by Alan Thornhill
Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited insists that it is paying a “substantial” amount of tax on its operations in Australia.
In its submission to the Senate Economics Committee, its Chief Executive Officer, Julian Clarke, said News Limited had paid a total of $417.3 million in tax, over the past five years.
This includes withholding tax.
The Committee, which met in Sydney today, is inquiring into allegations of large scale corporate tax evasion and tax minimisation.
Mr Clarke also said News Limited employs “close to 9,000 Australians and paid an additional $900 million in Australians goods and services, fringe benefit and payroll taxes.
He said it provides 15 million Australians with news and information services each week.
A weekend report, in rival 10 Fairfax newspapers, said $4.5 billion had been “siphoned off” from News Limited operations in Australia “virtually tax” free, over the past two years.
A union based organisation, United Voice, told the Committee today that almost a third of the nation’s top 200 firms pay an effective tax rate of 10 per cent or less.
Australia’s corporate tax rate is a flat 30 per cent.
David O’Byrne of United Voice told the Committee that many wealthy corporations are now paying lower rates of tax than their employees.
The Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan, who also appeared before the Committee today, spoke of disputes the Tax Office now has with several companies, particularly in the communications industry.
“We have 12 significant, deep audits going on right now with 12 major tech companies, challenging what they’ve been putting to us over the years under existing laws,” Mr Jordan said.
But he refused to name the companies involved.
Three global IT giants, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are also listed to appear before the Committee today.
The Committee will continue its work with hearings in both Canberra and Sydney later this week.
In a statement this afternoon, the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said:”this Government is working hard to ensure multinationals pay taxes in Australia on the income they earn here.
“Under our leadership, G20 Finance Ministers will continue to tackle base erosion and profit shifting and increase transparency to crack down on tax evasion.
“We have also taken a leadership role in the automatic exchange of tax information, recently signing an agreement with Switzerland, based on the OECD’s common reporting standard.
“We are working closely with other tax administrations, mapping the global operations of multinationals operating in the digital economy.”
Mr Hockey said:”the ATO has strong investigative powers to ensure that multinational companies operating in Australia are paying their fair share of tax.
“With additional resources, the ATO is undertaking more extensive inquiries and audits of multinational companies considered a risk to Australian tax collections.
“The ATO is embedded in the offices of dozens of multinationals operating in Australia.
“By 30 June 2015, the ATO will have conducted around 200 reviews of the highest risk multinationals.
“We need to promote and support this work, not put it at risk,” the Treasurer said.
by Alan Thornhill
The financial watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, is to
investigate a spike in the $A early this afternoon.
It appeared shortly before the Reserve Bank announced – at 2.30pm – that it would keep rates on hold.
ASIC said: “The investigation will look at trading in the dollar prior to the RBA’s interest rate decision statement at 2.30pm.”
It added: “ASIC is also investigating foreign exchange movements shortly before the RBA’s announcements in February and March 2015.”
ASIC said it would make no further comment at this time.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government has praised an investigation which led to the conviction of two men involved in Australia’s biggest insider trading case.
In a joint statement the Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, said the successful prosecution, of the two men, had resulted from co-operation between the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Federal Police.
The Supreme Court today found former NAB banker Lukas Kamay and former Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) analyst Christopher Hill guilty of charges arising from a $7 million insider trading scheme.
Both were jailed.
The judge, Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth, described the case as “the worst instance of insider trading to come before the courts in this country.
She said Kamay and Hill “were motivated by personal greed, pure and simple” and said Kamay displayed some symptoms of “inflated self-esteem or narcissistic personality traits.”
Kamay pleaded guilty to money laundering, identity theft and insider trading.
Hill also pleaded guilty to insider trading and misuse of public office.
In their statement, Josh Frydenberg and Kelly O’Dwyer said:” the arrest and conviction of an ABS officer for an unauthorised disclosure of statistics is unprecedented in the ABS’s 110 year history.
And they added: “today’s sentence demonstrates that such actions which breach the trust placed in ABS officers will not go undetected or unpunished.”
They also said the case sends “a clear message about the importance and emphasis that our enforcement agencies place on maintaining market integrity.
“Insider trading is a serious offence and a form of dishonesty – stealing information owned by others and exploiting it for a personal gain.
“It is also at complete odds with the expectation of Australian investors about a level playing field, where those with access to privileged information do not have an unfair advantage over other investors,” they added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is to develop a campaign designed to reduce violence against women and children.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who announced this today said domestic violence has become an epidemic in Australia.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is also pressing for action against domestic violence.
He has written to Mr Abbott, urging him to call a crisis summit on the issue.
Mr Abbott said:” This is a national problem that we need to address – in every household, street, suburb and town across our nation – we need to end this tragic and deadly epidemic.
” We need to lift community understanding of the prevalence of this epidemic in our society and encourage all Australians to raise their voices to say that verbal intimidation and physical violence against women and children is never ever acceptable.
“Importantly, we must also ensure that any women or child who may be suffering understands that this is not acceptable and support is available,” the Prime Minister added.
Mr Shorten said:” The latest research shows:
– 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15
– 17 per cent of Australian women have experienced violence by a current or previous partner in their lifetime and
– 20 per cent of Australian women who have experienced current partner violence reported it to police.”
“A national crisis summit on family violence is the best way for stakeholders to openly and transparently lay down the key policy challenges for addressing family violence,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
Mark Dreyfus says George Bandis – “disgracefully” – tried to – “induce” – Gillian Triggs to resign – so he asked Federal Police to investigate whether he broke the law.
Speaking on ABC television, the Shadow Attorney General, was explaining why he had written to the Federal police, seeking an investigation of the Attorney General’s conduct.
“It raises real questions about whether or not there’s been a breach of the law, breach of the criminal law, ” he said.
“Because we’ve got criminal laws that prevent and guard against inducing, trying to affect Commonwealth public officers in the performance of their duties.”
Senator Brandis said Professor Triggs, the President of the Human Rights Commission, had “lost the confidence” of the government, over a report she prepared on the plight of children in detention.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has described the report, which criticises both Coalition and Labor governments, as “blatantly political” and “a stitch up.”
Senator Brandis, conceded that he had asked a public servant to check whether Professor Triggs would be willing to serve the government in another position “particularly as an international lawyer.”
Professor Triggs rejected the offer – and refused to resign.
Pressing his case, Mr Dreyfus said: “Of course, it’s the Attorney-General who gave the instruction to the Secretary of his Department to go on this shameful mission to Sydney and seek the resignation of the President of the Human Rights Commission.
“It’s the Attorney-General who is responsible and behind him the Prime Minister who together, with the Attorney-General, have orchestrated an attack on an independent statutory Commission.
“The whole of it is disgraceful conduct by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and as well.
“What we now learned yesterday is that there’s something that the Australian Federal Police need to investigate, which is just what was said, what was the inducement that was offered?
“There’s a process… in the human rights legislation for the removal of the President of the Human Rights Commission.
“And that process is the only process that can be followed here,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“There’s a reason why the President of the Human Rights Commission has got a five year statutory term. It’s so that she is protected, so that she can carry out her duties independently without fear of political interference.
“She is not subject to the whim of the Government of the day.
“She is an independent statutory officer and she ought to be allowed going on doing her job in the proper way…” Mr Dreyfus added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Australian Federal Police are considering whether the Federal government “acted corruptly” by offering the Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, an “inducement” to resign.
They are doing so, on the application of the Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, who wrote to them yesterday, raising this allegation.
But the government has dismissed the allegation.
The Attorney General, George Brandis, said he had asked a public servant to check whether Professor Triggs would be willing to serve the government in another position “particularly as an international lawyer.”
Professor Triggs rejected the offer, which followed the government’s loss of confidence in her, after she wrote a report on children in detention.
That report, called The Lost Children,” was critical of both Labor and Coalition governments.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has described it as both “blatantly political” and “a stitch up.”
Labor’s Senate Leader, Penny Wong, told the ABC today that this left the public “in no doubt about the capacity of the government to attack anyone who criticises them.”
by Alan Thornhill
“This is about Australian values:” Tony Abbott at question time today
The sweeping changes the Prime Minister made to Australia’s security arrangements today will inevitably be seen by some as an over-reaction.
The damage Australia has already suffered from terrorism has been bad enough.
The siege, to which Mr Abbott was responding today, led to the deaths of two innocent, peaceful victims – as well as that of the self-declared Islamic hostage taker – in Sydney last December.
There have also been attacks on two police constables in Melbourne.
So far, though, these events simply do not compare with losses arising from, say, traffic accidents which, sadly, are attracting much less attention these days.
That comparison, of course, does not even come close to making a case for accusing Mr Abbott of over-reacting, in his response to the Lindt cafe siege.
But it does, perhaps, put some perspective into debate on this issue.
The siege was, of course, a direct attack on Australia, which invoked a threat of more to come.
And it raised the grim prospect of more, if action is not taken.
Those are the real power points in all this.
But even Mr Abbott, himself, spoke with regret of the prospect of losing the open and transparent Australia that he loves, before he announced his fresh initiatives, today, to counter the rising threat of terrorism in Australia.
* confirmation that he would appoint an anti-terrorism co-ordinator, with wide powers
* urging friends and relatives to report people they believe are being taken in by violent Islamic propaganda and
* tightening visa, immigration and gun laws.
These are steps that some might associate more readily with Vladimir Putin, than an elected Australian leader.
But troubled times make their own demands.
Even so today’s announcements might well serve as a timely reminder that hard won personal freedoms are still delicate creatures, in a very hard abrasive world.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott confirmed today that his government will appoint an “anti-terrorism co-ordinator” with wide powers.
The prospective appointee, already dubbed the anti-terrorism czar, will be expected to lead:-
* action against “hate preachers”
* tighter visa and immigration controls
* operations to gather information on Australians coming under the influence of persistent Islamic propaganda, on social media and
* police raids on suspected terrorists.
The Prime Minister, outlined these measures, in a speech on terrorism in Canberra today, saying:” We want to bring the same drive, focus and results to our counter terrorism efforts that worked so well in Operation Sovereign Borders and Operation Bring Them Home.”
His speech was a direct response to a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney in mid-December, which resulted in the deaths of two hostages, and a self-declared Islamic terrorist.
Mr Abbott said Australia is not the only country to have been attacked in this way.
“Not only has Australia suffered at the hands of terrorists – but so have Canada, France, Denmark, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Japan, Jordan, the United Kingdom and the United States,” he said.
Mr Abbott was expected to deliver his speech in Parliament.
But he chose to do so at the headquarters of the Australian Federal Police in Canberra instead, saying: “By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening.”
“The signs are ominous.
“ASIO currently has over 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations.
“That’s more than double the number a year ago.”
He said bad people had taken advantage of Australia’s freedoms.
That included the Sydney gun-man, Man Haron Monis.
“When it comes to someone like the Martin Place murderer, people feel like we have been taken for mugs,” Mr Abbott said.
“Australian citizenship is an extraordinary privilege that should involve a solemn and lifelong commitment to Australia,” he added.
The Prime Minister said:” Every single day, the Islamist death cult and its supporters churn out up to 100,000 social media messages in a variety of languages.
“Often, they are slick and well produced.
“That’s the contagion that’s infecting people, grooming them for terrorism.
“Already at least 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join the death cult in Iraq and Syria.
“At least 20 of them, so far, are dead.”
Mr Abbott urged friends and relatives, aware of people coming under the influence of this propaganda, to contact the police.
He said the authorities could not do their jobs without that co-operation.
The Prime Minister admitted that he could not guarantee that there would be no more terrorist attacks in Australia.
But he declared:”my Government will never underestimate the threat.
“We will make the difficult decisions that must be taken to keep you and your family safe.
“We have the best national security agencies and the best police forces in the world.
“Our agencies are working together.
“All levels of government are working together.
“We are doing our duty.
“That is what you have a right to expect – and to demand of me and of us,”Mr Abbott said.
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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