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
Tell it to the marines, Senator Cormann.
Or, perhaps, to Merv and Robyn Blanch.
They were self-funded retirees, until they took the advice of their financial planner, at the Commonwealth Bank, Don Nguyen, and lost $170,000.
“Dodgy Don,” as he is unaffectionately known in the trade, put this couple firmly on the path to a hard life, on welfare.
Yet the Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, is still saying that the Senate’s decision yesterday, to disallow the government’s new rules for financial advisers, is bad for people like the Blanchs.
“By disallowing our FOFA improvements the Senate tonight voted to increase the cost of financial advice and to lessen competition across the financial advice industry without improving consumer protections for Australians saving for their retirement,” he declared.
Perhaps Senator Cormann should ask Merv or Robyn if they would have been prepared to pay a little more to get good advice, instead of innocently accepting Dodgy Don’s.
A legal requirement that banks – and other institutions – must act “in the best interests” of their clients, is at the heart of this row.
Late last year, the then Labor government, introduced the so-called Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) legislation, which imposed this obligation, quite broadly.
But, in July this year, after a deal with the Palmer United Party, the government restricted that requirement, quite tightly.
However the Senate, last night, disallowed the government’s changes.
It did so because it decided, on a two vote majority, that the government’s amendments unfairly favoured the big end of town.
That was made possible because the increasingly independent – and now just marginally PUP Senator, Jacqui Lambie – and Motoring Enthusiast Senator, Ricky Muir – changed their minds – and their votes – to disallow the government’s changes.
They did so after Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, put together “ a coalition of commonsense,” with that aim in mind.
The Blanchs are far from alone in their plight.
Thousands of, mostly retired, people, collectively, lost millions of dollars, through taking the bad advice of the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planners.
Their losses were incurred in whirlpools of barely disclosed fees and trailing commissions.
There is – now – no secret about any of this.
Earlier this year, a Senate Committee, delivered a stinging report, exposing what had happened, to thousands of vulnerable people, who had, unwisely trusted the Commonwealth Bank.
That scandal, though, was only one of many.
There was the Timbercorp case, too, in which the ANZ bank played a highly questionable role.
Despite all that, Senator Cormann has already signaled that he will be doing all he can, in the months ahead, to restore something very like the government’s FOFA changes.
Disputes as big as this, of course, always have unintended consequences.
And, this time, many financial advisers are worrying that they might find themselves, retrospectively, in breach of the law because of yesterday’s disallowance, which applied immediately.
A small statement today, from the financial watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, though, should give them some comfort, on that score.
ASIC noted the Senate’s decision and said it would take “ a practical and measured approach to administering the law as it now stands.”
“We will work with Australian financial services licensees, taking a facilitative approach until 1 July 2015,” it said.
You remember ASIC, don’t you?
It was the watchdog that Senate Committe lambasted, earlier this year, for failing to bark, while Dodgy Don and his mates, at the Commonwealth Bank, were living the high life, at the expense of their mostly elderly, trusting customers.
Some financial advisers, certainly, are deeply – and understandably – worried by the chaos they fear, from the Senate’s disallowance.
But this gentle message from ASIC suggests that advisers who have nightmares of the Feds breaking down their doors, to get at their books, are worrying too much.
Some things never change.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott took a softer line on the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, today before an expected meeting between the two leaders, at an APEC summit in Beijing.
The Australian Prime Minister has previously vowed that he would confront – or “shirtfront”- the Russian President when they next met, over the deaths of 38 Australians, who were in a Malaysian jet, that was shot down over Ukraine.
However, Mr Abbott was more conciliatory, in an interview he gave in Beijing earlier today.
He said:”…the first point to make is that there is a big agenda here and conversations with the Russian President on a very important subject are only part, and by no means the biggest part, of the agenda that Australia is following here in Beijing and subsequently in Brisbane.
“But as is well-known, 38 Australians were murdered when flight MH17 was brought down.
” It wasn’t a tragedy: it was an atrocity.
“It was a crime.
“And Russia has said that it will do everything to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Good on Russia for saying that.
“And I will just be looking for an assurance from the President that what they said then, they meant, and what they said then is still what they say now,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
A convicted share market manipulator, Dr Mervyn Jacobson, is facing a possible five year jail sentence.
Dr Jacobson is a former director and chief executive Genetic Technologies Ltd.
In a statement today, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, said Jacobson had been convicted of 33 charges of market manipulation of GTG shares and two charges of conspiring to manipulate GTG shares over a six month period in 2006.
The conviction yesterday followed an eight week trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria before Justice Kaye.
ASIC said its investigation of this case arose from a referral from the Australian Stock Exchange.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions had prosecuted.
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
Suffered from identity theft?
Need to get your life back into order?
Help is at hand.
The Federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, today launched a new private sector initiative called iDcare.
He said the Queensland based service is “one of a kind.”
” It offers a toll-free national anonymous telephone service that works with members of the community without charge to develop tailored and practical response plans to get people back on track following an event that threatens their personal information,” Mr Keenan said.
The Managing Director of iDcare, Dr David Lacey, said “to have one provider, that cuts across all levels of government and industries, that works with individuals to build a tailored response to their circumstances is very unique”.
“iDcare is a not-for-profit established as a joint national public-private sector initiative.
” It’s located on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“Its case management centre is specifically tailored to deal with minor through to complex identity theft and misuse events.
“We respond to clients from Cairns to Esperance, of all ages, and respond to all forms of identity theft, online and physical.” Mr Lacey said.
“A measure of our success is the ability to cut down the complexity of how our clients need to respond, to share critical knowledge, and get them feeling back in control,” said Dr Lacey.
iDcare operates its 1300 432 273 (1300 IDCARE) support line from 8am to 6pm (AEDT) Monday to Friday and can be engaged online via the idcare.org website.
iDcare does not collect personal details, nor does it charge for its service, Mr Lacey said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government was accused of over-reaching today, as parliament passed new national security legislation, which could see journalists and whistle-blowers jailed for 10 years.
An independent Senator, Nick Xenophon said: “The government may well come to realise that it has over-reached today.”
However the Attorney General, Senator George Brandis, said it had been careful not to do so.
Both were speaking after parliament passed the first of three bills designed to overhaul Australia’s security arrangements.
Senator Brandis said the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) would modernise and improve laws governing Australia’s intelligence agencies, including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (ASIO Act) and the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (Intelligence Services Act).
Specifically it will give:-
* .., ASIO greater surveillance and search powers including access to computers and inspection of postal and delivery service articles.
* …Intelligence officers engaged in special operations Limited immunity from prosecution
* …New “whistle-blower” offences for unauthorised dealings with an intelligence-related record, including copying, transcription, removal and retention
*…Imprisonment terms of up to10 years for unauthorised communication and publication of intelligence-related information and
*… Increased penalties for identifying intelligence officers
Senator Brandis reminded reporters at the National Press Club today that the subject of terrorism had barely arisen in last year’s Federal election campaign.
Yet “little more than a year later, the issue of national security—and, more particularly, the question of how to keep our country safe from the real and immediate threat of terrorism—dominates the news,” he said
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told Federal parliament today that police raids across Melbourne today were directed at terrorism financing.
Mr Abbott said some 100 Victorian and Federal police had taken part in the raids in Seabrook, Kealba, Meadow Heights, Broadmeadows and Flemington.
Police said the raids followed an eight month investigation, which started with a tip from the FBI.
Mr Abbott said his government would not tolerate Australians funding terrorism.
“Anyone who actively supports terrorism is putting Australian lives at risk,” the Prime Ministrer.
A 23 year old Seabrook man was arrested during the raids, for allegedly providing $12,000 to a US citizen fighting in Syria.
Mr Abbott said Australia would co-operate with campaigns against terrorism both at home and abroad.
“Our intention is to disrupt and degrade the intentions of the ISIL death cult here and abroad,” 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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