Sunday, October 21, 2012

Regular sex does not mean you're in a relationship, rules judge

Maybe there's a need for marriage after all!

HAVING regular sex with a housemate does not mean you're in a "relationship" - even if the arrangement lasts more than a decade, a judge has ruled.

Family Court Judge Jane Crisford entered into the "friends with benefits" debate when she ruled that a man and woman who had regular sex as friends over a 14-year period were not in a de facto relationship.

Judge Crisford said it did not matter that the pair had been living in the same house, socialised on occasions and initially took short holidays together because they essentially lived separate lives.

"He continued to associate with her as it was a convenient and uncomplicated arrangement," she said.

"On one level they were companions and could co-exist amicably - in common parlance, they were friends with benefits.

"(He) was simply biding his time. For a reduced rent he had some domestic tasks performed for him. He had a companion when it suited him and he had sex when the need arose."

The court was asked to define the relationship as part of a property dispute between the housemates, who cannot be identified and are referred to as "Mikhail Markhov and Kanya Shelley" by the judge.

In total, Dr Markhov had 10 properties while Ms Shelley owned five. This included a property they bought together in 2006.

The application was lodged in the Family Court a few months before Dr Markhov married another woman in 2009.

Ms Shelley, a registered nurse, moved into Dr Markhov's unit as his tenant in 1995, a few years after they met.

A few months later she then bought her own unit in the same complex and Dr Markhov, a scientist, then moved into that unit with her as a tenant while his home was being renovated.

Over the years the pair bought other properties and resided in them together as landlord and tenant. Ms Shelley claimed over that time the pair were in a "committed and marriage-like" relationship and slept together "every night".

Dr Markhov at first claimed the relationship was platonic, but later admitted having sex with Ms Shelley in most of the houses, justifying his actions by saying he had "needs".

In handing down her decision, Judge Crisford said while she found some of Dr Markhov's attitudes "dishonourable", she was not satisfied there was a marriage-like relationship. He never intended to have a long-term relationship with her, she said.

Judge Crisford said Ms Shelley benefited from the arrangement in much the same way and disputed her claims of an exclusive, marriage-like relationship.


Green/Left alliance on the nose in a Leftist stronghold

ACT is Australia's version of DC

TRIUMPHANT Liberal leader Zed Seselja says ACT voters have rejected a Labor-Greens alliance in Saturday's election.

But he's stopped short of claiming victory, with the opposition falling one seat short of majority government in the 17-seat legislative assembly.

It will take days of negotiation with the Greens before a new minority government can be formed in the territory.

The Liberals, on the back of their biggest-ever primary vote, are on track to take eight seats to Labor's seven giving them their highest representation in the 23-year history of self-government.

With more than 70 per cent of the vote counted at 10.50pm (AEST), Labor had 39.1 per cent of the overall vote (up 1.7pc on 2008), to the Liberals 38 per cent (up 6.4pc) and the Greens 11 per cent (down 4.6pc)

A surprise Labor casualty could be Attorney-General Simon Corbell who might lose his seat to fellow Labor candidate Meegan Fitzharris.

The Greens drop from four seats to two with their leader Meredith Hunter still in a tight race with Summernats car festival founder Chic Henry, running for the Australian Motorists Party.  If she loses, the Greens would have only one seat in the assembly.

Mr Seselja said the election result was a rejection of both Labor and the Greens.  "Most importantly it is a rejection of their alliance," he told the party faithful.  "It would be a rejection of the verdict of the people if the Labor Party and the Greens were to now forge a closer alliance.  "We are ready to deliver the kind of government the ACT deserves."

Labor leader Katy Gallagher said it was not the night for victory speeches from any party.  "We're not arrogant, we're not coming out saying we have won this election," she told supporters.  "We've won the highest primary vote, we've increased our vote, we've held our seats and we've seen a swing towards us."

Ms Gallagher noted more than half the electorate voted for "a progressive government", referring to the combined Labor-Greens vote of 50.1 per cent.

Mr Seselja reiterated earlier pledges that he wouldn't offer the Greens a ministry as part of any negotiations, unlike in 2008.

But he shied away from questions on whether or not he would negotiate with them at all.

Liberal MLA Jeremy Hanson said: "Should we get eight seats we have a very strong case for government."

However, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the minor party would not be taking the number of seats won into account.

"We want to make sure there's a stable government for four years," he told AAP.  "We delivered that this term, we expect to deliver it in the coming term."

The Greens had a duty to the one-in-eight Canberrans who voted for the party to deliver on as many of their policies as possible, Mr Rattenbury said.

"We're quite open to talking to both of them (major parties) and that's something we will start in the next few days," he said. "We won't see an agreement to form a government, one way or the other, for quite some days yet."

Labor MLA Andrew Barr said a Liberal-Greens alliance would be "extraordinary" since "they are just a world apart".


ASIO seen as serious threat to innocent citizens

THE powers of Australia's domestic spy agency, ASIO, are rotten at their core, could be used against innocent Australians by an unscrupulous government and should be repealed, the law professor George Williams has warned.

Launching a campaign last night to wind back the "excessive and disproportionate powers" given to ASIO since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Professor Williams said that collectively the laws "represent the greatest assault on civil liberties in Australia since World War II".

Professor Williams, the Anthony Mason professor of law at the University of NSW, was speaking at the NSW Council for Civil Liberties dinner in Sydney where a national campaign to roll back the nation's anti-terrorism laws was unveiled.

The anti-terrorism laws have sunset clauses which come into effect in 2016. At that time they can be repealed, amended or made permanent.

The national campaign aims to force decisions of intelligence agencies, which negatively affect human rights, to be subject to a merit review and to ensure any future laws are scrutinised by the community before they are enacted to stop further erosions of civil liberties.

The council launched the campaign on the back of the public outcry about asylum seekers who had been assessed as refugees but who had adverse ASIO assessments resulting in them being held in detention indefinitely.

The campaign comes as the director-general of ASIO, David Irvine, launches a publicity campaign of his own with a rare interview to defend ASIO's proposal to extend its powers under national security laws to search phone and internet data and to allow ASIO officers to commit crimes without being charged.

Mr Irvine has told the ABC's Background Briefing that ASIO is being left behind because of advances in technologies. He also said that it had experienced intelligence failures because of changing technology.

"Today there are hundreds of different ways of communicating electronically and the law does not cater for those ways in the way it should," Mr Irvine told the ABC.

However, Professor Williams said there had been a frenzy of lawmaking in the past decade with 54 pieces of anti-terrorism legislation introduced - 48 of them under the Howard government - making an average of one new law every seven weeks.

He said there was no need for any new powers.

"The powers are more consistent with the apparatus of a police state, such as General Pinochet's Chile, than the laws of a modern democracy," he said.

"They have no place in Australia, should be repealed."


Self-sustaining leviathan

Has Australia’s welfare state become so large that it can now sustain itself and grow through the ballot box? This is the key issue raised by recent controversies in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential hopeful, drew fire for his remarks about the 47% of US households that pay no federal income tax. Romney was factually correct (although many of the 47% do pay social security payroll tax, which is like an income tax), but his analysis was so clumsily expressed that his essential point was lost in the frenzied commentary that ensued. In democratic welfare states, the proportion of the electorate that attracts more in social benefits from government than it pays in tax has become so large that candidates who promise to curb the welfare state have a hard time winning elections.

The same issue has been raised in the United Kingdom, where a recent study by the Centre for Policy Studies revealed that 53.4% of households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, and that this proportion has been rising dramatically in recent decades.

Given these developments, it is instructive to consider how Australia compares in the welfare dependency stakes. Here, 26.4% of individual taxpayers (who are different from households) paid no net income tax in 2009–10. Twenty years ago, this proportion was only 14.3%, and it is likely to have risen further since 2009–10 in light of an increase in the effective tax-free threshold. (Whereas the bottom 47% of US households paid no income tax, the bottom 47% of Australian individual taxpayers accounted for 10% of total income tax paid, although much of this would have been offset by family tax benefits.)

But there is no reason to stop at income tax. People also pay GST and many other taxes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has compiled data on total taxes paid and total social benefits (cash and in kind) received by households in 2009–10 classified into five slices (quintiles) from bottom to top according to their private income. The first three quintiles (that is, 60% of households) each received more in direct social benefits than they paid in taxes. It is impossible to determine from the ABS data the exact income level at which households, on average, move from being net beneficiaries to net payers, but it is probably close to the median household private income (around $75,000 a year).

Whether households are aware of the balance between the taxes they pay and the benefits they receive is another matter. If we compare total benefits with income tax alone, which is the tax households are most aware of paying, then only the top 20% are left paying more than they collect in benefits.

It is hardly surprising or objectionable that the population is divided into net beneficiaries and net funders of the welfare state, but there is ample scope for argument about the coverage and size of welfare state benefits, where the dividing line should be drawn between net recipients and net payers, and the size of the burden that the net payers – whether the top 20%, 40%, 50% or whatever – can reasonably be expected to carry.

Some things are clear. The welfare state has gone far beyond a ‘safety net’ concept. There is a large constituency whose direct financial interests are best served by the preservation or enhancement of social benefits, whether or not that is in their broader self-interest or the national interest. And the top 40% of households are bearing the burden, paying 72% of the taxes and receiving 22% of the benefits.



Paul said...

Maybe there's a need for marriage after all!

I suspect we've just seen de-facto law overturned. Anyone can now claim not to have been in "a relationship" if they want out. Wonder if they actually held joint bank accounts (loans notwithstanding)?

Paul said...

Just occurred to me. Centrelink may find that ruling interesting.