by Alan Thornhill
Joe Hockey says “Australia is leading the world in cracking down on multinationals that are not paying their fair share of tax.”
The Federal Treasurer, was speaking to reporters in Canberra.
He said that he had told European authorities, while on a recent visit to Turkey that Australia would introduce the toughest legislation in the world to deal with companies not paying their fair share of tax.
“ I understand a number of multinationals have already come forward to identify profits previously unseen in relation to their activities in Australia,” Mr Hockey said.
He said, too, that these companies: “… are prepared to restructure their businesses to pay their fair share of tax in Australia
Mr Hockey also revealed that he had ordered a crack-down on foreign investors who are holding residential property illegally in Australia.
“I can advise you that, as of today, there are now over 500 investigations into over one billion dollars of residential real estate that may be held unlawfully by foreign nationals in Australia,” Mr Hockey said.
Seven have already been ordered to sell these properties.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister promised action today to ensure police arrive more quickly to deal with complaints of domestic violence.
Mr Abbott was speaking in Federal Parliament, where the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, had asked if the government is prepared to call another summit on the issue.
Mr Shorten said Australians had “looked on in horror over the past week as three women had been killed at the hands of someone they knew, allegedly.”
He also asked if the Federal government would ensure that women suffering from domestic violence get the support they need.
Mr Abbott said another summit might help.
But parliament should be aware that there had already been much high-level discussion of family violence.
It had been examined, for example, at the Council of Australian Governments, a body whose meetings are attended by Federal, State and Territory leaders.
Mr Abbott said the home should be a haven.
Not a place for domestic violence.
“I make the fundamental point in response to the Leader of the Opposition.
“Any-one who strikes a woman is not a real man.
“Any-one who strikes a woman, or a child is a coward.”
Mr Abbott also said:”…what we really want is action.”
Then he added:”Now, I will have more to say about this in the next few days’ ”
“Essentially, we need to ensure that the men with a pre-disposition towards violence against members of their families are better monitored, better tracked, so that the instant there is any suggestion of harm we can act.”
by Alan Thornhill
He’s not stupid.
So why has Tony Abbott been getting into so much – unnecessary – trouble lately?
Bronwyn and Choppergate, for example.
Then – sometime this week – Dyson Heydon will decide whether he can continue to preside over the Royal Commission into alleged corruption in Australian unions.
But aren’t we talking about Tony?
Not those others.
But remember that old saying.
“By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Bronwyn Bishop and Dyson Heydon have much in common.
Tony Abbott chose each of them to do a particular job for him.
He wanted the former Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, to run Federal parliament, his way.
And, by June this year, shortly before her time as Speaker came to an end, Ms Bishop had expelled Labor MPs from Parliament for misbehaviour no less than 393 times.
Just seven government members had been thrown out.
If anything begs for a sniff test, that’s it.
It all came to an end, as you will recall, when Ms Bishop thought it would be acceptable for her to charter a helicopter, to take her from Melbourne to a Liberal party fund raiser in Geelong.
The public disagreed.
And that was that.
Dyson Haydon had a spot of bother with a Liberal party fund-raiser, too.
He – clearly – thought it would be acceptable to accept an invitation to speak at one – while he was presiding over that Royal Commission into alleged union corruption.
That, also, may have been a mistake.
Both appointments have been described, quite accurately, as “captain’s picks.”
And both the now retired Mr Justice Heydon and Ms Bishop have, like Mr Abbott, himself, well earned reputations as arch-conservatives.
Both appointments, ultimately, damaged the Abbott government in the polls, when things went bad.
These weren’t the only cases, either, in which the Prime Minister’s judgement has been called into question, directly, over recent weeks and months.
His usually loyal lieutenant, Christopher Pyne, for example, accused the Prime Minister of “branch stacking.”
He did that after Mr Abbott invited National Party MPs into a Liberal party meeting, called to discuss the delicate issue of same sex marriage.
Mr Pyne – and other Liberal critics – believe Mr Abbott did this to prevent government – and particularly Liberal – MPs having a free vote on this matter, when it is debated in parliament.
That, in Mr Abbott’s mind at least, would have made his leadership look weak.
But the government has been running behind Labor in the polls for some months now, and that trend seems to be strengthening.
So some serious questions have to be asked.
And that that is now happening.
Predictably, a reporter asked Mr Abbott, while he was out campaigning for his party in the upcoming by-election, in the West Australian seat of Canning, if that poll is really is test of his leadership.
Mr Abbott’s reply was unusually frank.
“Look, there’s a sense in which everything’s a test,” he said.
“Every day the national Government, the Prime Minister, every Minister is being put to the test.”
“We’ve been put to the test every day since we won back in September 2013.
” The test of could we get the carbon tax repealed, we passed.
“The test of could we get the mining tax repealed, we passed.
“The test of could we stop the boats, no one thought it could be done, we did it.
“The test of could we get the Free Trade Agreements passed, we did.
“So, look, we’ve passed all the tests up until now and I’m confident we’ll pass the next one.”
But politicians, including Prime Ministers, have also been known seek comforting, rather than penetrating explanations, in troubled times, like these.
Hasn’t Mr Abbott really been too clever by half, in pushing too hard, appointing arch conservatives like himself, to get the results he wants, even if that means using people who step beyond what the public finds acceptable.
Those poll results might well be telling him something very like that.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says the interception of seven young Australians, on their way to join terrorists in the Middle East, shows the need for vigorous action to counter this threat.
Border control officers identified and stopped five of the men, said to be in their late 20s and early 30s in the departure area at Sydney airport last week.
The two others were stopped at a separate time.
They had a large amount of cash in their luggage.
But neither the Prime Minister, who spoke briefly of the matter, or his Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, would give any more than the barest details of the case.
The Prime Minister spoke to reporters, as he arrived for a cricket match in Canberra today.
He said the seven young would-be jihadists were apparently planning to join terrorist groups in the Middle East.
“This indicates the continuing allure of this death cult,” Mr Abbott said.
“It shows the importance of the most vigorous action at home and abroad to disrupt, to degrade and to destroy this menace to the freedom and the security of the world,” he added.
His Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, later confirmed later that border authorities had identified and stopped the would-be terrorists.
But he refused to elaborate, beyond saying investigations are under way and he would not be giving a running commentary.
The two groups are said to be separate, but connected.
In both cases, the young men involved made a second attempt to leave Australia the day after they were stopped at the airport for the first time.
Mr Dutton said counter-terrorism units had played a vital role.
“The intercepts that they undertake means that these people do not go into the theatre of war, they do not go into countries like Syria or Iraq to be trained up in terrorism activities and then come back here to perform those acts here on Australian soil,” he said.
“This highlights again the fact that this threat to our country remains current and ongoing.”
Mr Dutton said that in the previous financial year, more than 350 people were stopped trying to travel to the Middle East.
by Alan Thornhill
Corporate criminals beware.
You could soon be hit with the – quite substantial – cost of investigating your crimes, as well as any fines or other punishments that might well come your way.
That could add many thousands of dollars to your expenses.
Greg Medcraft, who chairs the the Australian Securities and Investments Commission explained why, this morning.
He did so when he – and his ASIC team – met the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
Mr Medcraft noted that the Federal government has been pressing ASIC to recover the cost of its investigations.
And he signaled that it is happy to oblige.
He also said ASIC welcomes the capability review, that the government had announced, since he last met the committee.
“ASIC welcomes this review,” Mr Medcraft said.
“It is a forward-looking review and will assess our ability to meet the Government’s objectives and future challenges.
“Crucially, it is also linked to the Government’s consideration of the Murray Inquiry recommendation that ASIC’s regulatory activities be funded by industry as well as the other recommendations the Inquiry made relating to ASIC.”
He said ASIC welcomes the Murray Inquiry’s recommendation that Australia’s financial regulators be subjected to capability reviews.
Mr Medicraft said ASIC also welcomes the fact that it is “the first regulator chosen to undergo such a review.”
“Looking at our current position, we consider we are effective and efficient within the resources we have,” he added.
“Over the past few years, we have undertaken significant initiatives to enhance our effectiveness and this process will continue, including through the Capability Review process.
“We currently have several transformational, self-improvement programs under way at ASIC.
“We think the Review will further position ASIC to meet the needs of the Australian public in the future.
“Capability Reviews are not unusual.
“Over the past three years, reviews have been undertaken for 19 Federal Government departments and agencies,” Mr Medcraft said.
by Alan Thornhill
Could all that trouble over Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses have been avoided, if the Commonwealth had something like ICAC?
That is the Independent Commission Against Corruption that operates – so effectively – in New South Wales.
Has that thought occurred to you?
If so, you are not alone.
Especially as so many clearly questionable expense claims have – and still are – emerging in the slip-stream of the former speaker’s $5,200 helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong.
Just to attend a Liberal party fund raiser.
The Greens have been thinking in much the same way.
And this morning they revived debate in the Senate on a bill, designed to set all that right.
First introduced in 2013, the National Integrity Commission Bill was meant to establish a National Integrity Commission with three separate integrity officers.
These were to have been:-
* a National Integrity Commissioner
* a Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner and
* an Independent Parliamentary Advisor.
But debate languished – and those posts were never established.
In a statement today the Greens said “the Libs, Nats and Labor had all failed to declare their position on the Bill when we brought it forward last year.”
Instead they had joined forces to prevent a vote taking place.
But the debate was brought on, once again, in the Senate early today.
by Alan Thornhill
A sophisticated internet hacking operation, targeting Australian investors was brought to a sudden halt in the NSW Supreme Court today.
That happened when the court ordered that restraints be placed on more than $77, 000 worth of suspected illegitimate profits flowing from the scheme.
In a statement later, the corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, said its surveillance team had detected unauthorised trades, made by a suspected Russian hacker who hacked into a number of retail client accounts held with Commonwealth Securities Limited, Etrade.
These trades had occurred between 18 August 2014 and 21 October 2014,
ASIC said immediate action was taken – with the assistance of Morgan Stanley – to prevent the profits being distributed.
The Commission then watched developments closely.
It recalled today that by using the hacked client accounts, the suspected Russian hacker had targeted 13 penny stocks listed on the Australian Securities Exchange artificially inflating their price in later trades.
” Subsequent to this trading the suspected Russian hacker then traded out of the positions, collecting the profits generated,” ASIC added.
Swift action followed.
ASIC recalled, in its statement today, that it had referred the matter to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
The Commissioner had then made an application to the NSW Supreme Court for restraint to be placed on $77,429.61 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The resraint was ordered and the matter has been adjourned until February 2016.
ASIC Commissioner Cathie Armour said, ‘ASIC will continue to work with its partners here and overseas to help smash any criminal activity that is targeting our market.
‘ASIC has a world-class surveillance system to gather, match and analyse data to uncover misconduct, and its staff continue to monitor and detect suspicious trading activity and work with market participants to ensure account hacking is swiftly identified and stopped.’
ASIC also works with international regulators through the Intermarket Surveillance Group as part of its crackdown on security for online broking accounts.
The police also had a warning for those who might be tempted by the prospect of easy profits.
AFP Manager of the Proceeds of Crime Litigation team (POCL) David Gray said the result of this joint investigation should serve as a strong reminder to those who wish to conduct illegal money laundering activities in Australia.
‘Despite efforts by criminals to evade detection, the AFP and its law enforcement partners remain committed to taking the profits out of crime and will take every opportunity to stop criminals from reinvesting these profits to fund other criminal ventures,’ Mr Gray said.
by Alan Thornhill
Fraud has cost the Commonwealth $530 million in recent times, according to a new report
The report by the Australian Institute of Criminology exposes 265,866 cases of suspected internal and external fraud between 2010-11 and 2012-13
In one, the Director of a family day care business is alleged to have claimed Child Care Benefit subsidies totaling $3.6 million to which she was not entitled.
The accused woman is alleged to have created and lodged false documents with the Department of Human Services to support her claims.
The Federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, revealed this in a statement today.
He said the report shows why the multi-agency Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre (FAC Centre) is vital in the fight against serious fraud and corruption.
The Centre was established within the Australian Federal Police (AFP) a year ago and combines the resources and expertise of nine agencies.
Mr Keenan said the centre had been designed to tackle serious, complex fraud and corruption.
It ensures that suspected crimes are quickly directed to the right law enforcement agencies for action.
The agencies within the FAC Centre have access to intelligence resources, like the Australian Crime Commission’s National Criminal Intelligence Fusion Capability.
So they can draw on specialists, data and analytics to develop their own fraud-related intelligence.
Mr Keenan cited the case of Operation Agron, in which the Australian Federal Police led joint agency investigation, in which the Department of Human Services and the Department of Social Services also participated.
That led to the execution of multiple search warrants in the Albury-Wodonga area and the arrest of a 27 year old woman.
“The alleged offender is currently before Court, facing charges of: obtaining financial advantage by deception, using forged documents, falsification of documents and dealing in proceeds of crime worth $1million or more,” Mr Keenan said.
Property and cash worth more than $2.4 million had also been restrained by the AFP as part of an associated proceeds of crime action, he added.
Mr Keenan’s message to those who are tempted is blunt.
“Perpetrators of fraud are on notice.
“You will be caught.
“The Commonwealth will utilise every resource at its disposal to tackle fraud head on,” he said.
And just what are those resources?
In a word, formidable.
Mr Keenan said the FAC Centre brings together the Australian Taxation Office, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Department of Human Services, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Attorney-General’s Department (Advisory Participant) and Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions (Advisory Participant) in order to assess, prioritise and respond to serious fraud and corruption matters.
Like to know more?
The Fraud against the Commonwealth: Report to Government 2010-11 to 2012-13 is available at http://www.aic.gov.auwww.aic.gov.au
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.
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