Monday, July 21, 2014

The maiden speech of Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales)

A libertarian!

Thank you, Mr President. Fellow senators and Australians, last September the people of Australia chose 40 men and women to represent them here, together with the 36 elected three years earlier—just 571 Australians have been granted this high honour. We come from diverse backgrounds and occupations. Beyond this place, each of us has been tempered by the challenges of life. We have all tasted the bitterness of failure and exhilaration of success. Whatever our political alignments, that experience will have imparted in us a collective accumulation of knowledge, judgement, wisdom and instinct that should serve our country well. Indeed, we are the most representative swill ever assembled.

I also believe we are about to begin one of the most exciting periods in the life of the Senate. In the service of this mission, at the outset I declare that I am proudly what some call a 'libertarian', although I prefer the term 'classical liberal'. My undeviating political philosophy is grounded in the belief that, as expressed so clearly by John Stuart Mill:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully ever exercised over any member of a civilised society against his will is to prevent harm to others.
I pledge to work tirelessly to convince my fellow Australians and their political representatives that our governments should forego their overgoverning, overtaxing and overriding ways. Governments should instead seek to constrain themselves to what John Locke advised so wisely more than 300 years ago—the protection of life, liberty and private property.

When I was elected nine months ago, and my party's policies became better known, there was a wave of rejoicing in certain circles. When I said I would never vote for an increase in taxes or a reduction in liberty, there were people who said there was finally going to be someone in parliament worth voting for. That was quite a compliment. What they, and I, believe in is limited government. We differ from left-wing people who want the government to control the economy but not our social lives, and from right-wing people who want the government to control our social lives but not the economy. Classical liberals support liberty across the board.

I have long thought that leaving people alone is the most reasonable position to take. I always suspected that I did not know enough to allow me to tell other people how to live their lives. But that did not arise in the background, so a bit of explanation is necessary. I never liked being told what to do, and I tend to assume others feel the same. The simple rule do not do unto others what you would rather them not do to you has always driven my thinking. At least since I reached adulthood I have also accepted responsibility for myself and expected others to do the same. Even when my choices have been poor, as they inevitably were at times, I do not recall being tempted to blame others or to consider myself a victim.

During my early years, the issues that raised my blood pressure were those of individual freedom. But for the election of the Whitlam government, I would have either served two years in jail or in the Army. I refused to register for national service. Being forced to serve in the Army, with the potential to be sent to Vietnam, was a powerful education in excessive government power.

The abortion issue was also controversial at the time. There were doctors and women being prosecuted over what were obviously difficult private choices. Backyard abortions were common. I knew some women affected and could never see how the jackboot of government improved things. I also noticed that those opposed to abortion or in favour of conscription were not interested in trying to debate their opponents; instead they sought to seize the levers of government and impose their views on everyone else.

As my family never had much money, I used to think spreading other people's money around was a good way to make life fairer. As the saying goes, 'If you're not a socialist at 20 you have no heart, but if you're still a socialist at 40 you have no brains.' By that standard I hope I have preserved a bit of both. Not long after I started full-time work as a veterinarian, I recall looking at my annual tax return and being horrified at the amount of money I had handed over to the government. When I looked for signs of value for that money, I found little to reassure me. To this day I am still looking.

Our liberty is eroded when our money is taken as taxes and used on something we could have done for ourselves at lower cost. It is eroded when our taxes are used to pay for things that others will provide, whether on a charitable basis or for profit. That includes TV and radio stations, electricity services, railways, bus services, and of course, schools and hospitals. It is eroded when our money is taken and then returned to us as welfare, with the only real beneficiaries being the public servants who administer its collection and distribution. It is eroded when our money is used on things that are a complete waste like pink batts, unwanted school halls and accommodation subsidies for wealthy foreign students. It is eroded when the money we have earned is taken and given to those of working age who simply choose never to work. Reducing taxes, any kind of taxes, will always have my support. And I will always oppose measures that restrict free markets and hobble entrepreneurship.

But the cause of liberty is challenged in other ways as well. Liberty is eroded when our cherished right to vote is turned into an obligation and becomes a crime when we do not do it. It is eroded when we are unable to marry the person of our choice, whatever their gender. It is eroded when, if we choose to end our life, we must do it before we become feeble and need help, because otherwise anyone who helps us commits a crime. It is eroded when we cannot speak or write freely out of fear someone will choose to take offence. Free speech is fundamental to liberty, and it is not the government's role to save people from their feelings. Liberty is eroded when we are prohibited from doing something that causes harm to nobody else, irrespective of whether we personally approve or would do it ourselves. I do not use marijuana and do not recommend it except for medical reasons, but it is a matter of choice. I do not smoke and I drink very little, but it is unreasonable for smokers and drinkers to be punished for their alleged excesses via so-called sin taxes. Liberty includes the right to make bad choices.

Quite a few people say they support liberal values but claim there are valid exemptions. The most common one is security or safety, something that has become pervasive during the so-called war on terror. As William Pitt the Younger observed:

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
Perhaps some are scratching their heads right now. How can someone support marriage equality, assisted suicide and want to legalise pot but also want to cut taxes a lot? If you are scratching your heads, it is because you have forgotten that classical liberal principles were at the core of the Enlightenment, the period that gifted us humanity's greatest achievements in science, medicine and commerce and also brought about the abolition of slavery.

Classical liberals do not accept that there are any exemptions from the light of liberty, but we are not anarchists. We accept there is a proper role for government—just that it is considerably less than the role currently performed.


Tax Office sued for $6m after allegedly ruining a man's life

When Gary Kurzer’s day in court against the Australian Tax Office finally arrives in September, he believes he will be fighting for thousands of ordinary Australian taxpayers.

The Sydney man says he lost his business, his home, his marriage and his health trying to fight the legal might of the Tax Office after a botched tax bill based on "incorrect methodologies" sparked a eight-year legal dispute.

The struggle that began in 2006 with a bill for $200,000 in tax and penalties – later corrected to just $8000 – will culminate in a Federal Court showdown in Sydney in September, when the former architect will try to win $5.8 million in damages for the Tax Office’s alleged negligence.

The Tax Office, in its legal defence, says Mr Kurzer’s case is weak and that he will be unable to prove the Tax Office owed him a duty of care, but declined on Wednesday to publicly to discuss the case.

The Tax Office is coming under increased scrutiny for its conduct of disputes and imposition of penalties.

A report published last week by the Inspector-General of Taxation found that up to 35 per cent of the $4.25 billion of tax penalties in the past three years were unfairly imposed and were later reduced.

Top Tax Office officials fronted a Parliamentary committee in Canberra on Wednesday afternoon to defend their agency’s record on disputes with taxpayers.

Mr Kurzer, who has rejected a Tax Office offer to settle the case, said that his experience was just one of thousands of bad Tax Office decisions that had destroyed lives.

The former architect’s troubles began in 2006 when he and his ex-partner sold two seaside units in Terrigal on the NSW central coast and the Tax Office decided that he was liable for a $200,000 GST bill on the proceeds of the sale.

It took five years and action in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and other forums for the Tax Office to concede its mistake, that Mr Kurzer’s liability should have been just $8554 and his tax liability had been assessed using "incorrect methodologies".

But according to his Federal Court case, years of conflict, appeals, claims and counter-claims had taken an emotional, physical and financial toll on Mr Kurzer, who says his emotional problem are so bad that he can no longer work.

He is fighting his case without a lawyer against the might of law firm Minter Ellison hired by the Tax Office, and claiming damages of $5.8 million for economic harm as well as emotional distress, pain and suffering.

Mr Kurzer says a court victory would inspire thousands of Australians battling what they say are unfair Tax Office decisions.

"The Tax Office is allowed to collect what it is entitled to collect," he said. "It is not entitled to harass, to bully, to lie, to cheat, to force people into these situations when they don’t owe the money.

"There is collateral damage to families, to people, to businesses. People are going on welfare, their kids are suffering."

Mark Chapman of lobby group Taxpayers Australia says that most taxpayers who fall victim to mistakes by the Tax Office do not have the money to fight the taxation officials.

"Kurzer is by no means unique," Mr Chapman said. "At Taxpayers Australia, we receive a steady stream of comments from aggrieved taxpayers who have had to fight tooth and nail for their rights in the face of an intransigent Tax Office.

"Like Kurzer, many of these taxpayers find themselves out of pocket and emotionally scarred. Many simply give up, having no stomach for the continued fight, even though they know they are innocent."

A Tax Office spokeswoman said the office could not comment on a matter before the court.

Inspector-General of Taxation Ali Noroozi is reviewing the Taxpayer’s Charter and the legal protections afforded to taxpayers.


Another Aborigine scam

The author below writes very well.  I suspect that someone once taught him Latin.  He is an Aborigine

A few years ago, I casually complained to my local YMCA about their 'Indigenous' display.  I wanted to let them know that what they had done had the potential to offend people, despite how well-meaning they were obviously trying to be.  I expected an answer in the realm of 'we read a history book and that was our inspiration', but was taken aback when instead I was informed that this was the work of a local traditional owner, who oversaw the entire project.

This was the first whiff I had of Scammers posing as Aborigines right under my own nose.  So I started to hunt around, and in my searches, became all too familiar with the name Sonia Murray, aka Scams a'Plenty.

If you are to believe any of what she says as the truth, she was born to an Aboriginal mother and Scottish father.  Not just any Aboriginal mother either, but, one descended from the original owners of some of the best land in Melbourne - Port Phillip to the Dandenongs and then some, according to her sources.  Unfortunately, in the 1830's, her ancestors were captured and taken to the Bass Strait, unable to return to their country until a plucky descendant named Sonia, who would make the perilous journey some 170+ years later to stake a claim to what was once rightfully theirs.

In addition to her exceptional navigational skills, Sonia it appears, has 'the gift' - or is clairaudient, in her words.  A healer with the ability to see, hear and speak to spirits, available at an hourly charge ($100 for a phone consult, or if you're a bit cash strapped, $50 for an email) to cleanse you spiritually, like only a native can.  If you're feeling lost on your life path, she can contact your spirit guide and ask them for directions as to how you get back on track.

For a brief period, Sonia also set up shop as a snake oil salesman, sorry, Mutton Bird Oil salesman, via her wildly unsuccessful venture 'Nangana Healing Centre', where she offered goods that she declared to be Traditional Bush Medicine as well as the obligatory selection of overpriced 'arts and crafts' for suckers to purchase.  Almost all trace of Nanganas existence is gone from the internet now, but rather than assume that is because she scammed someone and had to shut up shop before people sued, as I'm sure some of you more cynical people will already be thinking, take comfort in the fact that it was probably because of all the other side ventures she had going on that were now demanding more of her time. 

One such venture was Hawkseye Heritage.  Far from being a greedy Aborigine, Sonia wanted to ensure that the environment was taken care of properly, and being who she was, self-appointed spokesperson for the Bunurong, decided to start a business that could fill a growing, and luckily for her - lucrative, demand for managing 'Cultural Heritage'.  The current boom industry.  With her partner Steve by her side, a didgeridoo playing traditional owner himself who could luckily double as a 'Cultural Heritage Officer' for her fledgling business as well, they set about having their demands met, and demand they did over the years.

Far away from prying eyes, and subject only to the regulations of a body that is loathe to jump in quickly when an Aboriginal Corporation continually fails to meet compliance, they had a pretty sweet set up.  What might appear to most everyone else to be a 'conflict of interest', is almost par for the course in Aboriginal Organisations.  The transparency that should exist simply does not, and years can go by with annual reports and financial statements failing to be lodged repeatedly before they call in someone to take a look.  By then, it's usually a mess, as it was when the Special Administrator was appointed to Bunurong earlier this year.

How the 'Cultural Heritage' scam works is quite simple.  A local developer wants to get a project off the ground, our laws dictate that he must seek out the local Aboriginal group and get advice on the appropriate people to conduct a 'Cultural Heritage' survey/assessment/report/you-name-it.  How it works in this case goes a little like this - Bunurong, the local Aboriginal group, is approached by the prospective developer. Sonia, as Director of Bunurong advises the prospective developer of what work will need to be done, and, hands off the work contract to Hawkseye, the company she owns.  Nice little earner if you can get it.  In fact, Hawkseye invoiced Bunurong Land Council for a total of $4,955.00 in 'Administration Costs' in a less than 6 week period earlier this year.  That is not including the actual payments to the cultural heritage officers who undertake the work, of course.

With all the cash cows requiring constant milking, and a seat up front on the Gravy Train guaranteed to her, you might be surprised to learn that Scams a'Plenty still felt it necessary to pull off the sickest trick in the Fraudsters book - begging for donations for her sick child.  It seems that in addition to her many business ventures, she has also managed to register a charity.  A charity that proclaims itself to not only assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but conduct research into childhood cancers.  There is a donations page on the charity website, and searches at (the Government charity register) confirms it does indeed have registered charity status. Should you decide to donate, it's all tax deductible. Which is probably a good thing- they seem to need lots of donation.  Currently, they need help (in the form of money, of course) to take her desperately ill child to a foreign country for treatment.  Treatment she herself is unable to afford, due to her loss of employment, which was of course, another cruel blow for the suffering family.  Unfortunately her timing was off to anyone who noticed (so far, I'm alone in that camp), for you see at the same time she was crying poor and unemployed, her company, Hawkseye, was receiving the above mentioned almost $5k in 'administration charges'.  She also neglected to mention during her shameless begging that she was planning a new business venture - in the form of a cafe/restaurant, and would later negotiate for leased premises in which to operate that venture from.

I thought long and hard about providing the links to what I firmly believe is a scam charity, but one thing stops me.  The freely available information contained at length on the sites about the child in question.  The child may or may not have the disease this mother claims cash donations are needed to help fight.  Ultimately, that is irrelevant as I refuse to publish information that may identify a child.  The mother is scamming people, not the child, and I will ask that anyone who chooses to look into this further and finds out for themselves, that they not publish the information freely. 

But take heart.  She won't be getting away with her crimes.  As luck would have it, I'm not the only one who has noticed something dodgy about Sonia Murray.  Whether it was her aversion to paying taxes, or just that her number finally came up, a story in The Age yesterday is the turning of the tide for this particular fraudster.  A possible missing million dollars does not go away quickly or quietly, and now that it is out there in public, questions - uncomfortable questions - need to be asked.


Tom wins another one

From racing royalty to upstart bookie and now company man, Tom Waterhouse says being the chief executive of William Hill Australia is a “dream come true”, despite missing out on $65 million linked to the acquisition of his online betting venture.

The British wagering giant William Hill bought Mr Waterhouse’s three-year old betting venture for $40 million in cash and debt last August, offering a further $70 million if the entrepreneur hit profit targets in 2015. But he will take an early $5 million settlement of the earn-out.

Following his naming as CEO, which was first revelead by Fairfax Media on Wednesday night, Mr Waterhouse said the settlement was based on “fair value at the time” and was a “terrific result”.

“You couldn’t ask for a better company to be bought by,” he said. “I’ve been part of William Hill Australia [since August] and seen them function within the same offices but now I get to really stick my teeth in.”

But the 32-year-old has a lot of work to do, with the three brands that make up William Hill Australia - Sportingbet, Centrebet and - lagging behind the fastest growing local betting shop Sportsbet.

A recent market update from William Hill rival, the Dublin-based company Paddy Power, showed that in the first 18 weeks of the year to May 11, total bets placed with Sportsbet rose 22 per cent. In the 13 weeks to April 1, bets placed with William Hill Australia grew at a slower rate of 11 per cent.

Former William Hill Australia boss Michael Sullivan left in April.

However William Hill’s group CEO designate James Henderson, who was named for the top job only a fortnight ago, said solid back office systems and a new advertising campaign featuring Aussie cricket legend Shane Warne meant the business was primed for growth. “[We want to] not only catch up with Sportsbet but hopefully overtake them in the near future,” he said.

Mr Waterhouse was the top pick from a shortlist of internal and external applicants, Mr Henderson said. “He’s the ideal person with a proven track record,” he said. “Tom’s is the fastest-growing element of the business.”

Mr Waterhouse - a new father, he and wife Hoda had a daughter last year - is not worried about the stresses and sacrifices needed to take on the much larger business. He will lead 270 staff and a company that had revenue of £86.7 million ($158.7 million).

“I guess my life has always been living and breathing betting and being part of the industry. I’m going to continue doing it because I love it.”

The at-times controversial bookmaker’s aggressive marketing techniques came under fire in 2013 and sparked a community backlash that lead to restrictions on wagering advertising. Mr Waterhouse said he learned “a lot of lessons” from the period. “But one thing about the digital space is you have to try things and experiment and see what works,” he said.

Mr Henderson said Australia was Wiliam Hill’s “second home” and the three betting brands together were growing faster than the online business in the United Kingdom.

“The expectations are high,” he said.


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