by Alan Thornhill
Sussan Ley is to become the second woman in Federal cabinet, in an extensive reshuffle which the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott says will “reset and refocus” his government in the year ahead.
The former pilot – and tax official – will become Minister for Health.
So far the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, has been the only woman in the Abbott cabinet.
The reshuffle Mr Abbott announced today was extensive.
It was precipitated by the resignation of the former Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinis, who is facing corruption charges.
Mr Abbott said his new team would be focused on jobs and the economy.
“These changes will put jobs and families at the centre of the government’s agenda for 2015,” he said.
Oddly, perhaps, the Prime Minister did not mention the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, in his announcement, leaving reporters to assume that Mr Hockey keeps his job.
But there were major changes.
The former Defence Minister, David Johnston, for example , loses both his job and his position in Cabinet.
His place will be taken by the former Social Security Minister, Kevin Andrews.
Scott Morrison will become Social Security Minister.
Mr Abbott said Mr Morrison would have carriage of the government’s new families package, which would help ease the cost of living for Australian families and make childcare more accessible.
Peter Dutton is to replace Mr Morrison as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
Josh Frydenberg is to become Assistant Treasurer.
Christopher Pyne will have training added to his responsibilities as Education Minister.
And Ian Macfarlane will be reclassified as Minister for Industry and Science.
The acting opposition leader Penny Wong said no reshuffle could fix the government’s biggest problem, its unpopular budget.
“You might change the tyres on the bus but the wheels are still spinning,” she said.
Greens leader Christine Milne said it was the government’s policies that the public objected to.
“He can change the faces but it is the policies that have to change,” she said.
by Alan Thornhill
Crime cost Australia an estimated $47.6 billion in 2011, according to a new report.
The report, by the Institute of Criminology, identified fraud, which cost the nation some $6 billion, as the biggest single item on its list.
But it also said that drug abuse and assault had each cost $3 billion, while criminal damage, including vandalism and graffiti, had cost $2.7 billion.
The Federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, said: “since coming to Government we have fast-tracked new anti-gang squads to help state and territory authorities tackle criminal gangs, and their illegal trades including drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, extortion, prostitution and firearms trafficking.”
He said the government also had “… a roadmap to tackle the growing threat of fraud – particularly identity crime.
This had been released recently.
“We also have a $50 million Safer Streets program which is being used to support a range of community safety commitments to improve security on the ground in communities around Australia,” Mr Keenan said.
The report also said that in 2011 there had been 463 homicides, including 274 cases of murder and manslaughter and 189 cases of driving causing death.
“The total cost for homicide was estimated at $2.7 million per incident, totalling $1.3 billion.”
It said, too, that there had been an estimated 1.2 million assaults with a cost of $2,600 per assault.
“ The estimated medical costs of an assault requiring hospitalisation was $11,600 with a total medical cost of $379 million overall,” the report said.
by Alan Thornhill
The ACTU says a decision to appoint a joint police task force to investigate alleged union corruption is “deeply political.”
Its Assistant National Secretary, Tim Lyons, said the decision announced jointly by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and the Victorian Premier, Dennis Napthine, had been made “in the middle of an election campaign which it appears the Liberals will lose.”
However the Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, supported the move.
He said he had lobbied for the police task force nine months ago and did not understand why the Government has taken so long to make the announcement.
“Labor firmly believes, fundamentally believes, that the workplace and industrial relations is no place for criminal activity,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Abbott said the task force would investigate allegations of union corruption emerging from a Royal Commission which has been inquiring into these affairs.
He said: “I think this is very important, not just for that industry, but for the state of Victoria and for our nation.
“The rule of law must operate everywhere.
“It particularly must operate on building sites which for too long have been places of violence and lawlessness,” the Prime Minister added.
However Mr Lyons said such allegations should be referred immediately to the police, without political involvement.
“We are aware of corrupt companies working on building sites,” he said.
But the union most directly involved in the allegations, the CFMEU, declared that it would co-operate with the police task force.
Its National Secretary, Dave Noonan, said: “The CFMEU pledged its cooperation with police investigating any criminality in the union.
“If the police have got something they want to discuss with us, we will be frank, we will be cooperative,” said national secretary
Mr Abbott said the Royal Commission had received significant evidence of corruption, kickbacks and standover tactics in the CFMEU .
by Alan Thornhill
Labor says that while the government is going after “pensioners, students and the unemployed” it has been giving big business “extra tax breaks.”
The Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, made the comment in an ABC radio interview today.
“It’s certainly been an issue that I’ve been banging on about since I took over the job of Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Mr Leigh said.
“I think it’s absolutely fundamental.
“This is partly an issue of equity.
“This government is prepared to go after pensioners, students and the unemployed, so it’s a bit rich when it starts giving extra tax breaks to multinationals.
“But it’s also an issue of efficiency.
“If you want to have a good tax system, then it needs to have as broad a base as possible, and multinational profit shifting is effectively eroding the tax base,” Mr Leigh said.
A report by the church and union based Tax Justice Network, this week, concluded that big companies had avoided paying some $80 billion in tax, between 2004 and 2013, through dodges such as profit shifting.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, responded by declaring that the Federal government has been active in curbing such practices.
But Mr Leigh challenged that.
He said: “One of the things that Labor did last year, in our final year in office, was for Wayne Swan and David Bradbury to sit down and put together a multi-billion dollar package of measures to crack down on multinational profit shifting.
“What was disappointing to me was that when the Coalition came to office, they didn’t say ‘well, what’s the next thing we can do beyond this?’
“Instead, they began to wind it back.
“So they shrunk the size of that package by $1 billion, effectively losing $1 billion of revenue which went back to multinationals in the form of extra tax breaks.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, accused the Federal government today of “watering down” protection for investors.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, responded by accusing Labor of “stupidity,” saying it was complaining about its own legislation.
This exchange followed a call by the chief executive of the Financial Services Council, John Brogden, for fresh legislation to protect investors.
Mr Brogden urged the Abbott government to set up an independent governing body to monitor the financial advice industry.
“Self-regulation is no longer a credible option for establishing higher standards,” Mr Brogden said.
“The advice industry needs an external, independent governing body,” he said.
This dramatic move follows serious revelations about the behaviour of financial advisers within the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning arm.
These saw hundreds of CBA customers collectively lose millions of dollars, through following bad advice.
by Alan Thornhill
Is corruption really so much worse, among government MPs in New South Wales, than other Australian politicians?
With 10 of those forced to stand aside, after the murkier side of their campaign financing was exposed, that might well seem to be so.
But as human nature is much the same everywhere – and on all sides in politics – it might well be worth taking a quiet look, elsewhere.
Especially at Federal level, as the Feds don’t face anything like the very powerful Independent Commission Against Corruption, that has been so spectacularly successful, of late, in that State.
Eyebrows were raised, in Canberra, as late as last week when the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told government MPs that he had to visit a cancer clinic in Melbourne one morning, so that he could justify his expenses, on a visit he had made, the previous night, to a private function in that city.
That function later turned out to be a Liberal party fund raiser.
Mr Abbott’s office later assured the world that the claims, made in this case, had been in order.
However a former Speaker, Peter Slipper, failed to convince the authorities that claims he had made, for some $900 taxi fares, incurred on visits to Canberra wineries, were also strictly legitimate.
And an ACT Magistrates later found Mr Slipper guilty of three counts of dishonesty in the Court over the misuse of his parliamentary Cabcharge allowance.
Another fascinating case, involving questionable use of public money, was also raised in Canberra last week.
A Labor MP, Julie Collins, alleged that the Abbott government has been seeking political advantage, in the way it distributes public money, in the form of Community Development Grants.
She didn’t use emotive words like “rorts” or “slush funds,” but that is the clear import of a statement Ms Collins issued on the subject.
It hasn’t attracted all that much attention yet – and the government hasn’t yet made anything like a full reply – but the case is worth watching because it is likely to take hold.
Essentially, Ms Collins is saying that “Tony Abbott has showered Coalition seats with more than 80 per cent of $307 million in funding for community projects,” so far allocated under this program.
She describes this as “a blatant return to the pork barrelling that plagued the Howard era.”
Her statement was accompanied by detailed examples and a table setting out just where the money has so far been spent.
“Grants were given to a Queensland pub to run “Whacky Wednesdays’’ and “stunt bikini babes’’ and to support a railway project that had already gone broke,” Ms Collins said.
And she added: “Mr Abbott must explain this disparity.
Ms Collins said almost $257 million of the $307 million spent so far had been pumped into Coalition electorates, while just $30.5 million had gone into Labor ones and less that $19 million into “others.”
Ms Collins says all this “looks like a throwback to the infamous Regional Rorts scandal of 2007.”
And she adds that an Auditor General’s report then found that “the government had handed out money for pet projects in defiance of departmental advice and acceptable standards of public administration.”
Ms Collins, of course, has her own interests in making these charges.
But they are fascinating, nevertheless.
Especially in the light of the latest ICAC findings.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government’s plan to free Australia’s banks from an obligation to act in the best interests of their clients – when offering financial advice – is “outrageous.”
The Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, who made that observation today, said this had been confirmed by a Senate Committee report yesterday, which showed that thousands of Australians had suffered heavy losses, after being misled by rogue advisers employed by the Commonwealth Bank.
The Finance Minister, Matthias Cormann, said the government has still to study the report in detail.
But Mr Bowen had more to say.
He said the report reflected “callous, heartless and self-interested behaviour” on the part of the bank.
The Senate Economics Committee recommended yesterday that both the bank – and the official watchdog – the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – should face a Royal Commission, to answer for their roles in the scandal.
Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney that Labor would do all in its power to stop the government’s plan.
The government signaled, earlier this year, that it believed the obligations banks now have, to act in the best interests of their clients should be lifted, where the advicewas general, rather than particular.
It argued that the previous Labor government, which introduced this obligation, had “unbalanced” consumer protection law, in this regard.
But Mr Bowen said the Senate Committee’s report had changed all that.
“This serves as a warning to the government” not to proceed with “its outrageous plan to water down” this protection, Mr Bowen said.
“We will stand against this change and we will stand for consumers,” Mr Bowen said.
by Alan Thornhill
A Perth mining identity has been jailed for providing “false and misleading information” to the Australian Securities Exchange.
The Perth District Court today sentenced David Alan Zohar, a former director of Aluminex Resources Limited, to 14 months in jail.
He had pleaded guilty to three counts of providing false and misleading information to the ASX.
Zohar will serve a minimum of five months before being released on a $5,000 recognisance, requiring him to be of good behaviour for 12 months.
The Judge Anthony Derrick said: “Enforcement of Corporations Act provisions … is vital to maintaining market integrity and promoting the confident and informed participation of investors in the financial market.”
The case was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
That was done on a referral from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Commissioner John Price said: “’holding the position of a director in any organisation requires an individual to act with honesty and integrity, as the decisions they make can have a significant impact on the company itself, as well as investors.
“Today’s sentence highlights ASIC’s commitment to ensuring directors uphold these responsibilities.
“ It also highlights the fact that jail time is a very real possibility for those who do not adhere to their obligations.”
ASIC achieved today’s outcome following an ASX referral.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
|Bhp Blt Fpo||23.97||+0.07||+0.29%|
|Rio Tinto Fpo||60.35||+0.42||+0.70%|
The News This Week
- Postscript 2
- Postscript 1 – Australia in the age of Trump
- Thank you
- The news: Friday January 20
- Scrap debt reduction plan:Greens
- How prices are moving:ABS
- Trade:Trump warned
- The News: Wednesday January 14
- It’s one rule for them…and
- The news:Wednesday January 11
- Retail growth flattens
- The news:Tuesday January 10
- The news:Monday January 9
- The news: Sunday January 8
- Don’t come the raw prawn with us:Barnaby
- agriculture (203)
- Airlines (329)
- Banking (3,951)
- Business (4,227)
- climate (107)
- Communications (127)
- corruption (33)
- crime (84)
- defence (105)
- Diplomacy (106)
- disability (19)
- Disaster (180)
- Economics (4,246)
- education (177)
- employment (435)
- Environment (214)
- farms (135)
- Financial advice (3,783)
- Health (266)
- Housing (1,094)
- Inflation (662)
- Insurance (155)
- Investment (3,169)
- Law (34)
- manufacturing (203)
- Markets (3,121)
- Media (157)
- medical (152)
- mining (577)
- pay (348)
- pensions (121)
- Politics (4,585)
- population (1,228)
- property (138)
- Regulation (1,460)
- retail (113)
- retirement (207)
- rural (68)
- Rural australia (185)
- Security (66)
- Social security (497)
- Superannuation (324)
- Tax (672)
- terrorism (29)
- The latest (1,519)
- Trade (1,572)
- transport (112)
- Uncategorized (1,006)
- welfare (219)