Monday, July 29, 2019

Author John Marsden criticised over bullying comments

Author John Marsden is facing criticism for comments he’s made about bullying in the schools.

Marsden, best know as the author of the ‘Tomorrow’ book series, has been a teacher for several decades and runs two schools north of Melbourne.

The author has defended comments he made saying that bullying was just “feedback” from other children. Marsden said some “pure unadulterated bullying” does occur, most is prompted by what he called the “unlikeable behaviours” of the child who is being bullied.

Marsden says those experiencing bulling should first look at their own behaviours and see if they themselves are to blame. The educators advice to children is to “look at your own likeable and unlikeable behaviours and try to reduce the list of unlikeable behaviours and unlikeable values and unlikeable attitudes and over time that will probably have a significant effect”.

The author made the comments as he was promoting a new book he has written he Art of Growing Up which argues that the education system is trying to cover too many issues.

His comments have been condemned by bullying experts. Naomi Priest, an Australian National University Associate Professor, who researches the impact of racism and bullying on young people told the Sydney Morning Herald that Marsden’s take on bullying was “flawed”. “It is a very limited and flawed understanding of bullying to characterise it as just about an individual’s character traits that are unappealing,” Priest said.

Marsden dismissed research suggesting that children from non-anglo backgrounds were more likely to experience racism saying in his experience conflict occurred because children from some subcultures were not ‘westernised’ enough. The author drew upon his time teaching at Geelong Grammar in the 1980s.

“At Geelong Grammar they had quite a high percentage of students enrolling from Asian countries and their acceptance depended very much upon how Westernised they were,” Marsden said of his time at the school. “If they were able to speak English fluently and wear the clothes that Anglo kids wore and listened to the same kind of music, then they were fully accepted.

“There was absolutely no racism involved,” Marsden added. “But if they weren’t yet at that stage then there was a gulf between them… It didn’t necessarily result in bullying, although sometimes it did, but more often it was sort of a gap between the two subcultures.” Marsden denied his views were racist.


Labor Party sings to the union tune

If you were in any doubt the Labor Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the trade unions, the events of the past parliamentary week would have dispelled your doubts.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil was camped out in Parliament House, available for continuous media commentary and effectively issuing instructions to obedient Labor parliamentarians.

Note that O’Neil is a career unionist who ran the completely inconsequential Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, which is now part of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union.

What is infuriating O’Neil and other union leaders is the Ensuring Integrity and Proper Use of Worker Benefits bills, which the government has introduced to the house. They are routinely ­described by parts of the media as “union busting”. Actually, these bills contain a series of sensible amendments that should become law as soon as possible.

Needless to say, Labor parliamentarians in general, and opposition industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke in particular, are toeing the union line by voicing their complete opposition to the bills.

When the name of John Setka of the CFMEU was mentioned this week, Burke batted the issue away by stating the new law would be prospective and so wouldn’t affect him. Mind you, this assumes that Setka decides to abide by the law in the future.

Burke then used the silly example of nurses undertaking unprotected industrial action over patient-staff ratios as the basis for the possible deregistration of the nurses union. Had he bothered to read the legislation, he would have learned the example he gave would not constitute the basis for deregistration by the Federal Court.

By way of background, both bills are amendments to the Fair Work Act. They can be traced back to the Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption’s final report, which was issued in 2015.

Consider first the Ensuring Integrity Bill. It introduces a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations. Had this been in place before the proposed merger of the CFMEU, the Maritime Union of Australia and the TCFUA, it is unlikely the merger would have been approved.

The bill also provides for the Federal Court to prohibit officials from holding office in certain circumstances or if they are otherwise not a “fit and proper person”. The decisions are all subject to ­appeal. There are also some new criminal offences that will lead to the automatic disqualification of officials.

Industrial Relations Minister, Christian Porter said “registered organisations (trade unions and employer associations) are there to look after their members’ interests. When that objective is lost it is important that our courts have the powers they need to impose ­appropriate sanctions.”

The trade unions’ objections to the Ensuring Integrity Bill have come thick and fast, including the supposed abuse of human rights laws, the possible violation of international labour conventions and the purported uneven treatment of companies that breach the Corporations Act relative to the provisions contained in this bill.

The big picture here is the regulation of registered trade unions (and employer associations) is a matter of public policy interest ­because they need to be held ­accountable to their members. The reality is this accountability is currently generally very weak.

Elections for the positions of union officials are often uncontested — the incumbents typically make it very difficult for rival candidates. And few sanctions for inappropriate behaviour by officials exist in practice. Union members often have only two choices: stay with the union and put up with bad behaviour, or resign.

The law makes it nigh impossible for rival trade unions to set up because of the “conveniently belong to” rule.

What this means in practice is there is effectively no competition in the market for union membership that might otherwise induce more responsive and better standards of behaviour by union officials.

When it comes to the Proper Use of Workers Benefits Bill, there is also a very clear case for major reform to ensure the income from funds that are specifically established to meet redundancy, long-service leave and other worker benefits accrue to the members (the workers) and not the sponsoring bodies, most typically a trade union and employer association.

The issue of worker entitlement funds was covered in the Heydon royal commission where it was noted these funds are particularly common in the construction industry.

There are several funds, including the Building Employees Redundancy Trust in Queensland; Incolink, which ­operates several redundancy and sick leave funds for construction workers in Victoria and Tasmania; and the Protect scheme, which operates a redundancy fund for electricians in Victoria.

Protect has been in the news ­recently because the trustees ­decided to return virtually all the capital ($30 million) to the Electrical Trades Union and the National Electrical and Communications Association. The ETU received the lion’s share of the distribution.

The trustees claimed the threat of the Proper Use of Workers Benefits Bill becoming law was sufficient reason to distribute the capital, pointing out the ETU and NECA had guaranteed that benefits to workers would be met.

The reality of most worker entitlement funds is that employers are effectively forced to pay into them on a basis specified in enterprise agreements, but the workers are entitled to receive in ­return only the money that is contributed on their behalf. The earnings of the funds are distributed to the sponsoring bodies, typically a trade union and employer body.

There are many problems associated with these funds, including the one noted above, but also that they are not subject to any mandatory disclosure. There is no requirement to disclose the commissions and other payments made to the sponsoring bodies. Workers are not even always made aware of their entitlements. There have been instances where entitlements have been denied to non-unionists.

What the Proper Use of Workers Benefits legislation seeks to do is ensure these worker entitlement funds are registered and are subject to proper standards of governance and disclosure.

It also will become illegal for employers to be forced to contribute to particular funds.

It is completely understandable why trade unions (and some employer bodies) might oppose these new laws. Not only are there no ­effective breaks on standards of behaviour, there is also a great deal of money flowing under the table by virtue of the monopoly position of these worker entitlement funds.

Recall here that trade unions and employer bodies are both tax-exempt.

Labor may decide it’s preferable to side with workers rather than protected union officials and vote for these bills.

But given the flow of funds from unions to the party — measured in many millions of dollars donated by the CFMEU — I won’t be holding my breath.


Climate change protester is fined $61,000 after attaching herself to a barrel filled with concrete, shutting down a railway for hours

A climate change activist has been handed down a whopping $61,000 fine after attaching herself to a 500 kilogram oil drum, obstructing railway services for hours.

Brisbane protester Alice Wicks, 26, blocked all coal trains heading to the Port of Brisbane for five hours during a protest in Wynnum West on April 19.

The drum was weighed down with concrete, and she was pictured squatting next to it, her hand appearing to be inside. 

A banner behind her read: 'STAND in the way of EXTINCTION'.

Ms Wicks's actions temporarily shut down the railway line, and  after she was released from the barrel, she was rushed to hospital suffering hypothermia. 

On Monday, the Wynnum Magistrates Court ordered Ms Wicks to pay $61,000 to Queensland Rail after she pleaded guilty to the charges of trespass on a railway, obstructing a railway and obstructing police.

She was placed on a good behaviour bond, but the court found Queensland Rail was the victim of her actions and she has been ordered to pay the massive fine in compensation, The Courier Mail reported.

The activist has been protesting for the past three years, and works in the environmental sector.  'I took this action because I have exhausted all other avenues for demanding action on the climate crisis,' Ms Wicks was quoted in Greenleft Weekly.

'The permafrost has melted 70 years ahead of scientist's predictions. We need to act now.' 'It's clear that the state is cracking down on anyone who tries to shed light on this corrupt system', Wicks said.


Franking credits explained yet again

They are NOT free gifts.  They are a refund of overpaid tax


I thought I had written my last column on franking credits and the role of cash refunds. Let’s face it, the topic was a serious busted flush for Labor, and if the party had any sense it would reject all proposals to tweak the system.

But last week dear old Dick Smith popped up to demonstrate his extreme naivety when it comes to financial matters and franking credits, in particular.

Here’s what he said: “I found I was getting this ridiculous money from the government. That’s wrong, I said, I’m wealthy. My accountant said ‘That’s how it works, that’s what you have to do.’ I can’t stop it. I think it’s outrageous for wealthy people to be getting money from the government.”

Actually, Dick, you can stop it. All you need to do is withdraw all the funds from your gigantic self-managed superannuation fund, invest them in your own name in non-franked assets and pay tax at the top marginal rate of 45 per cent plus the 2 per cent Medicare levy.

If that floats your boat, you should just get on and do it.

Unsurprisingly, the lefties in the media lapped up Smith’s ignorant comments with the takeout that Labor must not abandon its “principled” decision to abolish cash refunds for franking credits.

The fact Smith wasn’t even aware that he had been receiving substantial cash refunds since 2001 was surely an indication that he wasn’t a reliable authority on which to base a story.

Let me explain.

There are a very small number of legacy self-managed superannuation funds around that are generally the result of the trustees successfully selling a business. On the basis of the figures that Smith presented, his fund has at least $30 million. But, overall, only 0.7 per cent of these funds have more than $10m.

In other words, they are exceptional.

But here’s the key: there will never be these large superannuation funds in the future because of the restrictions placed on both concessional and non-concessional contributions.

Indeed, even high-income individuals will be hard-pressed to reach the $1.6m transfer balance cap that was implemented in 2017.

In other words, Smith’s story is ancient history. And note here that his all-knowing accountant will have had to split the superannuation fund into two because of the cap requirement and the vast bulk of the fund is being levied with a tax of 15 per cent.

But the lefties will still maintain that paying cash refunds for franking credits is unsustainable, costing about $6 billion a year and projected to rise to $8bn. Actually, these figures are meaningless unless they are embedded in the projected value of all franking credits that are eligible for refunds, cash or tax.

Moreover, the fact the value of franking credits is expected to grow is the good news. After all, franking credits are the result of taxpaying (actually tax-withholding) companies paying dividends after making profits.

There is still a deep misunderstanding about how dividend imputation actually works. Using figures derived by actuary Tony Dillon — the figures relate to 2014-15, which are the latest available — there were $47.5bn of franking credits attached to company dividends.

Of these, $23.5bn were eligible for franking credits refunds, either cash or as tax offsets. The remaining amount did not attract refunds because the shares were held by foreign owners or companies. Most of the refunds took the form of tax offsets ($17.6bn) and the rest were distributed as cash.

Why Labor didn’t think that it was preferable to crimp the benefits of those receiving these tax offsets rather than those receiving cash refunds is anyone’s guess. With few exceptions — and Smith is one of them — the former group is much better off than those receiving cash refunds.

And what’s overlooked in the slanted media coverage, almost half of the cash refunds are paid to individual shareholders outside superannuation funds.

Labor’s decision to significantly increase the tax-free income tax threshold to $18,200 meant that even more investors were eligible for cash refunds.

But, say the boosters of eliminating the cash refunds for franking credits, Australia is alone in having this arrangement.

As Adrian Blundell-Wignall, a former director of the OECD, has noted, this would be because Australia is one of only five countries that have dividend imputation.

Moreover, only New Zealand has tax-exempt drawdowns from superannuation (similar to Australia) but New Zealand has never had compulsory superannuation. In other words, New Zealanders can plan to ensure the tax credits are used.

The truth is that Labor would be out of its mind to contemplate another version of a policy that tinkered with cash refunds for franking credits.

Putting a limit on annual amounts would create an unworkable distortion, with people on middle-level incomes disadvantaged relative to those on higher incomes who can make use of the tax offsets.

And let’s not forget the scale of the figures we are dealing with. More than half of members of self-managed superannuation funds receive an annual income of less than $60,000 and the median fund size — the vast major­ity has two members — is just under $700,000.

Taking away even $1500 a year in cash refunds would have been significant for those affected.

But in many ways Labor’s policy proposal went beyond money. It was an attack on people’s good intentions to work hard, to save and to be independent from the government in retirement. They had played by the rules but, all of a sudden, the rules were going to changed.

They were told they had been receiving unjustified “gifts”. Mind you, the cash refunds were not deemed to be unjustified “gifts” for age pensioners.

Labor continued to delude itself through the election campaign that its policy was sound because 92 per cent of individual taxpayers were unaffected. Bear in mind, this figure is dubious and ignores the family members of those affected.

But incensing 8 per cent of voters is a very strange way to go about winning an election.

My advice to Labor is to give this a wide berth next time even if its mates in the media recommend otherwise. I am also looking forward to the press release on the rearrangement of Smith’s financial affairs so his payment of tax can be maximised.


 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

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