Saturday, August 14, 2010

A bungling adoption bureaucracy

This reminds me of a time I wrote to the TIO, which is supposed to FIX bungles by telephone companies. The TIO misfiled both my original letter and a follow-up copy a month later. I had to write to the Prime Minister to get a reply out of them! -- JR

An Adelaide couple who went through a "nightmare" five years trying to adopt a child say they are defying the State Government and risking a hefty fine by identifying themselves and their adopted son and sharing their ordeal.

Liz and Darryn Peter, of Thorngate, decided to adopt in 2003 after three years of failed IVF treatment.

While the journey ended successfully with a trip to Thailand in 2008 to bring home new son Samuel, now 7, Mrs Peter said the couple was forced to endure one bureaucratic bungle after another from both state and international authorities.

Under current law, parents who identify themselves and their adopted children in the media face a maximum fine of $20,000.

SA Family First leader Dennis Hood said he was preparing a draft Bill to change this law and hoped to put it before parliament in coming months, describing it as "entirely unnecessary" and "almost useless" because very few Australian children were adopted.

A Department of Families and Communities spokesman said it was in place for privacy reasons and exemptions could be granted.

But Mrs Peter said she had known mothers who had experienced difficulty in gaining an exemption in the past and did not seek one herself.

She said staff at the Adoption, Family Information and Post Care Services unit, which helps manage South Australians through the adoption process, were over-worked and stressed, views aired in her soon-to-be released book Searching For Our Angel.

"It (the book) is to try and bring attention to a silly law and to let people know what happened to us. We had our file lost, we had a social worker mix us up with another family and deem us not suitable to adopt and that's just the beginning," she said.

Mrs Peter estimates the couple spent about $15,000 to adopt Samuel and had since started the long process to adopt another child.

In the 2009/10 financial year, South Australians adopted 21 children from overseas, with a further five adopted from Australia.


A miner speaks out

The mining tax is expropriation by any other name, says Andrew Forrest

THE mining tax is no way to maximise the wealth of Australians. The worst economic policy ever formulated in Australia's history, the Mining Super Tax Mark 1 (resource super-profits tax), was dropped like a bomb on the people of Australia. Like any repugnant policy launched by government, it came complete with the propaganda package to sell it.

We all recall mining companies being called liars, foreigners and tax cheats, and the Australian people being told that the federal government, not the states, owned the resources, that these resources were about to run out, and all the rest of the community-dividing diatribe. It was a deliberate ambush s to create a wave of sentiment against the resources sector, driven by government and union advertising.

In all quarters of the global capital markets the advertising fell on deaf ears. The government's move was seen as either incompetent or, far worse, dishonest. Such a massive move to the hard socialist Left should only have been the result of major and national consultation, certainly not an ambush without any discussion.

Among economic historians, the term "expropriation" was employed to describe the government's erratic behaviour. No doubt, adopting that term in this comment will lead to some hysterical reactions.

The term "expropriation" derives its meaning from the forced acquisition by government, normally below market value. The tax involved the acquisition of a 40 per cent economic interest by government of the entire mining and resources sector. The consideration offered was seemingly worthless promissory notes (the government's now infamous tax credit in failure or bankruptcy guarantee), that came with a substantially below-market rate of interest.

A promissory note of questionable value that no one understands? With an uncompetitive yield? In exchange for 40 per cent of the entire economics of the engine that saved Australia from the GFC. That's expropriation.

There is a dangerous irony in Kevin Rudd coming back. Rudd was already in the process of removing the RSPT when he himself was removed, allowing Julia Gillard to claim the credit. However, let's not forget Labor's and the Greens' original determination to introduce Mark 1. The surplus impact of this tax was rushed into the formal budget within days of its announcement. The Labor government was spending it before most people knew anything about its dreadful implications.

Now that Rudd is back and with the very strong support of the Greens (despite Bob Brown being fully aware of the devastation it would cause to the economy) this disastrous policy could be put back on the table. Like the secret Mark 2 deal, we can only wonder what the Greens-Labor preference deal contained.

Make no mistake, the Greens want this tax, and more, in complete ignorance of the necessity of a strong Australian economy.

Indeed, it was terrifying to see how the government, backed by the Greens, immediately returned Australia to a class-war scenario. The politics of envy was used in a crude attempt to wedge the electorate. Union and government advertising, funded through the misuse of so called "emergency powers", was mobilised even before the RSPT bomb was dropped. There never was any consultation with the mining industry.

Despite the Treasurer's (now seen to be ridiculous) claims at the time that he and the government consulted with the mining industry, they were in fact planning a co-ordinated government and union advertising campaign to cut down the very industry it was claiming to consult with.

Investment in Australian resources immediately became woefully uncompetitive to global debt and equity providers the instant Mark 1 was announced. Suddenly the taxman was elevated ahead of debt service obligations, threatening the very capital that creates the profits in the first place.

In an instant, debt financing became extremely difficult or impossible for all projects without extremely high rates of return. The Canadian Prime Minister joined other sovereign competitors to Australia in cheering our incompetence.

While the Mark 2 Super Tax may have modified the tax impost, like its original launch, the attempted defusing of the Mark 1 bomb has been shrouded in secrecy. It is an equally unfair proposal and the ability to model it, and in turn finance projects, remains debilitated by the lack of detail and transparency of the new arrangements.

We estimate that the marginal rate of tax has fallen from around 57 per cent (RSPT) to around 50 per cent (MRRT), but this remains a long way above the 40 per cent rate that is the next highest rate to be found anywhere else in the world.

The changes in the new tax are biased against infrastructure providers like Fortescue, who provide services to others, and so further handicap the market's ability to provide its own infrastructure. We'll become a nation that can't survive without the government teat. Also, Mark 2's debt finance benchmark advantages companies with large balance sheets, as opposed to start-up companies like Fortescue that rely on commercial finance to fund project and infrastructure development.

The government and the three multinational, multi-commodity resource companies negotiated a secret agreement that would absolve just those companies from paying much tax at all by way of Mark 2 for the foreseeable future. Those companies, and their associated industry representative bodies, were forced to sign secrecy agreements that prohibited them from discussing Mark 2 until after the election. Commentary with the media was banned. What could be so bad in that agreement with our government that the Australian people are not allowed to judge it until after they cast their votes?

A similar tax was brought into Papua New Guinea by the same people who supported this tax, only decades ago. It didn't raise a cent over all that time, but did successfully and efficiently deter investment. Unsurprisingly it was thrown out, but not before it cruelled investment in that country.

It's no surprise that since Papua New Guinea threw out its own Mark 2 mining super tax, international investment has been flowing back in and new project developments are flourishing.

In the face of that raw example, why on earth would any responsible political leader burden Australia with it now?

Australia, a capital-starved country, must bring in policy to rejoin itself to a reputation of responsible economic leadership. After all, there has never been a country that has taxed its way to prosperity.


Amazing waste of expensive water by an incompetent Leftist government

Queensland wasting $40,000 in recycled water every day

ALMOST $40,000 worth of water a day is being flushed by the State Government as it refuses to use its flagship recycling pipeline to supply households. The Courier-Mail can reveal 33 million litres of water a day are being passed through the high-priced purification process and then ditched in the Brisbane River.

The 33ML would be valued at nearly $15 million a year if sold to council-run retailers at the current wholesale price, rising to in excess of $73 million based on the rate at which it is sold on to households.

The revelation comes as southeast residents are encouraged to conserve water while being hit with higher bills to pay off the pipeline and drought-proofing infrastructure.

The waste – equivalent to about 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools a day – comes after the Bligh Government dropped a pre-election plan for permanent use of recycled water. The waste is set to continue until commercial customers are found for recycled water or a decision is made to mothball most of the $2.5 billion pipeline's treatment plants.

Department of Environment and Resource Management director-general John Bradley yesterday conceded the level of water loss would continue until two of the plants were completed at the end of the year. However, Mr Bradley insisted that given the production costs were $300 a ML, or $3.5 million a year, this was "value for money" for a project that eventually could supply up to 232ML a day. "So proceeding to go through and commission these plants makes good economic sense in terms of providing a strategy that is helping us drought-proof southeast Queensland," he said.

Mr Bradley said purifying the water also meant 86 tonnes of phosphorus from sewage was not pumped into Moreton Bay.

However, Opposition water spokesman Jeff Seeney said the pipeline was an " absolute white elephant" forced on Queenslanders by a Government that had done nothing about water for a decade. "The wastewater treatment plants were the result of political panic from a Government that didn't plan to build the infrastructure at the right time," he said. "And they will be an economic burden for generations to come.

"The fact is that Queenslanders are not only paying for the interest on the $2.5 billion it cost, they are now paying a weekly cost for water that is actually wasted."

The pipeline is producing 75ML a day on average with Government-owned power stations taking about 42ML. Dam levels are not expected to drop to 40 per cent, triggering recycled water use, until 2013.

Mr Bradley said the water grid manager would have to decide how the pipeline would be operated once the final two plants were commissioned. "You can mothball them and pickle the membranes," he said. "Or you can operate them at low load and cycle through the membranes."

He said negotiations with some industrial customers were nearing completion.


Australia's future productivity and the Greens’ agenda

The Coral Sea, east of the Barrier Reef, covers an area of 972,000 Sq. Km. . (About the same area as South Australia). It is a highly prospective oil and gas area. Now declared a no fishing, no go area.

In order for the water to run to waste in the name of “preserving the river”, the farmers in the Murray Darling irrigation area are to have their irrigation water supplies cut by 60%. Thus rendering Australia’s largest food bowl, and the farmers, to a state of irrelevance.

Bob Brown says that the greatest blot on Australia’s environmental reputation are the power houses fed by Yallourn Valley brown coal. These power houses produce Australia’s cheapest clean power and industrialised Victoria. He insists that they be closed by 2020.

All of the above are green initiatives.

And, Green’s Senator Christine Milne stated on a recent ABC 7.30 Report programme: “…….we want to see a carbon price as quickly as possible because we want transformation of the whole economy and society”.

Australia’s uranium reserves are the world’s largest. Nuclear Energy is cheap, clean and safe. Already there are some 438 Nuclear Power stations world wide with 61 more being built, and 250 more being proposed.

Labor is entrenched in its resistance to opening new uranium mines, and developing a Nuclear Industry here, because of their affiliation with the Greens.


Greenie logic: According to chief Greenie Bob Brown, power stations are a “great blot on Australia's environmental reputation” but building solar plants that blot out hundreds of square miles of the landscape – including valuable agricultural and residential land – while sending electricity prices through the roof is a good environmental practice!

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