Friday, February 21, 2014

LOL: Tax Office forced to pay Rupert Murdoch $880m

Rupert is a hard man to toss

An $880 million payout to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has reignited the debate over whether global companies pay their fair share of tax in Australia.

News was paid the money after winning a long-running legal battle with the Tax Office relating to a 1989 restructure of the media empire involving billions of dollars and a company in the tax haven Bermuda.

The ATO had refused to allow the deduction but News Corporation defeated the ATO in the Full Federal Court in July and the money began flowing to the company over the Christmas-New Year break.

Mark Zirnsak, who is the Australian representative of advocacy group Tax Justice Network and was a member of a panel set up by the previous government to review the low tax paid by some multinational companies, said the payout "highlights the urgent need for reform of the global tax rules".

"Multinational companies should not be able to use their legal structures involving tax havens to dodge tax in ways that nationally based companies cannot," he said.

The payout represents a significant proportion of the $16.8 billion deterioration in the federal budget announced by Treasurer Joe Hockey in December.

It all but wipes out $1.1 billion in savings announced by Mr Hockey when he unveiled the midyear economic and fiscal outlook on December 17.

Mr Hockey did not mention the payout at the time, instead blaming the budget's "fiscal deterioration" on a softer economic outlook, downgraded exports forecasts and the previous Labor government.

Asked why Mr Hockey did not mention the financial blow, a spokeswoman said: "The speech on the day was about detailing the broad fiscal mess the government had inherited."

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos declined to comment because of laws protecting taxpayer secrecy.

In 1989, following years of rapid overseas expansion, News Corporation was in the grip of a debt crisis which the following year would bring it to the brink of collapse.

News owed about $239 million more than it had in assets, with most of the debt due to companies within the group.

By taking out fresh loans funded by moving around ownership of the US operation and its half-stake in Bermuda-registered News Publishers Limited, which owned part of the South China Morning Post, News hoped to make itself more attractive to banks.

The restructure was funded by two cheques, totalling $3.27 billion, drawn on the account held by subsidiary News Finance at the Pitt Street, Sydney, branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

However, the money flowed back into the account the same day the cheque was drawn.

News subsequently claimed deductions for foreign exchange losses incurred because it later paid back loans denominated in US dollars in Australian dollars, which had fallen in value.

A panel of judges decided in favour of News Corporation on July 25, but the money did not immediately flow because the ATO was still able to appeal to the High Court.

The ATO's 28-day window to mount an appeal coincided with the federal election campaign, during which Mr Murdoch's newspapers ran heavily against the Labor Party and the then prime minister Kevin Rudd.


Failed asylum-seekers in U-turn to Malaysia

BOATLOADS of asylum-seekers who have failed to make it to Australia are being intercepted trying to return to Malaysia from Indonesia, says the head of Malaysia’s border command.

Mohd Amdan Kurish, director-general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said Australia’s crackdown on boatpeople was having a dramatic impact further up the people-smuggling chain, in Malaysia.

“We have seen a number of attempts for those boats that have failed to make it to Australia re-tracking back and Malaysia is seen as the possible destination for them to retreat to,” Admiral Amdan said yesterday in Sydney.

“We have managed to intercept these people returning back from this adventure that they are trying to undertake to Australia, which they fail, and they re-track back their positions into Malaysia through the Straits of Malacca. We have seen this trend quite dramatically increasing in the Malacca Straits.”

He said the boats intercepted had been carrying asylum-seekers from the Middle East and South Asia.

Admiral Amdan’s comments came after The Australian revealed Australia’s crackdown on boatpeople had caused a substantial drop in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Indonesia.

Monthly applications for asylum-seeker registrations handled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Jakarta fell 71 per cent between February last year and last month.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s policies were benefiting the region by disrupting the people-smuggling chain.

“What those figures from the UNHCR already indicate is that drying up of the pipeline,” Mr Morrison said. “When we stop the boats, you help the region ... if we have stronger borders then that relieves the pressure on our neighbours.”

A senior Indonesian immigration official said yesterday the steep drop in UNHCR asylum-seeker registrations correlated with the department’s experience of unregistered “illegal immigrants”.

In the 12 months to January, the number of unregistered asylum-seekers detected by Immigration had fallen 25-30 per cent.

“The number of people who have not been registered at UNHCR is also clearly declining,” said the officer, who asked not to be identified.

The officer said it was clear asylum-seekers’ preference for Indonesia as a transit country had declined since Australia began taking a hardline against boatpeople resettlement last July.

Indonesia remained concerned about thwarted asylum-seekers “stacking up” in the country.

Agus Barnas, the spokesman for Politics Security and Law Co-ordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto, acknowledged the UNHCR Indonesia figures showed a reduction in asylum-seeker arrivals.

“Yes, but actually it still becomes problem for us because many (asylum-seekers) are stranded here,” he said.

“It can create social conflict.”

Jakarta wanted Australia to return to a regional, multilateral approach to refugee flows, Mr Agus said, “not just Australia getting the benefit without thinking about the impact in transit countries”.

Malaysian officials yesterday inspected an Australian Customs Bay-class patrol vessel in Sydney, one of two such vessels to be given to Malaysia next year at a cost of $1.2 million to taxpayers.

The vessels will be used to patrol the Straits of Malacca, which separates the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Mr Morrison said the Straits of Malacca was a key pathway for people-smugglers making their way to Australia and other transnational criminals moving between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the vessels would support Malaysia’s efforts to police the crossing point.

“When we make our region’s borders stronger we make Australia’s borders stronger,” he said.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid said that Malaysia and Australia had been co-operating to combat transnational crime, including people smuggling and terrorism. He said Mr Morrison would travel to Malaysia to sign a new memorandum of understanding, which would broaden the spectrum of transnational crimes the nations would work together to combat.


Health and physical eduction national curriculum proposes sex, alcohol and drug education for children as early as age eight

SEXUALITY, alcohol and drugs will be studied by schoolchildren as young as eight, while CPR will be mandatory in Years 9 or 10, under the Health and Physical Education national curriculum.

It is suggested children as young as 10 rehearse how to refuse drugs and be taught about products they can use to help manage puberty.

The final version of the HPE Australian Curriculum, which has been mired in controversy over issues such as puberty and sexuality, has been released this week, even though it has not yet been endorsed due to a review that is under way into the national curriculum.

One prominent think-tank is calling for the entire curriculum to be scrapped.

Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Chris Berg said the HPE curriculum focused on “diversity, social justice and consumerism” under the cross-curriculum priority (CCP) of sustainability and the IPA had concerns about “blatant ideology” in all of the CCPs.

“It is absurd that instead of using scarce school hours kicking a ball around, students will be taught the evils of consumerism,” Mr Berg said.

But an Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority spokeswoman said there was only one reference to consumerism in the content elaborations and it, along with the CCPs, did not have to be taught.

She said consumerism included children understanding health messages like “slip, slop, slap”, reading nutrition labels and examining body image.

“The focus of health and physical education is about helping children to develop the skills to lead active, safe and healthy lives,” she said, adding it was up to teachers how the curriculum was implemented.

Sexuality is first mentioned as a focus area in Years 3 and 4 in the curriculum, which the spokeswoman said was about “helping children to manage physical and social changes, such as children learning about how friendships change as they grow older” in the younger year level.

Alcohol and other drugs is also listed as a focus area for the first time in Years 3 and 4.

Puberty will have to be taught from Years 5 and 6 after complaints from lobby groups pushed it up from Years 3 and 4.

A push for mandatory swimming lessons has not been successful, but water safety is mentioned in content elaborations for educators.

The state is expected to roll out the HPE national curriculum next year and in 2016.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said his ­office welcomed feedback.


AMAQ boss Christian Rowan sidelined after backing Newman Government doctor contracts

Doctors want their gravy

THE Queensland boss of the Australian Medical Association has been sidelined by his own organisation after telling doctors he supported the Newman Government’s public hospital contracts.

AMA federal president Steve Hambleton has taken over from Queensland president Christian Rowan as the public face of a campaign to force the Government back to the negotiating table.

Dr Rowan triggered doctor unrest by saying he was willing to sign one of the contracts, which he said had the “capacity to drive productivity, efficiency, value for money and enhance transparency of outcomes for the public hospital system’’.

The AMAQ is understood to have silenced Dr Rowan over talking publicly about the issue, referring all questions to his president-elect Shaun Rudd, or to Dr Hambleton, a Brisbane GP.

Dr Rowan, who has previously stood for LNP preselection, said last night he stood behind his previous comments.

He said he was in negotiations with the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service CEO about his own individual contract.

A meeting attended by hundreds of public hospital specialists at Brisbane’s Pineapple Hotel this week unanimously opposed the proposed contracts, bar one dissenting vote.

Doctors say key sticking points included inadequate dispute resolution procedures, the potential for doctors to be dismissed without cause and forced transfers.

Dr Rudd told the meeting by phone the AMAQ was 100 per cent behind the doctors’ campaign, describing the contracts as ``unjust and unfair’’.

Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg have pounced on differences within the ranks of the AMA to refuse to reopen talks.

In a stinging letter to Dr Hambleton this week, they wrote: ``The State Government has no intention of reopening negotiations on contracts for medical officers which have been concluded with your state arm, the AMAQ, with significant concessions.

``Notwithstanding that we will not be reopening negotiations on doctor contracts, the AMA, like its state arm the AMAQ, is always able to meet with the Minister for Health on health issues.’’

Dr Hambleton brushed aside the controversy as “a distraction’’.

He said meetings of doctors at hospitals throughout the state had strongly criticised the contracts.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Doctors want their gravy"

You are so so right here.