Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Australia's incompetent tax bureaucrats again

An Egyptian TV tycoon has won an epic legal battle with them. This is even dumber than operation Wickenby. At least the bureaucrats won a round or two in Wickenby even if it cost them far more than they recovered. It took them 16 years of farting around in this matter and in the end their case was so weak that the judge threw it out before any defence evidence was called. So the taxpayers of Australia are millions down the drain again --for nothing. The bureaucrats were obviously sure that the "wog" was crooked and he may well be but you have got to prove it. It's oppression by litigation -- a well-known American artform particularly associated with the now fallen Eliot Spitzer. It is a disgrace. I am delighted that the "wog" in this case refused to give in

BUSINESSMAN Mike Boulos is well known for creating Australia's first ethnic pay-TV business. Less well known is the authorities' 16-year pursuit of him over an alleged $1.1 million sales tax fraud. Boulos has always denied wrongdoing - and after several legal battles, a judge has agreed, directing a jury to return a verdict of not guilty to 10 counts of defrauding the Commonwealth, The Australian reports. District Court judge Robyn Tupman told a jury last month, there was "no evidence capable of proving the guilt of the accused and in particular of proving his guilty knowledge in relation to these charges".

It has been an extremely expensive exercise, costing millions of dollars. The result of the trial came only after the jury had heard the evidence in the crown case, which was entirely circumstantial. The investigation by the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Federal Police involved scores of officers and spanned Australia, Europe, South Africa and Singapore. Along the way documents have been (legitimately) destroyed and key witnesses have left the country.

Boulos, who could not be contacted, is no stranger to controversy; his Television & Radio Broadcast Services (TARBS), which broadcast ethnic pay-TV channels, collapsed in 2004. He later set up United Broadcasting International with his wife.

He has been involved in various business-related legal actions in the past. The fraud charges against the Egyptian-born Magdi Boulos, as he is known in court proceedings, date back to January and February 1993 and relate to sales tax refund cheques issued by the Australian Taxation Office. At the time Boulos was involved with a number of companies. One of them, Brendons Advanced Technology (BAT), was a private investment company and Boulos and his wife were sole directors. Computer World Solutions (CWS) was another Boulos-related company, which sold computers. The allegedly fraudulent sales tax refunds involved transactions between CWS, BAT and another Boulos-related company, Trio International.

The tax office believed the transactions never occurred and it began an investigation, which dropped off from 1994 to 2000, only to be renewed when Boulos was raided by the AFP in 2000. By this time Boulos thought he was no longer being investigated. This six-year pause in the case was later described in one the several court judgments relating to Boulos as "an unjustifiable delay by prosecuting authorities".

The AFP wanted to interview Boulos in 2001 but he declined and later left the country. A warrant for his arrest was issued that year - but supporting documentation was found to be faulty - and another warrant was issued in 2002. Boulos voluntarily returned to Australia in December 2004, when he was arrested at Sydney airport and charged with 10 counts of defrauding the Commonwealth to the tune of $1.1m.

A number of legal challenges followed. Boulos was unsuccessful last year in having the charges thrown out of court, and in April this year a jury in the NSW District Court began hearing the case. Evidence emerged that appeared to implicate another employee at the firm, who was involved in the paperwork relating to the computer sales transactions that led to the refund cheques being issued.

At the conclusion of the crown case, before the jury heard from the defence, Boulos's barrister, Ian McClintock SC, rose to his feet and said that there was no evidence Boulos would have known the transactions were bogus. The computer companies were turning over about $50m, dealing with "substantial numbers of computers involving substantial sums of money". Further, he argued, the other employee had direct control over all the companies involved in the computer transactions.

Boulos has spent more than $2m in legal fees but, unless he applies to the Federal Court for an ex-gratia compensation payment from the Government, is unlikely to recover his money. After the trial, Boulos again went overseas, this time with little fear he would be arrested on his return. He is due to touch down in Australia today.


Old lady penalized for having a small amount of savings

If she had blown all her money on drugs, she would have got a tick of approval!

Astrid Bieler is 72 and has four screws in her spine, but in less than three weeks Housing NSW will evict her from the flat where she has lived for the past 10 years. When she was among the first to move into the Tweed Heads development for over 55s, Ms Bieler hoped to remain in her new home for the rest of her days. The flat was purpose built for aging singles like her, she had friends in the area where she had lived for 12 years and she could manage the $130-weekly rent.

In July the landlord, Alby Ross, who had built and run her complex, advised his tenants that he was putting the Banora Point property on the market... It was quickly bought by Housing NSW, which then screened the tenants to work out who could stay and who must go. Ms Bieler desperately wanted to stay but was told that even though she was on a full pension she was too young [at 72??], not sick enough and, with life savings of $20,000 and 5000 Telstra shares [worth $16,000 at current market value], too wealthy.

The department gave her six months to find somewhere else, and when she failed to move, gave her a final month. It has now advised her she will have to leave to make way for someone more deserving unless her last-minute appeal to a Housing Appeals Committee is successful. A spokeswoman for the Housing Minister, David Borger, confirmed Ms Bielder would have to move out but denied she was eligible for public housing, a claim Ms Bielder says is simply wrong. "I was approved for public housing and put on the waiting list in Tweed Heads in August," she said.

Mr Borger's spokeswoman said the department regretted evicting aging tenants but Ms Bielder's savings meant she had to make way for others less fortunate. "Unfortunately, the reality is that there are many people who are doing it tough who need help from Housing NSW - people with no assets at all, no family and who also suffer serious health problems." The department has been trying to help her find accommodation, suggesting options such as caravan parks and places for sale. [What could she buy with $20,000??]

"I just want to stay where I live, where I have my friends," she said. "I can't understand why a government department is doing this to someone my age."


NSW government still bullsh*tting about horror school

A recent successful bullying claim has put the spotlight back on Farrer high school.

IN THE days when boys were allowed to be animals at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School, the end of each school year was marked by "the rumble". Year 12s stood at one end of the oval and the rest of the school at the other, with mattresses padding the intervening ground. At the squeal of a whistle they would launch themselves at one another - 13, 14 and 15-year-old boys against 18-year-old men - in a mass wrestle. Anybody caught punching would be whacked by the principal with a stick. It was an exercise in catharsis for the boys, who had suffered a year of brutal discipline at the hands of the year 12s, but was stopped in the early 1990s after a series of broken bones.

The NSW Department of Education says the Tamworth school now adheres to rigorous anti-bullying policies, promotes friendship between boarders and day boys through the "Farrer Friends" program and has a student welfare system that is regarded as best practice.

But the bullying claim brought by a Farrer old boy that resulted in a payout of nearly $500,000 in the Supreme Court on Friday has whipped up a squall in the community of students, alumni, teachers and parents known as the "Farrer Family". Some have accused David Gregory of whinging and money grabbing, but others have said his experience was neither isolated nor historical, and continues at the school.

"It's a totally traditional thing, in that what went on 20 years ago still goes on, and it's absolutely historical," said one mother, who withdrew her son last year after he threatened self-harm. "In year 7 you've got no rights; in year 12 you've got all the rights."

The conditions for bullying were fertile at Farrer during the 1990s when Mr Gregory was a student, because the school's philosophy was to give year 12s responsibility for the discipline of their juniors, creating what one former student described as a Lord Of The Flies effect.

Old boys have told of punishments such as having their heads held between speakers on loud volume, being forced to fill a pond on the prefects' lawn one cup at a time from a tap 50 metres away and being stripped naked and thrown into an icy pool in midwinter.

Karen Strachan, whose son Jeremy was a contemporary of Mr Gregory, said he was still damaged from his six years at Farrer, which included six boys tying him up one night and simulating sexual acts upon him to humiliate him. "Jeremy asked me not to take it any further, so I didn't. He had a horrific time when he was there. He went in the army and the army is pretty tough but he said his time at Farrer was worse than the army."

Parents say practices to which Mr Gregory was subjected, such as "gnome duty", which requires students to stand outside the year 12 dormitory holding a broom and a rubbish bin lid, still occur at the school. Moreover, they say, a rivalry has developed between the boarders and the day boys, and the school is reluctant to respond to complaints.

Lianne Penfold withdrew her son from the school in 2007 after he complained of bullying, much of which involved fights between the boarders and day boys, and often resulted in his arriving home with cuts and torn clothing. "We thought the selective school and all-boy environment with good role models would be good for him … but he was very unhappy," she told the Northern Daily Leader. "He never had friends over, and he would come home from school and go to his room and stay there."

The other mother, who pulled her son from the school last year, said her day-boy son was a target at Farrer because he was more brains than brawn. "The kids who were bright weren't treated the same as those on the footy team," she said. "Farrer footy team is the golden egg over there, and they were treated differently to everyone else." In this environment a boy such as Mr Gregory, who enjoyed politics and literature, might always have been regarded as an eccentric. But former students say the school has little tolerance for those who are different.

Simon Smart, who attended the school in the 1980s, said he enjoyed it because he fitted in, but he could see in retrospect that it would have been a difficult place for outsiders. "It was a very aggressively heterosexual environment," Mr Smart said. "It had the potential to be a great school, but its great failing was the inability to protect the vulnerable kids."

The NSW Department of Education said it did not accept that there was rivalry between boarders and day boys and conducted regular anonymous surveys to spot concerns including bullying. S"Any incidence is dealt with strongly and thoroughly, through the school's welfare and discipline procedures and by providing necessary counselling and support," a spokesman said.


Reason clouded by CO2 obsession

By Peter Schwerdtfeger, emeritus professor of meteorology at Flinders University in Adelaide

ALTHOUGH there are many doubters of man-made climate change, I am not yet one of them. But I remain unconvinced that carbon dioxide is the sole bete noire. Two decades ago, I pored over the spectral properties of the infra-red radiation of this gas, which is essential to plant life, and found that it was almost completely overshadowed by the radiative properties of water vapour, which is vital to all forms of life on earth.

Repeatedly in science we are reminded that happenings in nature can rarely be ascribed to a single phenomenon. For example, sea levels on our coasts are dependent on winds and astronomical forces as well as atmospheric pressure and, on a different time scale, the temperature profile of the ocean. Now, with complete abandon, a vociferous body of claimants is insisting that CO2 alone is the root of climatic evil.

I fear that many supporters of this view have become carried away by the euphoria of mass or dominant group psyche. Scientists are no more immune from being swayed by the pressure of collective enthusiasm than any other member of the human race. I do not believe for one moment that undisciplined burning of fossil fuels is harmless, but the most awful consequence of the burning of carboniferous fuels is not the release of CO2 but the large-scale injection ofminute particulate pollutants into the atmosphere.

Detailed studies led by internationally acclaimed cloud physicist Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have revealed that the minute water vapour droplets that form around some carbon particles are so small as to be almost incapable of being subsequently coalesced into larger precipitable drops. In short, the particulates prevent rainfall.

Rosenfeld's research group has shown that humans are changing the climate in a much more direct way than through the release of CO2. Rather, pollution is seriously inhibiting rain over mountains in semi-arid regions, a phenomenon with dire consequences for water resources in the Middle East and many other parts of the world, including China and Australia.

Rosenfeld is no snake-oil salesman. As an American Meteorological Society medallist, he has an internationally endorsed research record in cloud physics that no living Australian can claim to emulate. It is more than 20 years since Australia was a knowledgeable force in cloud physics and cloud seeding. CSIRO's relevant division has long been disbanded and its cloud-seeding techniques based on the use of expensive silver iodide have been superseded by the Israelis using an inexpensive and far more natural product: sea salt.

Chinese and Israeli researchers have shown that the average precipitation on Mt Hua near Xi'an in central China has decreased by 20per cent amid increasing levels of man-made air pollution during the past 50 years. The precipitation loss was doubled on days that had the poorest visibility because of pollution particles in the air. This explains the widely observed trends of decrease in mountain precipitation relative to the rainfall in nearby densely populated lowlands, which until now had not been directly ascribed to air pollution.

Some of the most chilling evidence was presented by Rosenfeld's Australian-based research associate Aron Gingis in a 2002 submission to the House of Representatives standing committee on agriculture, fisheries and forestry concerning future water supplies for Australia's rural industries and communities.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellite map of southeast Australia, enhanced by Rosenfeld, shows the frightening persistence and longevity of pollutant trails across vast areas, including the all-important Snowy Mountains catchments. It may well be concluded that the increasing emissions from the phalanx of brown coal-burning power stations at Hazelwood and other locations in Gippsland, Victoria, have substantially wrecked the natural precipitation processes over the once hydrologically rich Australian Alps.

If Rosenfeld's scientific interpretations are correct, then southern Australia would greatly benefit from the application of his discoveries. At the very least, Rosenfeld's conclusions should be accorded appropriate evaluation and testing by an unprejudiced panel of peers.

Yet his work so far has been ignored in Australia because it does not fit in with the dominant paradigm that holds CO2 responsible for reduced rainfall in semi-arid regions.

Scientists, like all other people, need to remain open to competing views and avoid the danger of being locked into tunnel vision through group obsession, which is what global warming seems to have become.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Mrs Bielder shouldn't be taking up valuable real estate that could be occupied by twenty (perhaps thirty five when the word gets 'round) indigenous folk, as we residents of Cairns have observed with public housing properties up here.