey, optimists among Coalition voters outweigh the number of pessimists by five percentage points, a reverse of the recent pattern in which Coalition voters have been strongly negative.

Labor voters remain extremely positive, with optimists outweighing pessimists by more than 20 points.

The rise among Coalition voters has been enough to hoist the overall consumer confidence index from about 100 points to 108 on a scale where 100 means the number of pessimists balances the number of optimists.

Westpac’s senior economist, Matthew Hassan, said the change is primarily the result of the carbon tax.

Before its introduction in mid last year it pushed the confidence of Coalition voters (but not Labor voters) into a downward spiral.

”There was the point when there was a whole series of overlapping concerns around tax changes – the carbon tax, the mining tax, the global situation was getting worse and in Queensland things looked dire. The incoming government spoke about Queensland being the Spain of Australia.”

”At the same time, low- and middle-income households likely to voter Labor were being showered with carbon tax compensation, exacerbating the wedge.”

”In all the time we’ve been doing this, we’ve never seen as big a deviation. In terms of confidence, we had a divided nation. It was off the charts.”

Mr Hassan said the improved confidence figures represented a return to normality. The carbon tax had not been as bad as expected, the share market had climbed, and interest rates had fallen.

Asked in the first week of this month whether now was a good time to buy a major household item an extraordinary 59 per cent of Australians surveyed said yes. Only 16 per cent said no.

One quarter of those surveyed expected their own personal financial situation to improve in the year ahead. Only one in five expected it to get worse.

When asked about the economy over the year ahead, optimists outweighed pessimists by 9 per cent. But when asked about the economy over the next five years, optimists and pessimists were roughly balanced.

The chief economist of HSBC Australia, Paul Bloxham, hailed the surge in confidence as a sign interest rate cuts were having their desired effect.

”This result is consistent with what we’ve had in mind, which is that the soft patch in the Australian economy may be behind us,” he said.

Mr Hassan said the higher iron ore price meant news bulletins were no longer full of stories about the end of the mining boom. Housing prices had stabilised and started to climb. ”All of these things have come together. It’s hard to pinpoint what’s driving the new, better mood and how it will be sustained but certainly it’s far better than anything we’ve seen over the past 18 months,” he said.

It was possible Coalition voters were responding to the election announcement and were feeling more confident because they expected a change of government but Mr Hassan said elections were usually accompanied by uncertainty, making the surge in confidence unusual.

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STATE sport ministers will demand answers when they meet federal counterpart Kate Lundy in Melbourne on Thursday.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the Australian Crime Commission will address an emergency summit, instigated by the Victorian Sports Minister, Hugh Delahunty.

Also on Thursday in Melbourne, CEOs of the major sporting codes will discuss where their sports stand in relation to the ACC report.

Coalition of Major Professional Participation Sports members – the Australian Rugby Union, Australian Rugby League Commission, Cricket Australia, Australian Football League, Football Federation of Australia, Tennis Australia and Netball Australia – will meet at the Cricket Australia offices.

The state ministers and the public have been kept in the dark since last week’s announcement of the ACC’s findings into doping in sport and links to organised crime.

”There’s no particular agenda other than the states trying to get more information because at this point – and I’m sure the other sports ministers are the same – we’ve got no information over and above what’s in the public domain,” the NSW Minister for Sport, Graham Annesley, said.

”I don’t expect anyone to break confidentiality or to break the law. It’s not necessarily names or organisations that I’m looking for.

”I’m looking for the depth of evidence that may have been examined and the intelligence that has been gathered to put in some perspective, in my own mind, the seriousness of the threat we are facing.”

Annesley said he could understand the frustrations of players, clubs and codes at the lack of detail in the ACC report.

”I have no doubt that the vast majority of people involved in sport are competing within the rules and are doing the right thing,” he said. ”I also have no doubt that in most sports, there is a minority that want to step outside the laws to get some kind of artificial advantage.

”In that case, those people need to be identified and weeded out as soon as possible so that the vast majority can have their names cleared and have suspicion removed from them.”

Speaking in 2011, Annesley told Fairfax Media match-fixing was a bigger threat to the integrity of sport than doping. The former NRL referee maintains that belief. ”To me, there’s two distinct parts to this story which has been brewing for the last week or so,” he said. ”The first part is the use of drugs in sport, which is not new. We all know this has been around for many years, and we’ve got structure put in place nationally and internationally to try and reduce that threat.

”If drug-taking in Australian sport is more widespread that initially thought, that’s something we need to crack down on and clean up as much as possible.

”However, the second part of the story, and the more concerning part for me, is that if it is true that criminal elements are involved in distributing these drugs – and athletes are coming into contact with these criminal elements as a result – that [raises questions] over what other influence over those criminal elements may have.

”I want to know, and what I want to find out tomorrow night, is what extent the second element of that in particular, is an immediate threat to sport in Australia. And then discuss what we are going to do about it.”

NSW became the first state to legislate to make it easier to prosecute match-fixers and gambling conspirators. The Crimes Amendment (Cheating at Gambling) Act of 2012 allowed prison sentences of up to 10 years for match-fixing.

with Roy Masters

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NRL players and other athletes using performance-enhancing substances are set to be detected through investigative means as well as drugs tests, World Anti-Doping Authority director general David Howman has warned.

While Manly and Cronulla were quick to point out after meeting ASADA representatives on Tuesday that none of their players had failed a drugs test, Howman said doping authorities were relying more and more on other means to catch cheats.

Players have been warned their phones might have been tapped or they might have been placed under surveillance during an investigation by the Australian Crime Commission after customs intercepted a drugs haul about 18 months ago. Howman said such measures were becoming more common in the fight against drugs and the Lance Armstrong case showed that cheats could expect to be caught even if they did not fail a doping test.

”You can’t rely on drug tests alone to catch all the cheats who are doping in sport using science,” Howman told Fairfax Media.

”If you look at all of the figures that we have released you will see that in 2010 there were only 37 EPO cases worldwide and 47 in 2011, so you have got to sit back and say testing is not doing the job of cleaning sport out by itself.

”Five or six years ago we started thinking about gathering evidence in other ways, and that is when we linked in with Interpol and World Customs. ASADA were one of the first anti-doping agencies to lead the way and form relationships with the police and customs in Australia.

”I think in Australia this thing started because customs found a few parcels and that is one thing many countries don’t have – a pretty alert customs department. It would happen in other countries if they had the same commitment.”

Howman said organised crime was behind the increased threat of drugs and corruption in sport around the world, and he called for the establishment of a global integrity organisation.

”The only way international sport is really going to cope with this is to be committed,” he said.

”This is about making a fast buck, that is where the money comes in, and sport is providing more and more money – not only for the sportspeople but for those who surround them. With money comes greed and I am afraid that with greed comes crime.

”Sport is providing them with a lot of opportunities to get entrenched. I think about 25 per cent of world sport is now susceptible to the criminal underworld.”

Asked about comparisons between the allegations against NRL and AFL players and the Armstrong case, Howman said: ”Armstrong was systematic doping in a team over a really long period of time, and that is not like this thing”.

However, he warned that the NRL and other sporting bodies needed to remain vigilant.

”This wouldn’t have been exposed if Australia weren’t so good at doing the work that they are doing so in some ways,” Howman said. ”Australia has led the way in much of the fight against doping.

”But this has been happening under the watch of all of those who are responsible for running world sport and that is a sad thing. I don’t think it is an anti-doping authority’s job – it is the responsibility of those who run sport and they can call upon us to give them some help where necessary.”

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