Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Foreign buyers forced to sell properties
There's not a lot of sense to this. A Chinese buyer can't pick up an Australian farm and take it back to China. So what is the problem? One effect it will have is to depress prices in the class of real estate affected. That is good if you are a buyer but bad if you are a seller. "You takes your pick", I guess
Treasurer Scott Morrison has forced the sale of another 16 residential properties held by foreign investors worth $14 million because they were in breach of the law.
The properties were purchased in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia with prices ranging from $200,000 to $2 million, and involved individuals from the UK, Malaysia, China and Canada.
"The foreign investors either purchased established residential property without Foreign Investment Review Board approval, or had approval but their circumstances changed, meaning they were breaking the rules," Mr Morrison said in a statement on Monday.
Since taking office in 2013, the coalition government has forced foreign nationals to divest a total of 46 properties worth almost $93 million.
The government had to ensure foreign investment provided benefits to all Australians in line with law and not contrary to the national interest, the treasurer said.
Treasurer Scott Morrison © AAP Image/Mick Tsikas Treasurer Scott Morrison Since the government introduced a new penalty regime late in 2015, 179 notices have been issued to people who have failed to obtain FIRB approval before buying a property.
Illegal real estate purchases by foreign citizens attract criminal penalties of up to $135,000 or three years' imprisonment, or both for individuals; and up to $675,000 for companies.
The new rules also allow capital gains made on illegal investments to be forfeited.
In addition to divestments, a number of investors voluntarily sold their properties while the Australian Taxation Office was examining their case.
"There are at least 25 examples of foreign investors self-divesting in this way showing a change in behaviour towards more compliance with the rules and a strengthening of the program overall," Mr Morrison said.
The authoritarian Left is stifling democracy with threats, tantrums on plebiscite
Not much different from Hitler's Brownshirts
In the gay marriage debate, the Labor Party and Greens want to silence public reason to impose their will on citizens.
They believe the state should rule the citizen, not the reverse. They regard the will of the people as a threat to their power. Thus, they seek to deny the Australian people the opportunity to engage in public reason on the question that forms the foundation of a healthy society: what is the meaning of marriage and family?
The proposed plebiscite is an opportunity for the Australian people to revitalise democracy by engaging in a process of public reason as we consider the meaning of marriage and family in the 21st century. It is a positive opportunity to learn from each other and challenge ourselves as we exercise reason, logic, free thought and speech to question the most fundamental social institution of society.
Gay and bisexual people should not be held captive in the centre of the marriage debate because it does not begin with the question of homosexuality. It begins with defining marriage and family and the role of the state and church authority in relation to each.
A part of the reason that the marriage debate is so angry is that the Green-Left is hostile to the exercise of public reason. Like children who throw tantrums because they lack verbal fluency, Green-Left politicians must learn to use their words. It is possible that they do not know how to discuss the question of gay marriage because they are uneducated in the philosophy of marriage, family and society. An intelligent person would take that ignorance as an opportunity to learn.
But the Green-Left’s ignorance is equalled only by its arrogance. Its activists learn only to confirm their worldview. In the classroom of the Green-Left, the citizen learns what to think, not how to think. The mind is stunted, vital questions wither on the branch, the world contracts, the citizen is hollowed out and over time, democracy begins to die. In the classroom of the Green-Left, the lights go out on enlightenment.
We renew our faith in enlightenment and human reason by affirming that democracy begins with the citizen, not the state. It is built by each generation anew on the foundations that preserve its perpetuity: the secular separation of state from church authority, universal law, political liberty, formal equality, freedom of speech and public reason.
The degradation of the foundations of democracy by the 21st century Left has no parallel in Western history. The hard Left attacks democracy using rhetorical and political tools born of a profoundly anti-democratic impulse. They seek to quash a free people’s vote on the meaning of marriage — the plebiscite endorsed in the federal election — by enforcing rule from above.
They replace public reason with emotionalism, objectivity with bigotry, freedom of speech with the mobbing of those who dissent from the Left party line.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson supports the plebiscite because he believes in free speech and democracy. Last week on Twitter, he was subjected to abhorrent abuse by Left activists who took their cue from Labor leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Richard di Natale to accuse plebiscite advocates of hypothetically killing children. They smeared Wilson as a “disgrace to humanity” and a threat to gay youth.
But consider who poses the real threat — the politician who puts Australians’ right to free speech and democracy before his personal yearning for gay marriage, or Left activists who respond with tweets like: “F..k you hard”. The violent bigotry of the anti-democratic Left emerged once more when gay marriage activists forced the censorship of a group hoping to discuss the proposed plebiscite in relation to Christian ideas about marriage. Not content with targeting gay politicians who dissent from the Left party line, activists allegedly threatened violence against hotel staff for agreeing to host the small Christian group meeting. As reported by David Crowe in The Weekend Australian, the Accor Hotels group was so concerned about the threatening calls by gay marriage activists that it cancelled the function. The silencing of Christians by Left activists represents a gross violation of the human rights to freedom of thought and speech, freedom of movement and assembly.
The Left was once a constructive force for public reason powered by free thought and speech, objective scholarly inquiry, logic and the art of rhetoric. But in the 21st century, the Left has become what it once fought; a stifling orthodoxy of irrational establishment conformists who dominate by means of oppression and rule from above without reason.
It is the embodiment of a negation. It negates freedom. It negates universal law. It negates the scientific method by replacing reason with subjective emotion and political correctness in scholarly inquiry, public debate and jurisprudence. It negates secularism by denying the separation of powers between state and church authority, seeking instead the expansion of state power over the church.
And in the most self-annihilating doctrine of the modern Left, its members have negated formal equality by erecting a regime of codified minority supremacy. Having dispensed with liberalism and formal equality, the Left is now turning on democracy. The marriage debate has exposed the fundamentally anti-democratic constitution of the Green-Left.
Public reason is the marrow of democracy. The process of political deliberation and debate infuse democracy with meaning by encouraging the free flow of ideas towards resolution in informed choice by the majority. The majority of Australians have chosen a plebiscite to resolve the question of marriage reform.
In ancient Greece, the birth of democracy by public reason was held in contrast to politics by divination. The idea that the citizen should create and re-create the state by actively engaging in public reason is the constitution of progressive democracy. Rule from above by appeal to divination — religious or ideological — marks the end of democracy as an enlightenment project.
The proposed marriage plebiscite is the idea of democracy made manifest. Let the people speak — and be heard.
Brandis: Coalition can negotiate with Labor on same-sex marriage plebiscite
The attorney general, George Brandis, has confirmed that the government is prepared to negotiate with Labor to win its support to set up the plebiscite on same-sex marriage plebiscite.
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Brandis defended the government’s proposed architecture for the 11 February poll – including $15m of public funding for yes and no case advertising – but said the government was prepared to compromise.
Brandis also conceded the plebiscite was “constitutionally unorthodox” and there could be “outliers” on the yes and no case that did not engage in civil debate.
Bill Shorten is expected to recommend the Labor caucus block the plebiscite when it meets in three weeks, leaving little time for the government to win opposition support.
Malcolm Turnbull flagged on Friday that the government was willing to negotiate on the plebiscite.
Brandis said: “The theme of this parliament has to be compromise, we have to deal with the parliament that the people gave us.”
Asked about negotiation on the plebiscite, the attorney general said: “Just as we have seen successful outcomes to the omnibus savings bill in the week, then of course we prepared to talk to the opposition.”
Brandis said he was “not prepared to flag any particular things” to win Labor support.
Penny Wong, Labor leader in the Senate, said on Sunday that the opposition had “serious concerns about a plebiscite” which had “only been worsened by the way in which the prime minister has dealt with this”.
“I think it’s pretty self-evident which way the Labor party is going to go in the parliament.”
She said Turnbull had opposed public funding but had been rolled by the right wing of his party.
Asked about possible compromise, Wong said: “There is a good compromise available to him. Have a free vote.”
Some of Labor’s objections could be mitigated by scrapping public funding for the campaigns, setting clearer rules on advertising and making the plebiscite self-executing, ushering in marriage equality automatically if the yes vote won.
But Labor has set out many other objections including its effect on vulnerable LGBTI people, that it treats LGBTI rights differently to other issues decided by parliament, and the bad precedent the departure from the normal process of representative democracy sets.
Brandis said that “mainstream” LGBTI rights advocates didn’t want the plebiscite, but were “prepared to deal with it” since it is “the only feasible outcome for marriage equality in the near future”.
He said most LGBTI people, and the Australian people, were not prepared to wait for years for same-sex marriage.
On Thursday LGBTI organisations, including Australian Marriage Equality and Australians For Equality, attacked the government’s proposed plebiscite. Their objections included that the government has not specified amendments to the Marriage Act, that $15m of public funding is “unacceptable” and there would be an “uneven playing field” because religious organisations have tax deductible status.
The government will propose new protections for “conscientious objectors” to same-sex marriage which marriage equality advocates fear could allow civil celebrants, registrars and even bakers and florists to refuse to serve same-sex weddings.
Asked about Dean Smith’s plan to vote against plebiscite because it was “constitutionally unorthodox”, Brandis conceded that the Coalition senator’s objection was correct.
The attorney general claimed that was not part of Labor’s objection and said a plebiscite was appropriate because same-sex marriage was a social question not a political one.
“It’s not something the political class have any greater wisdom about than any other person in the community ... they have an equal right to be a decision-maker.”
Brandis said he thought a clear majority would support allowing same-sex couples to marry but that shouldn’t be taken for granted and was not a “done deal”.
“This is an argument that still needs to be made in the plebiscite campaign.”
Brandis defended the $15m of public funding, by noting referendum campaigns usually feature funding for both sides of the argument.
The plebiscite-enabling legislation has raised concerns third-party groups will be free to run advertisements without any restraint on the nature or truth of their messages.
The attorney general said he was “very confident” the tone of the advertising approved by the yes and no case committees would be civil and truthful.
“There will be third parties – I can’t exclude the possibility that on both the pro and anti change sides there might be outliers.
“We’re seeing this now – where does this fiction come from that we’re not having a debate now?”
Feast Festival boss suspended ‘for being too straight’
We are seeing a lot of bigotry from Queers these days
Adelaide’s Feast Festival, which celebrates South Australia’s LGBTQI community, has suspended its general manager in what insiders claim is an attack on her sexuality.
The festival’s 10-member board met on Friday to oust Cassandra Liebeknecht, who is straight, over allegations of unprofessional conduct.
Four directors resigned in protest after the meeting which suspended Ms Liebeknecht on full pay, pending an investigation.
Festival insiders said the allegations were frivolous and the board had ambushed Ms Liebeknecht after listening to “squeaky wheels” within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community who did not want a straight woman leading a queer organisation.
The move leaves the 20-year-old festival in doubt six weeks ahead of its opening, planned to be headlined by pop diva Dannii Minogue, and one month after Feast announced a permanent “queer arts and cultural hub” in Adelaide.
Ms Liebeknecht said the allegations against her are false and she will consider making a complaint about discrimination.
“I’ve sought legal advice. There’s been enough slander against me. I’m very concerned in regards to any further slander,” she said. “I’m concerned about my future and my family and what this might do to me.”
Ms Liebeknecht said a small cohort had been opposed to her leading the festival since she started the job in 2014 and she had been a target of social media attacks.
“There’s a lot of stuff on Facebook. In regards to discrimination, being the general manager of Feast ... it has not been easy,’’ she said.
“I’ve been spat on, I’ve had people scare me, I’ve had people contact me at work anonymously, saying ‘I know where your children go to school’,’’ she said.
“There was also a gentleman who continues to this day to slander me for my sexuality. It just gets vicious.”
The festival received more than $200,000 in South Australian government funding this year. Feast Festival chairman Joshua Rayner said the board was not in a position to comment about internal investigations but confirmed he had accepted the resignations of four directors.
Coal still in demand
Miner New Hope Group expects a recent lift in coal prices will be sustained and boost its earnings in the current financial year.
Weak global oil and gas prices contributed to a $53.7 million loss for 2015/16 for the Queensland-based company, more than double the $21.8 million loss in the prior year, although costs from a new mine acquisition were also a big driver.
New Hope lost $22.6 million to sliding coal and oil prices and in foreign exchange impacts during the 12 months to July 31, but managing director Shane Stephan says better times are ahead after the Chinese government restricted thermal coal supplies - a move that has driven prices up 40 per cent since the start of July.
"Last year, around 50 per cent of the Australian thermal coal industry was not making cash," Mr Stephan told AAP.
"Most importantly, over 90 per cent of the Chinese domestic thermal coal industry was not making cash. That is simply not sustainable."
He said he expected the better coal prices to hold steady.
"We can't see the Chinese government going backwards from the action they have taken in order to constrain supply," he said.
Japan Taiwan and South Korea were also driving demand for thermal coal, he said, with future opportunities expected in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
New Hope recorded earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $81.3 million in 2015/16, down from $132.8 million a year earlier.
In the 12 months to July 31, New Hope's profit before extraordinary items was $5.03 million, down from $51.7 million in 2014/15.
Revenue was up 5.1 per cent at $531.5 million but New Hope's bottom line was hit by $52.1 million in acquisition costs, including costs related to its purchase of a 40 per cent stake in the Bengallla coal mine in NSW.
Mr Stephan said the company was benefiting from firmer prices in the current financial year and from its "well-timed" Bengalla acquisition.
The benchmark Newcastle spot price for coal was $US51 a tonne in March when the Bengalla transaction was completed, he said, and was now $US70 a tonne.
During the five months of New Hope's ownership, Bengalla production contributed 1.5 million tonnes to coal sales and earnings of $21.3 million.
Fat Prophets analyst David Lennox said the group's operational result was solid.
"The balance sheet is reasonable with an operating cash surplus of $61 million which is a good result given the sector has been under considerable price pressure," he said.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here