by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is offering a total of $4 million in grants to help fund community projects designed to reduce violence against women.
The Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, said it is vital the broader community understands and recognises domestic violence and its impacts.
In their joint statement, the two ministers said:” “This funding will support community organisations to create their own solutions to tackle violence against women and respond to local needs.
“It will enable communities to invest funding where it is needed most to create an environment where women and their children are safe and supported.”
They said the Coalition Government understands that domestic violence affects different women in different ways.
So innovative and original solutions must be sourced from communities across the country.
Funding of up to $150,000 over two financial years would be available to community groups, not-for profit organisations and local government authorities.
The offer would be open from October 1 this year to September 30 2017.
“The reduction of violence against women is a priority for this Government, but we cannot achieve this alone,” Sentor Cash said.
“Everyone – government, business, community and civil society – must work together to prevent this national tragedy.
“We are confident that creative projects will emerge from across Australia and the initiatives funded under this grants process will be an important part of our efforts to reduce violence against women,” she added.
by Alan Thornhill
A former director of Provident Capital Limited, John Patrick Sweeney of Sydney, has been banned from providing financial services for two years.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which imposed the ban, said Mr Sweeney had failed to comply with financial services laws.
ASIC also said Mr Sweeney had been a non-executive director of Provident Capital Limited (Provident Capital) from 30 July 2008 to 7 May 2014.
“Provident Capital went into receivership on 3 July 2012 and into liquidation on 24 October 2012,” the commission said.
“ASIC suspended Provident Capital’s Australian Financial Services Licence on 15 October 2012,” it added.
In a statement today, the industry watchdog also said:” ASIC’s investigation found Mr Sweeney engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to a financial product.”
And it added:” this specifically related to his conduct from September 2010 to March 2012 when he approved Provident Capital’s Quarterly Reports and Benchmark Reports issued to ASIC and Australian Executor Trustees Limited.”
The commission said it expects better.
“ASIC and the community expect directors of companies to behave in a manner appropriate to their position,” ASIC Commissioner John Price said.
“ASIC’s action against Mr Sweeney demonstrates ASIC will take action against people who fail to meet their obligations.”
Mr Price said:”Mr Sweeney has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision.”
And he added:”ASIC’s investigation into Provident Capital is continuing.”
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he is “very, very concerned” about terrorist organisations using social media to recruit fighters and jihadi wives
Speaking on commercial television today, the Prime Minister also said that, at times, the ABC seems to be “on everybody’s side but Australia’s.”
However he refused to confirm reports that he had told Liberal party colleagues yesterday that the national broadcaster is a “lefty lynch mob.”
Instead he told his interviewer: “Karl, you know I treat the confidentiality of the Party Room very seriously.
He was speaking just hours before he was to introduce a bill into parliament which will allow his government to strip people with dual citizenship of their Australian citizenship, if they leave this country to fight with a terrorist organisation.
Mr Abbott said these people would not be allowed back into Australia and said his proposed legislation would set up “a modern form of banishment.”
He said community negotiations, on what the government could do, in the case of Australians without dual citizenship, are continuing.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott refused – again – today to say whether Australian officials had paid people smugglers to turn their boat back towards Indonesia.
Addressing reporters, at a doorstop interview in Canberra, the Prime Minister said:” There’s really only one thing to say here and that is that we have stopped the boats.
“That’s good for Australia
“It’s good for Indonesia
“And it’s particularly good for all of those who want to see a better world.
“Because if the boats start again, the deaths start again.
“None of us should want to see deaths at sea and the only way to avoid that is to ensure that the boats stay stopped, “Mr Abbott said.
Indonesia has asked the Australian government if reports of such payments are true.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is also demanding clarity on the issue.
He said:”It is now time for Mr Abbott to make it clear.
“Has taxpayers’ money, Australian taxpayers’ money, been paid by the Abbott Government to criminal people smugglers or not?
“Australians deserve that answer,” Mr Shorten said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia and Turkey are to unite in the fight against terrorism
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, made the announcement.
Mr Abbott said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davuto?lu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate the threats from foreign fighters, during their official bilateral meeting held today in Ankara.
“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.
He said Australia welcomes Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organisations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.
“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” Mr Abbott said.
With over 100 Australians fighting with DAESH in Iraq and Syria – and the arrest this week in Melbourne of young men intent on bringing the violence to Australia – Australia will continue to do all it can to stop foreign fighters,” Mr Abbott declared.
He said there would also be closer co-operation on the issue, between officials of both countries.
by Alan Thornhill
Political leaders are urging Australians to turn out in great numbers for ANZAC Day, defying terrorists who planned to disrupt the day’s celebrations in Melbourne.
The terrorists’ plot was foiled this morning, when police launched raids in Melbourne, arresting five men.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, later urged Australians to respond by attending ANZAC Day celebrations next Saturday in great numbers.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Abbott said:” … people should turn up at Anzac Day events in the largest possible numbers.”
He said that is “….the best thing you can do in the face of those who would do us harm is live your life normally.
“The best sign of defiance that we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life.
“…I say to everyone who is thinking of going to an Anzac Day event: please don’t be deterred.
“Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country, to support our values and to support our armed forces.”
Mr Shorten endorsed those remarks.
“I know Australians will not let these events disrupt the commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the first ANZAC landing in Gallipoli,” the Opposition Leader said.
The ABC is reporting that police arrested five men in Melbourne this morning, in a major counter-terrorism operation.
They said two of the men they were planning an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on an Anzac Day ceremony.
These two men were identified as an 18-year-old Hallam man and an 18-year-old Hampton Park man.
Another man was arrested for weapons offences and two other men were in custody assisting police with their inquiries.
All were arrested after seven search warrants were executed as part of Operation Rising.
The Australian Federal Police said they believed the two 18-year-olds were plotting an attack to take place on Anzac Day.
AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said it was believed the attacks were to have involved the use of “edged knives.”
“It is alleged both men were undertaking preparations for a terrorist attack at an Anzac Day activity in Melbourne which included targeting police officers,” he said.
Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton described the plot as being inspired by Islamic State (IS).
“At this stage we’re comfortable that we have this threat fully contained,” Mr Patton said.
“…we have no information that it was a planned beheading.
” But there was reference to an attack on police,” he told a news conference in Melbourne.
“Some evidence that was collected at a couple of the scenes and some other information we have leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said this morning’s operation involved 200 police officers and was the culmination of Operation Rising.
The ABC said it understands that a number of the arrested men attended the Al Furqan Islamic study centre in South Springvale and were associates of Abdul Numan Haider, who also attended the centre.
Haider was shot and killed by counter-terrorism police in September last year.
by Alan Thornhill
It’s not often that a parliamentary committee’s inquiry takes fire.
But something very like that is happening with the inquiry the Senate Economics Committee is holding into the complex tax structures many wealthy companies are using, to cut their tax bills.
As The Sydney Morning Herald writer, Michael West, points out:” Tax avoidance relies on secrecy.
“The chicanery of some of the world’s biggest tax dodgers is all over the airwaves this week.
“Surely they now realise that there is a reputational cost for their aggressive tax practices.”
In that sense, the inquiry might already be said to be more successful than the Treasurer, Joe Hockey’s attempt, to launch a national “conversation” on tax, with a paper he issued last month.
That now seems feeble by comparison.
There’s a reason for that.
A rare exposure of the amounts involved, in this aggressive corporate behaviour, is catching the public’s imagination, this time.
Even the OECD has chipped in.
Its head of tax, Pascal Saint Amans, told the Senate inquiry, on its second sitting day in Canberra yesterday, that the amount of profits multinationals are channelling through Singapore, would be “significantly reduced” under a global plan his organisation is proposing, to fight profit shifting.
Singapore’s corporate tax rate, like those of most of our Asian neighbours, is well below Australia’s rate of 30 per cent.
Mr Hockey has said, bluntly, that he believes profits made in Australia should be taxed in this country.
The Australian Tax Office tries hard to enforce laws, broadly based on that view.
But the 4,400 job cuts it has sustained, since the Abbott government took office, isn’t making that job any easier.
The Community and Public Service Union, which also appeared before the inquiry yesterday, was adamant about that.
A CPSU member, Cathy Pugh, who worked in the ATO’s international branch in Sydney, said many of her colleagues – officers with “broad and in depth experience” – had been victims of those cuts.
So the ability of the Tax Office to police profit shifting had been hurt.
Treasury officials have also had a lot to say about company tax recently.
One even spoke openly of scrapping company tax altogether.
He argued that Australia’s 30 per cent rate is making us “uncompetitive” in our neighbourhood, when it comes to attracting much needed foreign investment and added that it is an “expensive” tax to collect, anyway.
However deputy Treasury secretary Rob Heferen, who also appeared before the inquiry yesterday, conceded: “This is a huge issue for us.”
He said corporate profit-shifting probably matters more to Australia than almost any other country.
“That’s because Australia has a high dependence on corporate tax, and why it has been a key driver of pursuing the OECD work on so-called base erosion and profit-shifting through the G20.”
So the committee continued to inspire debate on tax policy yesterday, even though that was just the second day of its inquiry.
Australia’s big miners, BHP Billiton, Fortescue and Rio Tinto, will get their chance to explain their tax strategies, on the third – and final – day of the committee’s hearings, in Melbourne today.
With their once lush finances now pushed into the pits, by catastrophic falls in their prices, its a fair bet that they will be looking for a little sympathy from our politicians.”
They are unlikely to get it.
The money Joe Hockey has lost, through profit shifting, would have helped a lot, in his struggle to cut the Federal deficit.
Labor, as always, is also looking for ways of raising more revenue.
And as for the Greens, well.
This entire inquiry was their idea, wasn’t it?
by Alan Thornhill
Joe Hockey hasn’t been completely frank with us.
The inquiry the Senate Economics Committee is holding into corporate tax minimisation and avoidance has at least established that.
On its first day.
As regular readers will know, the Treasurer has consistently maintained that the problems the government now faces with the budget flow, overwhelmingly, from its predecessor’s loose spending habits.
Not revenue shortfalls.
Three IT giants, Google, Apple and Microsoft, all denied tax avoidance, when they appeared before the Committee’s hearing, in Sydney yesterday.
But those present were left with the clear impression that they aren’t paying the full 30 per cent rate corporate tax rate, set by Australia, either.
Profits are being routed, instead, through low tax places like Singapore, or repatriated to the US, before being taxed.
The Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan, told the inquiry that the Tax Office is conducting “deep audits” into such practices.
And while he refused to “name and shame” the companies being investigated in this way, Mr Jordan did confirm that high-tech companies are among these Tax Office targets.
Two conclusions can be drawn, confidently, from all this.
Firstly, a lot of money is at stake.
“Deep audits” are expensive, both in money and time.
(The Tax Office doesn’t like wasting either).
Secondly, the revenue being lost, through corporate tax minimisation and avoidance, might well have made a significant difference to the Federal budget.
Mr Hockey, himself, argues that profits made in Australia should be taxed in this country.
The Managing Director of Google Australia, Maile Carnegie, told the Committee yesterday, that in 2013 the company had paid just $7.1 million in tax on revenue of $58 million and profits of a little more than $46 million.
Her explanation was fascinating.
Ms Carnegie said most of the company’s taxes were paid in the US because that was where the global headquarters was based, and where the company generated the most investment in research and development, and also where it undertook the most risk.
“And that in turn is what drives our profits,” Ms Carnegie said.
“It’s very easy to underestimate the risks and also the costs that are required … to develop that intellectual capital,” she added.
If that is right, then its our tax system that is out of date – and needs fixing.
Mr Hockey supported Mr Jordan, in his refusal to name and shame the companies now dealing with “deep audits.”
But he must, at least, have had a broad idea of the billions of dollars worth of potential revenue lost through corporate tax minimisation and avoidance.
The Committee will take evidence from tax accountants, the Federal Treasury, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Business Council of Australia, among others, when it resumes its hearings in Canberra today.
It should be the best show in town.
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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