Wednesday 30 April 2014

There hasn't been an incorruptible administration or government in New South Wales since the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour.....

And here is more proof of that:

Wran, The Balmain Boy Gone Bad

By Wendy Bacon

….Much has been said in recent days about the achievements of Neville Wran, NSW Premier from 1976 until 1986, who died last weekend. Much of the praise is deserved.
His government did pass anti-discrimination laws, environmental legislation and other progressive reforms. But there has also been some nonsense written, including ALP leader Bill Shorten’s statement that Wran was a man of the "utmost integrity".
From reading the obituaries, you would have no idea what it was like to be in Sydney at the time. Wran presided over a state in which hundreds of prisoners paid their way out of prison. The police force was routinely corrupt and included detectives who killed people. Court cases were fixed, key judicial figures mixed with organised crime, and corruption in the property, racing and gambling industries was rife and backed by heavies.
At best, Wran resisted reform in these areas. At times, he actively conspired to cover it up. By the time he retired in 1986, his government had an appalling reputation for corruption in the administration of justice, which is why Liberal leader Nick Greiner was in the position to win victory in 1988 on an anti-corruption platform, including the establishment of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Wran’s own worst moment was undoubtedly in 1983, when the Street Royal Commission was set up after the ABC Four Corners report, The Big League. The story told how NSW Rugby League's President, Kevin Humphreys, had misappropriated funds from the Balmain Leagues Club and was charged by police.
It alleged that NSW's Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, Murray Farquhar, had intervened to have those charges dismissed and had told another magistrate that he was acting at the request of Wran. Wran refused to be interviewed by Four Corners and after legal advice and the approval of the ABC Board, it went to air.
The report created a political storm. Eleven days later a Royal Commission was set up and Wran stepped aside as Premier. Laurence Street, who was then the Chief Justice, found that Farquar had intervened — but not at the request of Wran, who denied he had been involved.
Farquar was later sentenced to four years imprisonment. But the Street Royal Commission did not really lay the matters to rest, as Wran himself knew. Evan Whitton, who was awarded Journalist of the Year in 1983 for for his "courage and innovation" in reporting of the Commission, regarded the terms of reference to be very narrow. The approach was "technical" rather than one of following up relevant questions as they arose. Whitton’s sketches and a diary of the commission that were published in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted many of these flaws.
An underlying issue was the relationship between Farquar and organised crime figure George Freeman. This relationship had been revealed by The National Times in 1977. Instead of properly investigating these allegations, Wran, against the advice of others, supported extending Farquar’s appointment until 1979….
Read the rest of the article at New Matilda, 24 April 2014.

Welcome to the world of Hockeynomics - Part Two

This was Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey reported on ABC News, 24 April 2014:

The Treasurer Joe Hockey is talking tough on welfare measures in the lead up to the Federal Budget, saying means testing will become more important into the future, and Australians should keep working for as long as they can.
He's revealed some of the findings of the Commission of Audit, which shows that at $39.5 billion, Australia spends more on the age pension each year than it does on defence, hospitals, or schools.
"It is our single biggest spending program," Mr Hockey said.
"So the policies must be changed, either now or more dramatically in the future." [my red bolding]

According to Mr. Hockey in less than twelve months the Age Pension has gone from being the Federal Government’s third highest single recurrent expenditure item (approximately 10% of the Commonwealth Budget) to the highest at $39.5 billion.

Up an est. $2.5 billion since June 2013 and leaving Health expenditure at $62 billion and Goods and Services Tax transfers to the states at $48 billion miraculously way behind Age Pension costs using that mysterious method of accounting - hockeynomics.

Commonwealth government recurrent expenditure, 2012-13 
Grattan Institute analysis of Commonwealth budget papers
Grattan Institute 24 January 2014

In 2012-13 Defence as a recurrent expense was estimated to cost the federal government $30.8 billion and Education (minus the research component) was estimated at $27.16 billion, according to the Grattan Institute’s Budget Pressures on Australian Governments.

This is what Treasurer Hockey was waving in front of Spectator Magazine on 23 April 2014:

Again using hockeynomics, it appears that Defence as a recurrent expense has reduced in size by an est. $5.5 billion in less than ten months -  and this despite the Abbott Government spending many millions searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane since early March 2014 and increasing naval border surveillance since September 2013.

While Health expenditure is only shown as three discrete items in his Commission of Audit data and, is therefore reduced by $19.7 billion in under 10 months to make it appear as though the Age Pension is by far and away the largest contributor to the federal government's recurrent expenditure.

Education expenditure has $7.16 billion off its bottom line in less than 10 months in order for it to also fit into Hockey's universal-safety-nets-are-bad narrative.

If one looks at Mr. Hockey's chart; in 2013-14 Federal Government total payments (spending) are 25.93% of Australia’s Nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2023-24 total payments are projected to be 26.50% of GDP. That expenditure growth is less than 0.57% over a decade, while the GDP is projected to grow 5.1% annually over that period.

Whereas, by comparison, in the United Kingdom (which also has a universal safety net policy covering health, education, employment, pensions and welfare payments) public sector spending was 42.2% of its GDP in 2013-14.

As for Australia's national public debt which is often quoted by the Abbott Government as a reason for taking the razor to government programs - the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2013 clearly stated that: Australian general government gross debt is expected to peak at around 32 percent of GDP in 2015 and is among the lowest in advanced nations.[International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Department, Australia: Staff Report for 2013 Article IV Consultation-Staff Report]

While Mr. Hockey is trying to talk up his budget 'emergency' and demonise age pensioners (despite the fact that only seven per cent of Australia’s recent increase in health-care costs is due to aging, only 5% of people over 65 years require residential care as they age and more older people are already chosing to remain in the workforce longer), he remains almost mute on the subject of the new Abbott version of the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

This scheme will cost $14 billion in the first three years, or $4.66 billion a year. Costing taxpayers over $1 billion to meet the employer levy shortfall in its first year alone - in order to pay out up to $75,000 $50,000 (plus superannuation component) per non-means tested 6 month leave application granted.

The motivation behind this new scheme is not hard to find as it is based on feathering the nests of right-wing politicians' families and presumably the families of their political donors.

Here is Prime Minister Tony Abbott reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on 5 March 2014:

Mr Abbott said he opposed paid parental leave as a minister in the Howard government, but his views changed after considering what would be best for his daughters.


On 1 May 2014 at 2pm. the Abbott Government is finally releasing its first National Commission of Audit report. On May 13 full details of the Abbott Government's first federal budget are due to be released.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Operation Spicer - Day One running sheet

To date one NSW Premier has resigned, one NSW minister has resigned and been suspended from the Liberal Party, one NSW Liberal MLC has resigned from a parliamentary position and stood aside, two NSW MPs been suspended from the Liberal Party and one Liberal federal senator has stood down, as a result of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Operation Credo and Operation Spicer investigations.

They are:

Barry O’Farrell - MP for Kur-ing-gai, former NSW Premier & Minister for Western Sydney until 17 April 2014
Chris Hartcher - NSW MP for Terrigal, Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for the Central Coast & Special Minister of State until 9 December 2013 and now suspended from the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW)
Marie Ficarra - Member of the NSW Legislative Council and a former parliamentary secretary until 17 April 2014
Darren Webber – MP for Wyong now suspended from the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW)
Christopher Spence – MP for The Entrance now suspended from the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW)
Arthur Sinodinis - Federal Senator for NSW and former Assistant Treasurer in the Abbott Government

UPDATE: On 2 May 2014 NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher stood aside after being named as a subject of the inquiry.

The following are some of the individuals who received mention in the opening statement by counsel assisting ICAC on the first day of Operation Spicer hearings (see transcript):

Liberal MP and then NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher

The Liberal MP. Christopher Hartcher, together with persons who worked
with him, set out to attract additional funding for the benefit of a small group
of Liberal Party candidates on the Central Cost. To pull it off, one of those
employees, Timothy Koelma, set up a business called Eightbyfive. They
then attracted payments from 40 prohibited donors who were interested in
buying favours from Mr Hartcher.

Liberal MP for Lane Cove and NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Antony Roberts

Just one example of this will suffice; Mr Hartcher was wont to holiday
aboard the Gazal’s yacht Octavia at Hamilton Island, here I’ll show it up on
the screen, here for example is a record from Mr Hartcher’s diary recording
his trip to Hamilton Island in August 2007. “Fly to Hamilton Island, Nabil”,
that’s Nabil Gazal. And there you can see that how the cabins were
distributed, four cabins. Nabil’s got the master cabin, Mr Hartcher the VIP,
Anthony, we believe that’s Anthony Roberts the current Minister,
Anthony’s got a side cabin, there’s a junior cabin for kids, there’s a bit of a
blow there because they need a chef, et cetera et cetera. We tried to check
on who paid for the flights and the like but the records unfortunately were
long gone.

Sebastian Reed nephew of former of NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher
The Hartcher Reed Affair; small in size but serious in principal.
Christopher Hartcher got control of $4000 in donations which had to be
laundered before they could be used. To do so he dragged a respected firm
of solicitors and his own nephew unwittingly into an illicit enterprise and
into a misuse of a trust account.

Paul Nicolaou NSW Liberal Party fundraiser

On 27 February, 2010, Mr Nicolaou  wrote a letter to Alan Jones with the
apparent purpose of encouraging him to use his radio program to denounce
Sydney Water and traduce Dr Schott. Mr Nicolaou wrote to Mr Jones on
the letterhead of the Millennium Forum and the Millennium Forum is the
fundraising arm of the New South Wales Liberal Party…..
Commissioner, this was serious stuff. I’ll show some more transcript from
Mr Nicolaou’s evidence. It was very serious stuff and Mr Nicolaou agreed.
Question, “Based on what I’m saying”, I really regret reading this out
incidentally, Commissioner, Dr Schott has been warned that these awful
things could be said about her and I regret having to repeat them, I do so, I
want to preface it by saying this Dr Schott was shown to be absolutely and
utterly incorruptible but anyway I’ll go on it needs to be done. Based upon
what I’m saying, this is the question, “I’m reading to you your own words,
based upon what you said you were alleging Dr Schott was a based corrupt
criminal weren’t you?”, answer, “Based on the email that I sent, yes”,
question, “And you did that without any regard as to whether it was an
accurate complaint didn’t you?”, answer, “Yes”, question, “And you did it
in the hope that this fellow Jones would blurt it out all over this radio
program didn’t you?”, answer, “Yes”, question, “The objective was to
humiliate Schott and her senior executive team publicly wasn’t it?”, answer,

Liberal Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly Marie Ficarra

Marie Ficarra solicited a donation from the property developer, Tony Merhi,
knowing that Mr Merhi was a prohibited donor. Both knew what they were
doing was wrong. The same evidence will show that Ms Ficarra was
complicit in the Eightbyfive scheme.

Tim Koelma Liberal Party Member and former staffer to then NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher
Commencing from April 2009, Australian Water Holdings paid a monthly
retainer to Eightbyfive. The payments continued until May 2011 and in all
around $183,000 was paid to Eightbyfive. The invoices submitted by
Eightbyfive to Australian Water Holdings describe the services as,
“Products and services as stipulated in service level agreement.” Whatever
that means.
Apart from the issue as to whether Mr Koelma had the skills and experience
necessary to provide anything of value, there is a deeper question as to why
it was necessary for Australian Water Holdings to purchase those services at
all, after all it had a barrage of lobbyists on retainer already and its board
included Liberal Party heavies such as Mr Di Girolamo and Arthur
And there’s yet another twist here. You’ll recall I mentioned this earlier –
Gazcorp resumed making payments to Eightbyfive from September 2011
until April 2012, this time in monthly amounts of $2,000, in all about
$16,000 was paid. Now, this is disturbing because Mr Koelma had resumed
work in the Ministerial office of Mr Hartcher and there is no way that he
should have been involved in any Government relations activities at that
time. Of course his subcontractors had gone on to bigger and better things,
 they were both elected to Parliament. Mr Koelma had no subcontractors so
he attempted to explain away these payments by suggesting that his wife,
Tennille Koelma, was providing the services, but unfortunately for Mr
Koelma, we’ve spoken to Mrs Koelma and she denied that.

Timothy Trumbull accountant

It all stems from some donations made by an unusual character, Timothy
Trumbull, an avid anti-socialist accountant. A number of donations tallying
$4,000 emanated from him. The donations were made by women he
employed. Mr Trumbull told us that this was because his staff were so
troubled by the socialist Labor Government in Canberra that they wanted to
make contributions to the New South Wales Liberal Party.
Well, this was all nonsense. We spoke to Mr Trumbull’s staff and we will
tender transcripts of their evidence. They deny being politically motivated.
In fact each of them I think from recollection was from overseas and none
of them even had a right to vote. They didn’t know there was a difference
between Labor or Liberal. Each of them says that Mr Trumbull organised
the whole thing and its transparent what the, what Mr Trumbull did was just
done to avoid the $5,000 cap which had been placed upon individual
donors. We can prove that Mr Trumbull had already reached his limit but
he wanted to give more. That’s all back story, it’s only where the story
starts. The donations were made bank cheques. Although the cheques were
drawn on 16 March, 2011 they seem to have lain dormant for some time.
On 17 November, 2011 the bank cheques were deposited into the trust
account of the firm of solicitors Hartcher Reid. I’ll just put that up on the
screen so that you can see it. This is a deposit slip that we’ve been able to
recover from the Westpac Bank, the branch in Martin Place, a three minute
walk from Parliament House. You can see up in the top left-hand side
where it says “Paid in by” that the identity of the person who made the
deposit has been rendered illegible. Commissioner, you might think that
that was deliberate. At first we wondered how bank cheques made out to
the Liberal Party of New South Wales could be banked to the credit of
Hartcher Reid but we were told that there was an arrangement under which
such cheques can be deposited into a solicitor’s trust account.

Darren Williams co-founder and director of Buildev

When Mr Williams pursued the payment, he did not speak of services
provided by Mr Koelma or services providing of Eightbyfive, I’ll just
show you who he referred to. This is a message that Mr Darren Williams
from Buildev sent to Troy Palmer. Up the top, “Mate, Libs are chasing me
up, mate. I don’t want to burn them, can you call them?” Commissioner,
at the end of this inquiry we will urge you to find that this was not a
transaction with Eightbyfive, it was a transaction with the Libs, it was
a payment which was being made to the Liberal Party.

Troy Palmer Chief Financial Officer of the Tinkler Group

On 19 April, 2013, Mr Palmer sent Mr Williams an SMS text message
and you can see it there. “Have you got Eightbyfive under control?
We can’t have Patinack involved in an ICAC hearing.”

Nabil Gazal, Nabil Gazal Jnr. and Nicholas Gazal

The Gazal family and Orange Grove; another major developer drawn into 
the Eightbyfive scheme was Gazcorp Pty Limited a company owned and 
controlled by the Gazal family who developed the controversial Orange 
Grove Shopping Centre. Over time Gazcorp paid $137,000 for fake 
services invoiced by Eightbyfive. 

Murdoch media cheerfully delivers Tony Abbott's 'deficit tax' message

Apparently Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott waxed lyrical about his plans to reduce his budget deficit when he attended a Sydney Institute dinner on 28 April 2014.

Amongst other measures it seems he is to introduce a deficit tax until the federal deficit disappears.

This is what News Corp's The Australian had to say on 29 April 2014:

The new debt tax will only apply to workers on incomes of $80,000 and above and the rates will increase in line with tax brackets.
Taxpayers in the 37c tax bracket — on incomes of $80,000 to $180,000 — are likely to pay an extra 1 per cent.
Those earning above $180,000 are likely to pay an extra 2 per cent. Like the Gillard government's flood levy, the debt tax will also be temporary, applying only while the budget is in deficit.
Under the new levy, a taxpayer on:
$80,000 will pay an extra $800 a year ($15 a week).
$150,000 will pay an extra $1500 a year ($29 a week).
$200,000 will be slugged an extra $4000 a year ($77 a week).
$400,000 will pay a huge $8000 extra tax ($154 more a week).
Bearing in mind that on 14 April 2014 Treasury apparently already expected average full-time employees to be paying tax of 39¢ in the dollar by 2015-16 and, even taking into consideration the introduction of this deficit tax reportedly worth an estimated $3.6 billion in total, the Abbott Government's Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013‑14 indicates that the federal deficit is still likely to last until 2023-24.

 As by that financial year total federal government payments are projected to be 26.50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), federal government total receipts are projected at 26% of GDP, public net debt is projected to rise to 14.3% of GDP and, given the billions in additional borrowings still being undertaken by the Abbott Government and the fact that in April 2014 an additional $14 billion has been committed to the Australian air force in addition to the non-budgeted est. $20 million plus spent by Defence over the last 41 days on the search for a missing commercial aircraft, the annual budget will possibly still be in deficit then.

One has to wonder how the 5.8 million Australians, who despite the warning signs voted for Coalition candidates at the 2013 federal election, felt when they woke this morning to find so many of them liable for a new tax.

April 2014: The Battle For Bentley Continues

The Sydney Morning Herald 23 April 2014: Bentley protest camp

Richmond Valley Council media release, 23 April 2014:
Council Refuses Application for Continuation of Bentley Protest Camp
Richmond Valley Council General Manager John Walker has announced that the primitive camping site previously approved for up to 200 campers at Bentley, which is currently home to a large number of anti-gas protesters, will no longer have an approval to continue beyond Friday 25 April 2014 after the expiry of its original 2 month approval.

“The site’s subsequent growth since the approval was originally granted, the length of time that the camp has been operating, the ongoing breach of many of the approval conditions and the inability of the consent holder to control the activities of many of the campers and visitors to the site makes the use of a Section 68 approval under which it has operated as a primitive camping site inappropriate.” Mr Walker said.

In a further statement Mr Walker announced that the Development Application seeking planning approval to continue to use the site as a temporary primitive campsite for up to 600 campers lodged by the landowner, Green Mountain Group on 14 April has been refused due to its lack of essential detail, objections by Police and Roads and Maritime Services and the proposed inappropriate land use itself.

Accordingly the occupation and use of the land as a primitive campsite beyond 25 April will not be lawful.

Formal notices advising these decisions have today been issued to the owner of the land, the applicant and its representatives.

The Council is reviewing its options regarding closing the campsite and removing its occupants.

Metgasco Limited has probably been waiting for this protest camp expiry date and, for police to start moving people away, before it enters onto the tight gas drilling site known as Rosella E01.

Meanwhile, it appears to have confirmed to the media but not informed the stock exchange of yet another excuse for why it is keeping away. This time the drilling rig is not held up by rain in Queensland - it may possibly be contaminated by asbestos.

Protesters have been at the gates of Metgasco's drilling site for around three months to date, however the protest camp on an adjoining property has only been in existence for about two months.

Metgasco had originally told the Australian Stock Exchange that it expected to commence drilling in mid-April subject to the drilling rig being available.

NSW Premier Mike Baird telling fairytales regarding reasons for foreshadowed increases in gas prices

On ABC News online on 23 April 2014:

NSW Premier Mike Baird says around half of the proposed increase is due to the carbon tax.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) shows Premier Baird up as a political fairytale purveyor in its April 2014  draft report, where is clearly states that increases in network distribution charges to gas retailers and industry structural changes are the main drivers of cost to consumers increasing. With future gas exports from Australia’s east coast expected to increase costs even more.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is only a small component of these charges as is made clear in the Jemena Access Arrangement.

1.2 Reasons for these price increases

The allowed increases in regulated retail gas prices follow increases in prices in
2012/13 and 2013/14.8 The main reason for these past increases were sustained
rises in network costs.9

In the coming 2 years, the reasons for the increase are different. The main reason
relates to structural changes that are emerging in the wholesale gas market.
These changes are driving increases in wholesale gas prices, and so all 3 Standard
Retailers have wholesale gas costs that are significantly higher than in 2013/14.
However, we note there is still considerable uncertainty around how fast
wholesale gas prices will rise and what level they will peak at.10 This uncertainty
means there remains a wide range (and a high level of risk) in forecast efficient
wholesale gas costs, which we considered as part of our assessment of the
Standard Retailers’ proposed price changes.….

8 Average retail gas prices increased by 8.5% across NSW on 1 July 2013, or by between 5.2% and 9.2% in the Standard Retailers’ individual supply areas. Average retail gas prices increased by 14.2% across NSW on 1 July 2012, or by between 9.3% and 14.9% in the Standard Retailers’ individual supply areas.
9 Recent network cost increases have primarily been the result of Jemena’s successful appeal to the Australian Competition Tribunal (ACT) of the AER’s final decision on the maximum prices and charges they can levy on retailers for use of the distribution network. Information on the Jemena Access Arrangement can be found here.
10 Wholesale gas prices are likely to be influenced by the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on the eastern coast of Australia and the subsequent export of LNG. This means that Australia’s domestic gas market will increasingly be influenced by the international market. However, there is still significant uncertainty around the impact this will have on gas prices in the domestic market.

Tables from IPART media release, 23 April 2014

"Nothing is free - someone always pays" says the Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey

In The Canberra Times on 24 April 2014 Australian Treasurer and millionaire Joe Hockey is quoted as saying that proposed new co-payment charges; would "encourage moderation in demand for services", noting that "nothing is free - someone always pays" in a discussion of a possible Medicare co-payment fee for GP visits, possible increased PBS prescription charges and increased co-payments for aged care.

Yes Mr. Hockey, somebody always pays. Every living person who has ever paid tax has contributed to the funding of government services.

In 2014 even people on pensions and benefits pay tax on life’s essentials. They probably pay more if they live alone and have no savings or assets .

The Federal Government’s Goods & Services Tax (GST) would likely take an estimated non-refundable 8% to 14% out of the weekly incomes of single pension/Newstart recipients when they rent the cheaper range of accommodation and live modestly.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2009-10 there were an est. 3.8 million people across Australia receiving either an age, service, widow, wives, partner, disability, disability support, pensions or partners allowance or Newstart.

This number represents a great deal of consumption tax and indirect taxes paid into federal government coffers. In fact it probably represents billions of dollars annually.

So there is virtually no-one left in Australia who is receiving anything from the federal government for free. 

In 2011-12 the ABS estimated that 2.2 million people were in the lowest income decile (before and after computing rent) and 22.3% of these were 65 years of age or over.

Time for the man eligible for that taxpayer funded super-sized parliamentary pension, with additional perks, to come up with a new argument for ripping the safety-net welfare system to shreds.

Time also for the Treasurer to look to the breach in the Medicare system which costs the federal government millions of dollars each year - fraud perpetrated by both individual GPs and medical practices.

In April 2014 the Auditor-General delivered Audit Report No.26 2013–14: Medicare Compliance Audits which clearly showed that the Dept. of Human Services was not seriously pursuing debt recovery. 

The audit report states that between 2008–09 and 2012–13 there was a $128.3 million shortfall in the savings achieved by the department, when it came to monies actually recovered as a result of Medicare compliance audits of doctors and medical practices.

In fact the amount recovered to date is verging on the pitiful:

Yes, it seems that Mr. Hockey would rather turn low income earners, the unemployed, those with a disability and pensioners into beggars - rather than address a known flaw in the universal public health care system.

Perhaps because doctors have a powerful union of their own which might campaign against the Abbott Government in 2016 and, Hockey believes those voters with little money or power are easy to bully into submission.


As for the 'hidden' taxes low income families, Centrelink & Veterans Affairs pensioners, self-funded retirees and the unemployed pay........

Figures from the Australian Tax Office and federal government show the average Australian can expect to pay about $4600 in indirect taxes this financial year....
The Henry Tax Review, which reviewed Australia's taxation system after the global financial crisis, found Australians pay "at least" 125 taxes each year.
Of these, 99 are levied by the federal government, 25 by the states and one by local government (council rates).

Monday 28 April 2014

NSW ICAC Operation Spicer hearings begin today - witness list partial breakdown

On 28 April 2014 at 11:00 am. A NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigation, Operation Spicer, will begin public hearings to examine:

…whether, between April 2009 and April 2012, certain members of parliament including Christopher Hartcher, Darren Webber and Christopher Spence, along with others including Timothy Koelma and Raymond Carter, corruptly solicited, received, and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments.
The Commission is also examining whether, between December 2010 and November 2011, certain members of parliament, including those mentioned above, and others, including Raymond Carter, solicited, received and failed to disclose political donations from companies, including prohibited donors, contrary to the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.
Further allegations include whether Eightbyfive, a business operated by Mr Koelma entered into agreements with each of a series of entities including Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd (AWH), whereby each entity made regular payments to Eightbyfive, purportedly for the provision of media, public relations and other services and advice, in return for which Mr Hartcher favoured the interests of the respective entity.
The ICAC is also investigating the circumstances in which false allegations of corruption were made against senior SWC executives (see also the Commission's Operation Credo public inquiry).

Individuals due to appear as witnesses in the first week of Operation Spicer hearings:

Karen McNamara – Federal Liberal MP for Dobell
Jodi McKay – former Labor MP for Newcastle, former NSW Minister for Tourism
Charles Perrottet – NSW Liberal state executive member, former adviser to then NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, brother of NSW Minister for Finance & Services Dominic Perrottet and Government Affairs Analyst at BP Australia Pty Ltd
Tenille KoelmaAnconna Resources shareholder and wife of Tim Koelma former aide to then NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher
John Caputo - director of First National Real Estate in Dee Why,former mayor of Warringah, committee member of Prime Minister Abbott's Warringah federal electorate conference and vice-president of NSW Premier Mike Baird's Manly state electoral conference
Hollie Hughes - Liberal Party state executive member
Darren Jameson – former NSW police officer and former Liberal pre-selection candidate in Robertson electorate
Aaron Henry – member of the Liberal Party and former staffer with NSW State Liberal Member for The Entrance Chris Spence
Laurie Alexander – former staffer with NSW State Liberal Member for The Entrance Chris Spence
Zaya Toma – Fairfield City councillor and electorate office manager for State Liberal MP for Smithfield Andrew Rohan
Nathan Tinkler – former Patinack Farm horse stud owner and mining magnate
David Sharpe – former executive at BuildDev property developer
Troy Palmer - chief executive of Hunter Sports Group and a Buildev Group director
Matthew Lusted – owner of a Wyong building company and a Liberal Party donor
Tim Gunasinghe – President of the Erina Chamber of Commerce
Timothy Trumble/Trumbull - accountant and Liberal Party donor
Pasquale Sergi – property developer
Angelo Maggiotto –property developer
Iwan Sunito – property developer
Sebastian Reid - nephew of former of NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher
Annette Poole - staff member at legal firm Hartcher Reid
Eric Stammer - General Manager Yeramba Estates property development company
Roy Sergi - Advance Ready Mix Concrete
Peter Hesky - hotelier and property developer
Ekarin Sriwattanaporn - operates IT business Micki-Tech and is partner of Ray Carter former electorate officer for then NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher
Robert Osborne - Liberal Party donor and owner Patonga Beach Hotel
John Abel - Liberal Party member
Marie Neader - receptionist at legal firm Hartcher Reid
John Stevens - owner of the Stevens Group of property development companies
Darren Stevens

Welcome to Hockeynomics - Part One

Hockeynomics - noun
1. Economic calculations having little or no rigour 2. Economic reports in which truth or fact is whatever the Australian Treasurer wants it to be

Treasurer Joe Hockey's claims that his wealthy constituents enjoyed some of the highest bulk-billing rates in the country are looking a little washed out.
Mr Hockey said last week the cost of Medicare is growing at twice the speed of the economy and that co-payments are ''certainly something that is in the mix'' for the budget.
''Now I want to emphasise my electorate of North Sydney has one of the highest bulk-billing rates in Australia and I have one of the wealthiest electorates in Australia,'' Mr Hockey told ABC radio. ''To me there is something wrong with that.''
In fact, Mr Hockey’s electorate had Sydney’s fifth-lowest bulk-billing rate, 70 per cent, according to 2010-2011 Department of Health data, the most recent available. This is below the national average.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hockey declined to provide any data to support the Treasurer’s comments, saying only: ''The electorate has a high rate of bulk-billing for affluent areas.''
The government’s expenditure review committee has reportedly approved a $6 co-payment, capped at 12 GP visits, meaning patients would pay a maximum of $72 extra each a year.