Showing posts with label #AbbottGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #AbbottGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Tweets of the Week




Monday, 14 May 2018

Here we are on the NSW North Coast living amid remnants of the splendor that was Australia in 1788.....


....and it is fading and dying before our very eyes, while the Turnbull Coalition Government follows in the footsteps of the Abbott Coalition Government by turning its back on us and our concerns.

North Coast Environment Council, media release, 7 May 2018:


… SCIENTISTS ARE THE NEXT CASUALTIES …

Malcolm Turnbull's Government has launched yet another offensive on the environment, with the announcement it was sacking dozens of scientists.

“The rivers of cash that the government has to splash around don't extend to environmental protection,” said Susie Russell, North Coast Environment Council Vice-President.

“This will have a significant impact on north coast forests. We have been relying on the Recovery Planning process to guarantee some protection for nationally endangered species. Only last month, NCEC was a signatory (with NEFA, the National Parks Association and the South East Region Conservation Alliance) to a letter to federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg. We pleaded for Canberra to take its environmental responsibilities seriously. We pointed out that the NSW Government was not abiding by Federal Recovery Plans for threatened species.


The Greater Glider is one of the species where a Recovery Plan is required, but nothing gets produced.
Photo by Jasmine Zeleny.


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ballina not happy with second-rate NBN installation plans



The Northern Star, 4 May 2018:

BALLINA'S deputy mayor is calling on residents to speak out against about the NBNCo's plans to deliver "second class technology" to local residents.

Cr Keith Williams said he had been contacted by residents in East Ballina, Skennars Head and Lennox Head to say they would be getting "inferior" fibre to the node NBN connections.

But he said fibre to the kerb should be the minimum installation standard across the shire.

"We know that fibre to the node places more reliance on the copper network, limits potential speeds and is more expensive to upgrade," Cr Williams said.

"This places a real limit on the economic potential of the area, not just now, but potentially for years to come.

"It makes no sense whatsoever when you consider that all these areas are close to the coast and more exposed to the effects of salt water.

"This is precisely the areas where you want less reliance on copper."

Cr Williams said failure to oppose NBN rollout plans now, risked leaving residents in these areas with a second class NBN.

"NBN Co have insisted this is not second class technology, being essentially the same technology as fibre to the kerb," he said.

"In this they are correct, but they avoid the central point.

"The greater reliance on the old copper network means it is a second rate service, slower, more prone to dropouts and more expensive to upgrade.

"From my enquiries to date it seems there is no formal mechanism to seek a review of the NBN Co rollout plans.

"The only way these things change is by community pressure and adverse publicity.
"I'm asking everyone in the area to go to the NBN website, check what the rollout plans are for your house and if it says Fibre to the Node, let NBN Co know that it just isn't good enough.

"You deserve better."

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Well hoorah, NBN Co is to roll out its inbuilt obsolescence across Yamba commencing in June 2018


It has been reported in local media that NBN Co will be commencing the Yamba rollout of its allegedly high speed broadband in June 2018, with Maclean and Grafton rollouts to commence in January 2019.

This news is quite frankly underwhelming.

Whatever information NBN Co was giving out obviously didn’t include the type of connection that was on offer, as this important point was not mentioned by journalists and there is contradictory information on the company's website.

These three urban areas in the Clarence Valley are yet to hear if households and businesses are being offered fibre-to-the-curb, fibre-to-the-node or fixed wireless.

Because it is certain that the best option fibre-to-the-premises isn’t on offer to regional second cousins of the big metropolitan areas.

Personally I will carefully refuse to look at any construction works taking place in Yamba come June, July and August.

The sight of all those water-filled trenches will be too depressing.

Who starts extensive in-ground construction in winter at the low-lying, high water table mouth of a floodplain, I ask you?


* Image from Hakuri Sad Party

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Australian Minister for Communications and longstanding member of the far-right pressure group the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is up in arms because Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman tells some home truths


On Tuesday 17 April the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) sent out the media release in this post.


It looks suspiciously like the Minister is now approaching a scheduled review of telecommunications consumer protections and the complaints process with a view to quash an inconvenient truth –  that transfers to the version of the National Broadband Network (NBN) cobbled together by Tony Abbott and MalcolmTurnbull are a dismal failure for far too many Australian businesses and households.

Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO), media release, 17 April 2018:

Report highlights increase in complaints about landline, mobile and internet services

Australian residential consumers and small businesses made 84,914 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the last six months of 2017 (1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017). In this period, complaints about landline, mobile and internet services, increased by 28.7 per cent compared to the same six month period in 2016.

Publishing the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Six Monthly Update today (Tuesday 17 April, 2018), Ombudsman Judi Jones said “The telecommunications industry in Australia continues to experience significant change. An increasing range of products and services are being offered to consumers, expectations for the quality of phone and internet services are high, and the rollout of the National Broadband Network is changing the way we use telecommunications services.

“However, consumers still seem to be facing the same problems, particularly with their bills and the customer service they receive. Confidence in services being updated or transferred reliably, faulty equipment, and poor service quality were also recorded as key issues. Additionally, the wider issues relating to phone or internet problems such as debt management are concerning.”

Jones added, “Complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network continued to increase compared to the same six month period in 2016. This indicates the consumer experience is still not meeting expectations for all. Recent changes to regulation and an increase in our powers to resolve complaints are positive steps that will help improve the consumer experience.”

Highlights for the period 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017 include:

* 84,914 total complaints were received
* 74,729 complaints (88 per cent) were from residential consumers
* 9,947 complaints (11.7 per cent) were from small businesses

Landline, mobile, internet, multiple services and property

Complaints for the period increased 28.7 per cent compared to the same six month period in 2016.

* 9,447 complaints (11.1 per cent) were recorded about landline phone services
* 24,923 complaints (29.4 per cent) were recorded about mobile phone services
* 23,785 complaints (28 per cent) were recorded about internet services
* 26,112 complaints (30.8 per cent) were recorded about multiple services*
* 647 complaints (0.8 per cent) were recorded about property*

* Charges and fees, unsatisfactory response from the provider (provider response), and poor service quality were the most common issues.

Small Businesses

Between 1 July and 31 December 2017 complaints from small businesses increased 15.6 per cent to 9,947 compared to the same period in 2016.

* Complaints from Small Businesses accounted for 11.7 per cent of total complaints for the period

* 2,178 complaints (21.9 per cent) were recorded about landline phone services
* 2,074 complaints (20.9 per cent) were recorded about mobile phone services
* 1,716 complaints (17.3 per cent) were recorded about internet services
* 3,937 complaints (39.6 per cent) were recorded about multiple services*
* 42 complaints (0.4 per cent) were recorded about property
*       The main issues affecting small businesses were charges and fees, unsatisfactory response from the provider (provider response), and no service.

Complaints by State

All states and territories in Australia saw a growth in complaints in the last six months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Queensland recorded the highest growth in complaints, an increase of 39.3 per cent, followed by Western Australia with 36.5 per cent.

Complaints by state (in alphabetical order) are as follows:

* Australian Capital Territory made 1,184 complaints, an increase of 11 per cent
* New South Wales made 26,914 complaints, an increase of 27.9 per cent
* Northern Territory made 504 complaints, an increase of 20 per cent
* Queensland made 16,418 complaints, an increase of 39.3 per cent
* South Australia made 6,552 complaints, an increase of 22.7 per cent
* Tasmania made 1,614 complaints, an increase of 33.1 per cent
* Victoria made 23,954 complaints, an increase of 30.5 per cent
* Western Australia made 7,381 complaints, an increase of 36.5 per cent

* The main issues affecting Australian states and territories were charges and fees, unsatisfactory response from the provider (provider response), and poor service quality

Services delivered over the National Broadband Network

Complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network increased 203.9 per cent to 22,827 on the same period in 2016.

* 14,055 complaints were recorded about service quality
* 8,757 complaints were recorded about delays in establishing a connection
*       The main issues affecting residential consumers and small businesses were unsatisfactory response from the provider (provider response), poor service quality, and connecting a service (connection/changing provider)

NOTES TO EDITORS

*From 1 July 2017, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman changed the recording of complaints. There are now five complaint service categories: landline phone services, mobile phone services, internet services, multiple services (where the consumer is complaining about more than one phone or internet issue), or a complaint about damage or access to property. The changes mean data will more accurately reflect the description of complaints given by residential consumers and small businesses.  The changes also make it easier to see the issues facing the telecommunication industry, helping providers improve the delivery of phone and internet services. Trend analysis will build over time from the start of this reporting period.

Friday, 16 March 2018

With a royal commission having found that all major religions house and protect paedophiles we still find Liberal Party MPs seeking to extend the influence of priests & ministers in the Australian school system in 2018



Dozens of federal Liberal MPs have reportedly signed a petition calling for a 25 per cent funding increase for the controversial National Schools Chaplaincy Program. 

Whether the budget can afford the funding increase or whether the money would be better spent elsewhere are interesting issues. The bigger legal issue is that the way the chaplains program operates is illegal…….

The High Court has struck down the chaplains program as illegal twice already. In 2012, the High Court ruled the program illegal because the federal government was paying for the chaplains program without any legislation authorising the spending. To overcome the High Court decision, federal Parliament quickly passed legislation to authorise the spending.

The chaplains program again was struck down again in 2014. Federal Parliament can only pass legislation dealing with certain subject matters. The High Court ruled that school chaplains do not fall within any of those.

To get around its own lack of power to run the chaplains program, the federal government now grants money to the states for them to run it. Lots of federal government programs operate this way with the states running programs on behalf of the federal government using federal money.

Getting a job as a chaplain requires a person to be recognised as qualified for the role "through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised religious qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution". In other words, a person has to be religious and endorsed by a religious group in order to get a job as a chaplain. Atheists need not apply.

Individual schools pick which religion they want their chaplain to be a member of and then recruit a person from that religion for the job.

But it makes no practical sense to require a chaplain to have a particular religion. Chaplains are strictly prohibited from religious proselytising, although there are sometimes reports of chaplains breaking the rules. The High Court even commented that despite the religious sounding job title, the actual work chaplains do has nothing much to do with religion. Justice Dyson Heydon wrote that the work of chaplains "could have been done by persons who met a religious test. It could equally have been done by persons who did not".

In other words, there is no genuine occupational requirement for a chaplain to be a member of any particular religion or to be religious at all. The federal government has simply decided that it wants all chaplains to be religious.

Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is inconsistent with the nature of public schools……

Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is also illegal. Each state has anti-discrimination or equal opportunity legislation making it illegal to discriminate against a person on the ground of religion in employment decisions. These anti-discrimination rules apply to public schools and their hiring decisions.

Public schools cannot advertise a teacher’s job and require that only Hindus are eligible to apply. Public schools cannot advertise a cleaner’s job and require that only Baptists are eligible to apply. The reason is because that would be discrimination on the ground of religion in employment.

It’s exactly the same with chaplains. Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is religious discrimination and completely illegal for public schools…..

The state anti-discrimination commissions should do something about public schools breaching religious discrimination laws. If they don’t, someone will eventually go to court and the school chaplains program will probably be ruled illegal for the third, and hopefully final, time.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Turnbull Government employment services program a mess


Meanwhile in Australian Minister for Employment and Liberal Senator for Western Australia  Michaelia Cash’s ministerial portfolio…..

The Australian, 31 October 2017:

The Coalition’s flagship $7.3 billion employment services program has been branded a “hopeless mess” with fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed clients finding long-term work, more than a third of job agencies performing so badly they should be disqualified and warnings that fraud may go undetected.

The Australian has uncovered evidence of job agencies inducing or harassing former clients for pay slips from their new employers to claim taxpayer ­bonuses worth thousands of dollars each.

Agencies are handed incentive payments four weeks after a ­client starts a job and again at three months and cumulatively can get up to $13,750 at six months if the client stays in the job.

Fewer than 40 per cent of ­clients remain employed after six months and almost half of the $1.7bn the department spends on the program each year goes on administration.

An analysis by The Australian of the five-year program ­reveals 569 employment services sites out of 1648 around the nation have failed a measure set by the ­Department of Employment that requires their business be reduced or taken away entirely, but only 12 companies have had their share reduced.

The problem is particularly ­severe in Western Australia, the home state of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, where just 14 per cent of the 107 employment services sites met the grade for service standards. Only two sites were operating above the national average but the department has “deferred” any shake-up of the private companies “to give providers an opportunity to ­improve their performance”.

The bonuses under the re­designed “jobactive” program launched by the Coalition are big business and, in many cases, ­securing them is the only revenue keeping the organisations afloat.

The Australian understands there are active moves within the Labor Party to reconsider the ­entire employment services model, and while opposition ­employment services spokesman Ed Husic was tight-lipped on the issue in August, he admonished the system in a speech to service providers.

“We spend roughly $9bn on government jobs programs, the second largest area of procurement outside of defence,” he said.

“We have 730,000 people out of work … 40,000 employment services consultants and only 20 per cent of the people helped by the government’s jobs programs find work for more than 26 weeks.”

The Salvation Army lost more than $1 million a month in the first 18 months of the scheme launched in July 2015 because it was not qualifying for the bonus payments it needed to.

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, the peak organisation for non-profit providers, said the system was a “hopeless mess”, not “hugely ­effective” and had been run to the advantage of the largest companies.

“On average, the staff who work at these places have a high-school-level education and a caseload of 150 jobseekers,” he said. “That’s average. Some of them have 300 people they have to see in a week. They do not have a ­relationship with anyone. It’s cheap.”….

The department declined to release the names of the companies in the “low-impact breaches” because it said it was “concerned that publishing such information may cause commercial harm to the relevant providers”.

Of the 65 providers contracted to deliver employment support services on behalf of the federal government, the Department of Employment has classified more than 43 per cent of having a risk rating of “extreme or high”.

Of this number, more than half were rated extreme or high due to concerns about their ongoing financial viability, more than one-third due to overall service standards, 28 per cent were deemed compliance risks and ­almost 4 per cent were categorised as being at risk of fraud.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! cries Michaelia


This was Australian Minister for Employment and Senator for Western Australia, Michaelia Cash in September 2017:


Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, what Ms. Cash is confirming here is that 74,400 of the jobs she is claiming are in fact only part-time jobs and some would be for as little as half a day per week.


July 2016 – 11.963 million
August 2016 – 11.870 million
September 2016 – 11.910 million
October 2016 – 11.952 million
November 2016 – 12.017 million
December 2016 – 12.106 million
January 2017 – 11.844 million
February 2017 – 12.060 million
March 2017 – 12.079 million
April 2017 –  12.147 million
May 2017 – 12.214 million
June 2017 – 12.210 million
July 2017 – 12.213 million
August 2017 – 12.195 million
September 2017 – not known at this time

Comparing the month of August 2016 with the month of August 2017 then the number of additional persons in employment is estimated at 324,900 people of which est. 75,400 individuals were working part-time.

Perhaps the better figure is for a financial year. The number of additional persons in employment at the end of 1 July 2016-30 June 2017 financial year is estimated at 246,900 people of which est. 184,300 individuals were working part-time.

How many of those part-time jobs were Work For The Dole employment or were PaTH jobs is uncertain. Both these government programs are not known for leading to high levels of permanent employment.


There is also the statistical difficulty that any growth in the number of people employed doesn’t necessarily mean an equal number of new jobs was created during the same period. Some job vacancies were created when workers permanently left the workforce, changed positions within a business or changed employer.

Something Ms. Cash would know full well.

So while the Minister can point to an improvement in employment levels, these levels are not as robust as she would have us believe.

Looking at the numbers since August 2013 Tony Abbott’s promised two million new jobs created within a decade is never likely to eventuate.

While on the NSW North Coast the unemployment rate ranges from 5.4% in Richmond-Tweed to 8% in Coffs Harbour-Grafton in July 2017. The Coffs Harbour-Grafton Labour Force Region unemployment rate continuing as the highest rate in New South Wales.

Monday, 21 August 2017

I wonder if Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators remember that Adani's corporate structure in Australia is allegedly also geared towards siphoning money into tax havens?


The Guardian, 16 August 2017:

A global mining giant seeking public funds to develop one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia has been accused of fraudulently siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money into overseas tax havens.

Indian conglomerate the Adani Group is expecting a legal decision in the “near future” in connection with allegations it inflated invoices for an electricity project in India to shift huge sums of money into offshore bank accounts.

Details of the alleged 15bn rupee (US$235m) fraud are contained in an Indian customs intelligence notice obtained by the Guardian, excerpts of which are published for the first time here.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) file, compiled in 2014, maps out a complex money trail from India through South Korea and Dubai, and eventually to an offshore company in Mauritius allegedly controlled by Vinod Shantilal Adani, the older brother of the billionaire Adani Group chief executive, Gautam Adani.

Vinod Adani is the director of four companies proposing to build a railway line and expand a coal port attached to Queensland’s vast Carmichael mine project.

The proposed mine, which would be Australia’s largest, has been the source of years of intense controversy, legal challenges and protests over its possible environmental impact.

Expanding the coal port to accommodate the mine will require dredging an estimated 1.1m cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Coal from the mine will also produce annual emissions equivalent to those of Malaysia or Austria according to one study.

One of the few remaining hurdles for the Adani Group is to raise finance to build the mine as well as a railway line to transport coal from the site to a port at Abbot Point on the Queensland coast.

To finance the railway Adani hopes to persuade the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (Naif), an Australian government-backed investment fund, to loan the Adani Group or a related entity about US$700m (A$900m) in public money.

Adani family’s Australian corporate structure…..

ABC News, 14 March 2017:

Up to $3 billion from Adani's planned Carmichael coal mine will be shifted to a subsidiary owned in the Cayman Islands if the controversial project goes ahead, an analysis of company filings shows.

An "overarching royalty deed" gives a shell company rights to receive a $2-a-tonne payment, rising yearly by the inflation rate, beyond the first 400,000 tonnes mined in each production year for two decades.

The company with this entitlement is ultimately owned by Atulya Resources Limited, a secretive entity registered in the Cayman Islands, and controlled by the Adani family.

"In plain English, the upshot for the Adani family is [that] if the mine goes ahead, they receive a $2-a-tonne payment, so up to $3 billion, via a Cayman Islands company, a company owned in a tax haven," says Adam Walters, principal researcher and Energy Resource Insights.

With a production capacity of 60 million tonnes or more a year, that amounts to about $120 million per annum in payments, increasing each year in line with the CPI, potentially flowing offshore.

"I would describe it as a structure that means that the Adani family enriches themselves if the mine goes ahead but that other shareholders are impoverished," associate professor Thomas Clarke, director of the Centre for Corporate Governance at UTS told the ABC.

"The worry is that this may be just the beginning.

"That the Adani family have the ability to shift cash and assets around at will and in the future they may well do so at the cost of shareholders and the Queensland economy."

He said the billions flowing to the Adani private company would come at the expense of minority shareholders in the company listed on the Bombay stock exchange which ultimately owns the Carmichael mine.

How Adani acquired the right to this multi-billion-dollar revenue stream is a tale in itself.

In 2010, Adani Mining Pty Ltd bought the coal tenement that is set to become the Carmichael mine from the now defunct Linc Energy.

Part of the sale involved Adani Mining giving Linc Energy an "overriding royalty deed" which entitled it to receive $2-a-tonne for all coal mined beyond the first 400,000 tonnes in any production year.

Linc Energy informed investors at the time could be worth "over $120 million per annum" and up to $3 billion over the course of the royalty right.

But in August 2014, in dire financial straits, Linc Energy agreed to sell the royalty deed back to Adani at a fire sale price: just $150 million.

The obvious course would have been to extinguish the royalty deed, because it represented a multi-billion-dollar liability for the mine which is ultimately owned by Adani Enterprises Ltd, the Bombay-stock exchange listed company.

Instead, the royalty deed "was assigned by Linc Energy Limited to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for Carmichael Rail Network Trust," notes in financial reports of Adani Mining Pty Ltd say.

Carmichael Rail Network is one of a group of companies behind the proposed North Galilee Basin rail line, which Adani is currently seeking a subsidised loan of up to $1 billion from the Federal Government's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build.

"What this means is that one of the companies currently seeking up to $1 billion in public subsidy is going to profit to the tune of up to $3 billion if the mine goes ahead," Mr Walters said.

Adani Mining Pty Ltd, the proponent of the Carmichael mine and the holder of its environmental approvals, appears to have lent Carmichael Rail the funds to buy the royalty deed.

BACKGROUND

The Guardian, 21 August 2015:

We know that Abbott loves coal and thinks that it is “good for humanity”. Is that why he is prepared to back a financially risky project?

Is it the “10,000” jobs that government ministers say will come from the project (remembering that Adani’s own consultant has said that those numbers were vastly overblown and that Carmichael would result in less less than 1500 jobs).

Could it be the prospect of cash from coal royalties? Maybe.

Does the substantial media coverage from the mine just give the Abbott Government another opportunity to tell the public that all environmentalists are economic saboteurs who want to take away people’s jobs and come in the dead of night to steal your babies? Possibly.

But could there be another causal factor that has contributed to the way Australian politicians have forcefully backed Adani for so many years?

Could that other factor be the close relationships that the company has managed to forge at the highest levels with Australia’s political leaders?

Whenever an Australian leader sets foot in India, it seems that a meeting with Gautam Adani is never more than a figurative (and sometimes literal) flight in a private jet away.

There’s evidence of this going back at least as far as October 2010 and its there in the records of trade missions tabled before parliaments.

Let’s peruse together.

In October 2010, Queensland’s then Premier Anna Bligh travelled to India on a trade mission to promote the state’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games and “strengthen Queensland’s position as an ally and destination for future trade and investment in the eyes of the Indian market and nation leaders”.

report tabled to the Queensland Parliament shows that Bligh’s first official meeting with Indian figures was with Adani, where the company’s owner Gautam Adani and his international development executive Harsh Mishra got to quiz the Premier about policies relating to rail lines, underground coal gasification and support for mining in the Galilee Basin.

Bligh also “agreed to attend the opening” of Adani’s offices in Brisbane later that month and extended an invitation for Adani to meet with its co-ordinator general when they were next in Brisbane.

After Campbell Newman won power for the Liberal National Party in Queensland, he led a trade mission to India too.

While there, Newman joined former Labor Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and a 76-strong business delegation for a tour of an Adani port and a power plant, reportedly getting there on a private jet.

The report on the trade mission, tabled to Parliament, shows that Mr Adani then hosted a lavish reception at his home for the entire delegation.
Judging by one freelance photographer’s images, the event was quite an affair with much handshaking all-round.

The event was part of “OzFest” – Australia’s “largest cultural festival” for which Adani was a “platinum sponsor”

In 2013, the Queensland Government was again in India for a trade mission led by then Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and, again, the Adani company was on hand.

Seeney’s delegation travelled with Adani executive Harsh Mishra to visit an Adani-owned port and power station before Seeney had a private lunch with the company.

Later that same day, Seeney met with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (now the Indian Prime Minister) and… Gautum Adani.

Mr Adani then hosted a private dinner with Seeney “which included Adani Group senior executives and members of Mr Adani’s family”.

But it’s not only Queensland politicians who have sought out Adani company bosses while on missions to India.

Former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell met with Gautam Adani during a trade visit to India in December 2013.

Current NSW Premier Mike Baird also went on a trade mission to India earlier this year. You can probably guess by now the name of one Indian billionaire he met with.

Gautam Adani is also a co-chair of the Australia-India CEO Forum – an initiative of the Australian High Commission.

Trade minister Andrew Robb attended the last meeting in New Delhi. I don’t know if they had dinner (but if I was a betting man….)

Monday, 31 July 2017

Why doesn't the Turnbull Government do more to address domestic tax avoidance?


So why is it that the Turnbull Coalition Government, home to more than one millionaire, continues to allow a set of taxation rules which favour those with both wealth and high incomes over those with only average to low incomes and little to no wealth?


According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) – now underfunded, undermanned and demoralised – there is an issue with trusts being used for tax avoidance:

We focus on differences between distributable income of a trust and its net [taxable] income which provides opportunities for those receiving the economic benefit of trust distributions to avoid paying tax on them.

In other words; discretionary trusts are used by high-income earners to distribute investment income to beneficiaries on lower marginal tax rates, in the process reducing the overall amount of tax paid and current rules allow income to be diverted to other family members, such as stay-at-home mothers or fathers, or to dependents over the age of 18, such as children at university, college or Tafe.

Australian Finance Minister and Liberal Senator for Western Australia Mathias Cormann characterises proposals to alter taxation rates on trusts to minimise their use as tax avoidance vehicles as a “tax grab”. Well he would wouldn’t he, with so many political mates to defend.

As for collecting existing tax liabilities……

The ability to enforce payment obligations and pursue avoidance schemes has diminished since 2014 when first the Abbott Coalition Government and then later the Turnbull Coalition Government cut ATO staffing numbers.

The Community and Public Sector Union clearly told the Treasurer in 2017 that:

While the public is supportive of tackling corporate tax avoidance to raise revenue for public services, there are limits to what the ATO is able to do due to significant under resourcing. Despite a growing population and increased expectations from the community, ATO ongoing staffing levels have declined. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, Average Staffing Levels at the ATO fell by over 4,000 or by nearly a quarter. The audit team, responsible for enforcing the tax compliance of individuals and multinational companies, was hit particularly hard by these job cuts. While there was an increase in the 2016-17 Budget, it has not reversed the significant cuts experienced over the last few years.

Given the need for more, not less revenue, these previous cuts seem illogical. According to information provided to Senate Estimates by senior ATO staff, the return on investment over the last decade would be between 1:1 and 6:1, or simply put every dollar invested in ATO staff generates between $1 and $6 in revenue.[1] Some had previously estimated that the cuts could lead to a loss of nearly $1 billion in revenue.[2]

This disconnect between public expectations that tax avoidance should be tackled and what the ATO can actually do must be addressed by the Government. It should commit to an increase in base funding and staffing for the ATO if it is serious about tackling corporate tax avoidance and increasing revenue.

It seems that while the Turnbull Government talks about an ideal egalitarian society where inequality no longer exists, behind the scenes it is nobbling one of the mechanism’s available to government to ensure that there is a level playing field for all those with only earned incomes as well as those with earned incomes plus accumulated wealth.                                      
So when Turnbull & Co announced in May this year that it intends introducing a strong Diverted Profits Tax and establishing a Tax Avoidance Taskforce in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) one has to wonder if current staffing levels allow full investigation of multinationals operating in Australia or whether the taskforce (which has in fact existed since 2016) will be adequately resourced to look into multinational tax avoidance and the black economy as mooted.

One also has to wonder why in the face of widespread use of negative gearing of investment properties and capital gains tax arrangements to avoid paying an appropriate tax rate, the Turnbull Government also fails to reform the taxation system in these areas.

Oh, I forgot……………



NOTE

1. Table 1: 45th Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia party representation

Source: Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), ‘2016 Federal Election Tally Room’