Monthly Archives: July 2018

NSW links to tax haven companies through ‘Panama papers’ law firm Mossack Fonseca

Thousands of high networth individuals across the globe used Mossack Fonesca to establish tax havens. Photo: Australian Broadcasting Corporation/Four CornersEddie Hayson’s increasingly desperate worldPanama papers explainers: what you need to know

Builder Fred [Fouad] Deiri claims he was “gobsmacked” when he found out – courtesy of The Australian Financial Review – that he had a company in the British Virgin Islands.

“It’s not in Britain, is it?” he said of the Caribbean tax haven.

According to an enormous cache of leaked documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca, based in the tax haven of Panama, Mr Deiri and his friend, earthworks expert George Ghossayn, were among thousands of high net worth individuals across the globe who used Mossack Fonesca to establish an offshore entity.

“I don’t have any money to hide, I never heard about this island,” Mr Ghossayn told Fairfax Media on Monday.

The two Sydney businessmen also said they had never heard of their BVI company Fitall Development Ltd, which was set up in 2008.

When informed the leaked documents contained their passport details and their Australian addresses, the pair suggested they may have been victims of fraud.

“I am a bit worried now,” said Mr Deiri, who heads up Redfern-based development company DeiCorp.

Others linked to the Panama firm are a chief executive, a greyhound trainer, a former head of SBS sport and a convicted cocaine smuggler.

In 2011 Mossack Fonseca created six companies in Samoa for sports promoter Dominic Galati, the one-time head of SBS sport.

According to the AFR, these were then transferred to a Hong Kong company called Global Wealth Group. Its directors included Mr Galati, a western Sydney greyhound trainer John McGeary, and his business partner Roy Bijkerk, who was jailed for four years in 1999 for cocaine importation.

Financial services director William Aloisi, who was named as another director of Global Wealth Group, told Fairfax Media on Monday that he had never been in business with Mr Galati, Mr McGeary or Bijkerk.

But he said he had personally introduced the men to representatives of a Hong Kong company he used himself, Corporate Management Services, which specialises in offshore structures.

The website for Corporate Management Services says it provides products in Hong Kong, Samoa and other “tax-free countries”.

A Fairfax Media investigation recently revealed that Bijkerk, Mr McGeary and another convicted criminal had been involved in a $500,000 interest free loan to big-time punter and former brothel owned Eddie Hayson.

After his release from jail, Bijkerk helped set up Guardian Youth Care, a not-for-profit residential care provider which receives about $7 million a year from the NSW government to provide round-the-clock care to traumatised children.

Bijkerk and convicted murderer Ned Bikic, who has only been out of jail for a couple of years, have established a multi-million dollar property empire.

When contacted about the tax haven companies, Bijkerk said he was in “no mood” to talk to Fairfax Media. Mr McGeary and Mr Galati could not be reached.

While many investors legitimately use tax havens, the ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston told the AFR that some of the Mossack Fonseca cases “may be referred to the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce”.

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AFL 2016: Joe Daniher’s showing the best in 20 years, says Wayne Carey

One of the game’s greatest ever key forwards says Joe Daniher’s performance for Essendon on Saturday was the best showing by a player of his ilk in two decades.

Wayne Carey spoke in glowing terms, suggesting the Bombers spearhead could get even better if he improved his kicking for goal.

Daniher, 22, had 21 disposals, took 15 marks – 10 of which were contested – and kicked 2.4 in the Dons’ 13-point win over Melbourne at the MCG, a match which marked Daniher’s 50th appearance at senior level.

Carey continued to shower Daniher with praise. “He was just absolutely brilliant. Thinking back, I can’t remember any of the centre-half forwards that I’ve watched over the last 20 or so years that at 22 have dominated as much [as Daniher did] this particular game,” the dual North Melbourne premiership captain told Channel Seven on Monday night.

Carey added that Daniher’s kicking yips – a recurring talking point during the Bomber’s brief career to date – were rectifiable.

“Yes he had some poor kicking. The one thing I’ll say about his kicking…they’re all hooks. He’s doing the same things every kick. It’s not that hard. It’s all about his ball drop.

“He’s giving the goals away. But if he corrects that, that would have been one of the most brilliant games from a 22-year-old that we’ve seen.”

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Malcolm Turnbull told to improve as Labor takes the lead in the polls

Mr Turnbull’s personal ratings were down four points and Bill Shorten’s improved six points. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen1. Dud needs to find a narrative

Malcolm Turnbull is not going to enjoy waking up to today’s newspapers.

The latest Newspoll shows the Labor party is in front for the first time since Mr Turnbull took the leadership, something he said was partly needed because of Tony Abbott’s poor performance in the same survey.

Commentator Terry McCrann has declared Malcolm Turnbull a D.U.D (and that was before he even saw the Newspoll), while a Government MP told me the poll shows the PM urgently needs to find a plan and a narrative – something the former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett echoed on Lateline.

The general mood in the Opposition camp is that Labor doesn’t think it will win, but believes it is competitive and on the government backbench, MPs are wondering if the PM even knows what he is doing.

Back bench is getting crankyPosted by Phillip Coorey on  Monday, 4 April 2016 Photo: Nicolas Walker

Swanky department stores have for some years been increasing their stake in in-store services – think blow-dry and threading bars, manicure stations and the like. It’s smart. Combining tasks we have to do in person like a quick eye-brow wax with a visit to a bricks and mortar outlet struggling to compete against their retail cousins online makes sense.

Now Caltex wants to convert the humble servo into a one-stop shop, where you could one day get a haircut along with your order of Krispy-Kremes. Caltex is going to aggressively expand its range of pre-prepared meals and food, sell wine and offer a dry-cleaning service. 4. Autism could see doctor kicked out of Australia

In the 13 or so years I have been a journalist I have seen this story play out too many times to count. It goes like this: A doctor moves to Australia on a 457 skilled visa, (often to fill a vacant medical position in the country) begins to call Australia home but under immigration rules, a disability in the family prevents their bid to settle.

The latest example documented in the Adelaide Advertiser involves Edwin Lapidario who has been working in suburban Adelaide since 2008. The family’s request to stay in Australia on a temporary visa was granted in 2012 but denied for one of their two sons because he has autism. In the end the visa was granted when Dr Lapidario’s medical centre paid the $52,000 in medical costs.

Now the Lapidarios’ four-year visa has expired and they are fighting the same fight again. 5. Submarines decision due before poll

Staying in South Australia and further to yesterday’s Double Shot, Cabinet Minister and South Australian MP Christopher Pyne thinks there will be a decision on who will build the next fleet of submarines (worth $50 billion) before the election. 6. What could £20 million buy you?

It all depends on the location, location, location! of course. An entire village in north Yorkshire has gone on sale for a tidy sum.

But that’s small fry compared to the most expensive property in London, 21 bedrooms at almost five times the price. This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.

Panama Papers jump Chinese language barrier, get suppressed by censors

Censored search for Panama Papers on Baidu. Photo: Philip WenPanama Papers: ATO targets 800 AustraliansExplainer: What you need to knowThe big names caught up in the scandal

Beijing: It has been dubbed the biggest data leak in history; but within the confines of China’s increasingly walled-off internet, the Panama Papers have barely registered a ripple.

The unprecedented leak of millions of documents from the database of offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed the secret offshore money networks of some of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest elite, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The trouble for Chinese internet censors: the 2.6 terabyte trove of documents also named the family members of at least eight current or former members of the Communist Party’s elite Politburo Standing Committee including Deng Jiagui, the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping.

Despite dominating the international news agenda, the explosive findings garnered scarce coverage on the mainland and was left untouched by the party’s main state-run news outlets on Monday.

Several popular commercial news portals ran stories which focused on Mr Putin and excised any mention of links to Chinese officials. But these too were deemed too politically sensitive and were scrubbed from the Chinese internet by Monday evening; with defunct article links redirecting to the sites’ homepages.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in mainland China, along with a host of major western news outlets. Searches for the term “Panama Papers” on major Chinese search engines like Baidu returned heavily filtered results accompanied with a customary notice displayed whenever a search deemed too sensitive or subversive is made: “According to relevant laws and regulations, some of the search results are not shown”.

The news, which broke early on Monday morning local time, took several hours to jump the language barrier. But as discussion on Chinese social media began to gather momentum, hundreds of offending posts were soon deleted and a topic page for the Panama Papers hashtag was censored. Searches for key terms and names linked to Chinese politicians were also blocked.

While there are legitimate uses for shell companies registered in offshore tax havens, any insinuation of impropriety within Mr Xi’s extended family could prove toxic given he has waged a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign to restore his party’s credibility in the eyes of a Chinese public fed up with endemic graft. Discussion of the wealth of the party elite and their relatives is regarded as strictly off-limits by the Chinese leadership.

In 2012, separate investigations by Bloomberg and the New York Times revealing the wealth and business dealings of the families of Mr Xi and then Premier Wen Jiabao prompted Beijing to retaliate by blocking the news sites in China, as well as the denial of journalist visas for several years.

Under Mr Xi’s leadership, China has sought to tighten the reins on its self-described “internet sovereignty” even further and mainland journalists have come under increasing pressure to toe the party line, particularly as the party leadership struggles to steer the country’s slowing economy through a difficult transition.

As well as the president’s brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, among the high-profile names listed in the year-long investigation led by Suddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is Li Xiaolin, the energy tycoon daughter of former Premier Li Peng. The document dump revealed Ms Li held a Hong Kong passport, which became a talking point – albeit an abortive one – on Chinese social media.

Both Mr Deng and Ms Li had been previously named in another major investigation coordinated by the ICIJ published in January 2014, detailing the “secretive offshore companies in tax haves that helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth”. That investigation was notable for the involvement of Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, as well as journalists from a prominent Chinese publication who pulled out after being warned by the Chinese government.

In February 2014, Ming Pao’s chief editor Kevin Lau was stabbed repeatedly in a brutal attack, prompting ICIJ director Gerard Ryle to condemn the attack. Police later said the assailants, some who had triad connections, were likely “hired hands”.

“While many have speculated about the motives behind the attack, we are not aware of any evidence linking the violence to Ming Pao’s reporting partnership with ICIJ on the Offshore Leaks investigation,” Ryle, a former Sydney Morning Herald reporter, said at the time. “Such speculation, however, does reflect the real concern and anxiety felt by many in the Hong Kong press corps over continuing threats to press freedom.”

The chilling effect on the freedom of the press by growing mainland influence on the city has been exacerbated by the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who specialised in the publication of literature critical of the Communist Party.

Neither Ming Pao nor any other mainstream Hong Kong news outlet were named among ICIJ’s more than 100 reporting partners worldwide for the Panama Papers investigation.

It proved a busy Monday for Chinese internet censors. According to Free Weibo, which monitors deleted posts on the social media platform, the Panama Papers was only the second most censored topic.

It came behind news of the top winner at Hong Kong’s annual film awards. The prize for best film went to Ten Years, a dystopian portrayal of a Hong Kong completely taken over by mainland China, set a decade into the future.

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Labor faces minefield in changes to anti-bikie VLAD laws

The state government must navigate a minefield to establish the balance between civil liberties and fighting organised crime. Photo: Luis Enrique AscuiThe Palaszczuk government plans to scrap anti-association provisions within Queensland’s anti-bikie legislation and replace it with anti-consorting legislation instead – but it can’t say whether bikie members will once again be able to congregate publicly.

It is also yet to say how it will tackle the issue of clubhouses, which are included in the Newman government anti-association laws, as well as the powers for police to stop and search those they suspect of criminal gang activity.

The government wants to keep elements of the controversial Newman government laws, while removing and replacing large sections.

While it has committed to scrapping anti-association aspects and putting the focus back on the individual, rather than identified criminal gangs, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath can’t say what that means for the ability of bikies to congregate – and for police to search them.

The lack of clarity left Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers scratching his head following the report’s release.

“The Queensland Police Union was on the taskforce and disagree with a large number of the recommendations which are contained within the report itself, even if the recommendations themselves rather oddly have the word “unanimous” after them,” he said.

“The Premier contacted me over the weekend and asked me to meet with her as well as the Deputy Premier and Police Minister prior to Cabinet which I did.

“Over the course of an hour I explained that the Anti-Association provisions and the Stop Search & Detain powers are well liked and used by police.

“The QPU does not support repealing the VLAD laws, merely amending them in line with the proposal put forward by Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett for an amended VLAD regime that he developed in consultation with Taskforce Maxima which champions mandatory sentencing for organised crime.”

Mr Leavers remained hopeful a common ground could be found.

“I explained that any amendments need to ensure there continues to be a “declared criminal organisations” list that ensures there will never again be OMCG “clubhouses” and “poker runs” and that the State Government should seriously consider adding emerging criminal groups to this list as well as broadening the target of these laws to target paedophiles as well and the Premier agreed.

“This taskforce was very much a differing of views divided along the lines of the theoretical and the views of the practical users of these laws.

“I have asked the Premier to side with the practical users of these laws, the police, who feel safer as a result of these laws and in turn are keeping Queenslanders safer.

“As a result the Premier has offered the Queensland Police Union a position on her legislative implementation group.

“As the Commissioner of Police has said to all police today “whilst the Report recommends a range of changes to the existing legislation relating to criminal organisations, it is important that officers are aware that the law of the State of Queensland remains unaltered’.”

How that will work is still a work in progress.

In October 2013, in response to a public brawl, the Newman Government rushed through legislation aimed at criminal gangs, in particular the state’s identified outlaw motorcycle gangs, passing the laws just weeks after they were first mooted, bypassing the Parliamentary committee review system.

Dozens of bikies were involved in the brawl at Broadbeach. Photo: Twitter/BorisCeko

The legislation, which included the sentencing instrument the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment act, known as VLAD, and anti-association laws, was challenged in the High Court the following year.

The court upheld the anti-association challenge and associated bans on tattoo parlour licences.  But it refused to hear a challenge against wider sections of the legislation, as the man who brought the challenge had not been charged under the legislation.

After first vowing to repeal the legislation, then review it, as public sentiment changed the Palaszczuk Government formed a Taskforce on Organised Crime Legislation in 2015, appointing retired Justice Alan Wilson to lead the review.

The LNP dismissed the taskforce as soon as the terms of reference, which included an instruction on how best to repeal or replace the laws, were released as having a pre-determined outcome.

On Monday, Justice Wilson’s report revealed the taskforce followed through on that instruction, recommending VLAD be repealed and replaced with other legislation, it says would withstand a High Court challenge.

The Newman laws, it warned, did not carry that same guarantee.

The government was still working its way through the 60 recommendations from the 400-plus page report on Monday and did not have a response for all of them.

But it did commit to repealing VLAD, replacing the anti-association laws, and amending the majority of the 2013 reforms, which will see police now focus on the individuals carrying out the crimes, rather than the over-arching criminal organisation itself.

That’s because the report found that the definition of a criminal organisation within the acts was too narrow, and not uniform, which provided loop holes.

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath, who has had the report since Thursday, said Labor intended on closing those loopholes and preventing any losses in the High Court with “strong and robust” laws.

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath. Photo: Glenn Hunt

“When I say strong and robust, I mean constitutionally, legally for getting convictions, but also, robust enough operationally on the ground for police and that is where the VLAD laws failed – the fact is, the definition is too narrow, the CCC said that, the taskforce and the taskforce members acknowledged that the definition of a criminal organisation is too narrow and consequently, as organisations change and as circumstances change, and new criminal organisation evolve that the code definition would not allow us to follow those people,” she said.

“So instead of focusing on the organisation we will focus on the individuals who are engaged with organisations – so that, no matter what that individual is doing and where they  are going and whatever organisation they call themselves, we can still follow that individual.

“We will move from anti-association provisions to targeted consorting laws.  The taskforce have been very clear that the anti-association laws as they exist currently are flawed and seriously at risk of constitutional challenge.”

The difference between the anti-consorting laws, which New South Wales uses, and Queensland’s anti-association laws, comes down to convictions.

In Queensland, you don’t have to have been convicted of a crime to be targeted under the laws – being a member of a criminal gang, or an associate, is enough. In NSW, a conviction is necessary before bans on who you can consort with, is put in place.

Ms D’Ath said that equated to convictions, with the NSW courts securing 20 convictions from 32 people charged last year, under the anti-consorting laws, compared with the 42 people charged in Queensland – and no convictions.

“What the taskforce shows is that there are real challenges in sufficiently meeting the evidentiary requirements to succeed in these cases,” she said.

“There are cases which have gone before the court and been withdrawn and cases which have not been successful.

“So any claims, and I put this to the Opposition, so any claims that we haven’t seen convictions is that they were on hold is not accurate.

“The fact is there are cases that have not been successful and there are cases that have been withdrawn due to evidentiary problems with the current laws.

“We believe that our proposed laws will ensure that those convictions can be received.”

But the government can’t say whether those changes will mean criminal gangs – of which outlaw bikie gang members have been overwhelmingly the most public presence   – will be able to once again gather in public.

“We are saying to you, that as a government, we are committed to ensuring we have laws that will deal with outlaw motorcycle gangs in public places, for example, mass rides up the roads,” Ms D’Ath said.

“So we are still to consider the 60 recommendations, we are not making a decision today on all the recommendations, but what we are saying is we will look at new laws to do that, because the anti-association laws do not stack up.

“The flaw in anti-association and the message that came through very clear from the public is those laws indiscriminately look at people, not based on their criminal activity, but based on their organisation.

“We will look at criminal activity, yes, because the public made the message very clear on that, that they believed the anti-association laws went too far.  We will tackle criminal activity.”

Which the Opposition said was just not good enough.

“The report’s recommendations and the Palaszczuk Government’s response is worse than expected – rather than watering down the VLAD Act, Labor is scrapping it altogether and putting Queenslanders safety at risk,” acting LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek said.

John-Paul Langbroek. Photo: Glenn Hunt

“The Premier’s rollback of laws will take away harsher sentencing for criminal gang activity, allow criminal gangs to again gather in large groups, as they did at Broadbeach in 2013, and will remove police powers to stop, search and detain people suspected of criminal activity.

“How can the Premier say she’s ‘tough on crime’ when she’s taking away the most powerful parts of the existing laws?

“The LNP will not support rolling out the welcome mat for criminal gangs and will oppose Labor’s plans every step of the way.”

The government, which also plans on introducing mandatory control orders, which will mean, those convicted of organised crime activity – not just bikies – will be subject to on-going surveillance, similar to counter-terrorism suspects and the State’s dangerous sex offenders, says it’s laws will be tougher than the LNPs.  But able to withstand legal challenges.

“A cornerstone of the new laws is making serious organised crime an aggravated circumstance with a mandatory jail penalty,” Ms D’Ath said.

“Offenders convicted of serious organised crime will also be subject to a mandatory organised crime order, which gives authorities the power to monitor offenders, similar to international counter terrorism laws, in a way which draws also on Queensland’s tough dangerous sex offenders supervision laws.

“I believe these laws will do what our current laws could never do – secure convictions for serious organised crime offenders.

“The laws rushed through parliament in 2013 were about exploiting fear for political gain, rather than facing the real challenges combating organised crime.

“The fight against organised crime should never be a gamble.

“This package will help police fight not only criminal bikie gangs, but all forms of organised crime in this state, and we know from the Byrne report [into organised crime] that child sex gangs, boiler room frauds and drug trafficking syndicates often exist in the underground.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who now faces the task of selling the laws to not only a split public, but also the cross bench, also has to hose down suggestions her government’s election had given criminal gangs the opening they were waiting for.

Data published in the report found that over the last two years since the Newman Government legislation was introduced, 124 outlaw criminal bikie gang members have left the state, leaving about 800 remaining.

A Crime and Corruption Commission submission, left out of the taskforce report and not published publicly until NewsCorp was released a section under Right to Information legislation, was released in full by CCC Chair Alan MacSporran on Monday, following the Wilson report release.

It paid credence to those fears, which have been fanned by the LNP, that bikie gangs were waiting in the wings for Labor to weaken the laws.

“The timing of the recruitment activities suggests that, following the change of government in January 2015, it is perceived by clubs that there is a softening of the stance against OMCG activity,” Mr MacSporran wrote in the submission.

“While there has been no evidence obtained as to the particular factors which have contributed to this resurgence, it may be inferred that OMCGs perceive that the laws will be repealed or reduced, and are positioning themselves to take control of ‘turf once any relaxation occurs.”

Ms D’Ath said the proposal Labor was putting forward, refuted that idea.

“I want to make it very clear here today, to those outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminals out there who think that the doors are going to be re-opened, not only are they closed, but we are wedging them shut,” Ms D’Ath said.

Colours and insignias will also stay banned in licensed premises under the Labor legislation proposal.

“At the end of the day, colours are a very important issue and that is identified – at the end of the day, outlaw motorcycle gangs have not disappeared from Queensland, and let’s be clear of that, they are still there, but they are operating underground, they are operating behind the scenes,” Ms D’Ath said.

“We will retain the liquor act provisions to make it unlawful to be wearing any sort of prohibited items or carrying any prohibited items which includes colours and insignias and that kind of thing.

“Our cabinet has made a very clear decision, we do not want to see bikies riding en masse in their colours on our streets again, that is very clear.

“We will work through what the legal mechanism should be to deal with that public safety issue.   “But let’s be clear, we do not want to see that back on our streets.

“Now the taskforce has said the anti-association laws do not work properly, they are flawed laws.

“So we need to work through what the new laws would be, but let’s be clear, our position is we do not want to see outlaw motorcycle gangs wearing their colours, back on the streets in large numbers.

“We understand, and the taskforce recognises that even though they make up a small percentage of criminals and crimes in this state, they do intimidate people and the broader public that people have the right to go to a restaurant or a licensed venue and feel safe and not feel intimidated by that presence of outlaw motorcycle gangs.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

But any changes – which assumes the cross bench is on-board – will not be made until after August, with Ms Palaszczuk announcing the government plans on taking its time before introducing any legislation.

“This is the first time that a government is tackling serious organised crime,” the Premier said.

“I believe these will be the benchmark of laws that other states will follow.

“The former laws – parts of them worked, parts of them didn’t.

“In Queensland, you see they wanted workable, enforceable, robust laws.

“What my government is doing is taking it to the next step. Serious organised crime is a big issue – it is a big issue in this state, it is a big issue across the nation.

“So we want to make sure that we tackle all the elements of serious organised crime, whether it is outlaw motorcycle gangs, whether it is people involved in child exploitation, illicit drugs, money laundering – we are going to tackle this head on.

“There will be control orders, there will be mandatory sentencing.  We will get these laws right.

“We will not rush them, we will take our time, because that is what Queenslanders expect.”

As part of the government’s response to the taskforce report, the Premier announced funding of $37.4 million over four years to support the fight against organised crime.

Parliament will resume later this month.

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Challenge to Mike Baird: replace stamp duty and gift the NSW economy $5b

There has been a call for stamp duty on property sales to be dumped and replaced by a newly designed land tax. Photo: DAVID GRAYThe Baird Government could boost the state economy by $5 billion by eliminating stamp duty and substituting it with a broad-based land tax, new modelling shows.

The NSW Business Chamber, the NSW Council of Social Services and the NSW Branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have combined to call for stamp duty on property purchases to be dumped and replaced by a newly designed land tax.

Modelling by KPMG for the State Chamber and NCOSS shows the tax switch could increase Gross State Product by more than 1 per cent – currently equivalent to about $5 billion – and create up to 10,000 jobs.

The findings ramp up pressure on the NSW government to introduce significant state tax reforms amid a national debate about how states will cover the ballooning cost of health and education services.

The new call for property tax reform, which unites a peak business lobby, a peak welfare group and a large union, comes days after premiers and chief ministers rejected a federal government proposal for them to levy their own income tax.

NSW already has a narrow land tax system but it does not apply to owner occupied land. Under the proposed tax switch, property buyers would no longer pay stamp duty but a broad land tax would be applied to all owner occupied land to eventually raise a similar amount of revenue.

NSW Business Chamber Chief Executive, Stephen Cartwright, said the modelling made it clear that stamp duty is not serving the people of NSW.

“Business, unions and the community sector have found common ground on the urgent need to abolish stamp duty in favour of a more efficient system of tax; it is now time for the NSW Government to put stamp duty on the table if it is genuine about tax reform,” he said.

The NSW government expects to collect more than $8 billion in stamp duty on property transfers this financial year making it one of the state’s biggest sources of tax revenue.

But it is a highly inefficient tax that has been blamed for pushing up property prices and unnecessarily discouraging people from moving house.

Recent official modelling found the economic cost of collecting each additional dollar of revenue through stamp duty on property is 72 cents in the dollar, compared with 19 cents for the GST and virtually zero for a broad-based land tax.

A 2011 audit of NSW’s finances by former Treasury Secretary, Michael Lambert, declared stamp duty on property to be the state’s worst tax. He proposed a broad-based land tax to replace it but the recommendation was shelved by the Coalition government now led by Mike Baird.

Last month the McKell Institute called for stamp duty to be replaced by a annual land tax of 0.75 per cent of land value. Under the plan a transitional arrangement would protect those who had recently paid stamp duty and asset rich, cash poor retirees would be entitled to a deferral scheme.

Mr Cartwright said stamp duty reform should not be an opportunity for the Government to lock-in a higher overall tax burden, but to create a more efficient tax system.

“By distorting buyer behaviour in the property market and limiting the ability for skilled workers to re-locate to meet employer demand and live closer to where they work, the exorbitant cost of stamp duty in NSW puts employees and businesses at a competitive disadvantage and harms the long term growth prospects of the state economy,” he said.

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RACQ backs retention of one-metre passing law

The RACQ has backed Queensland’s bicycle passing laws. Photo: Ken IrwinQueensland’s peak motoring body has backed calls for the state’s one-metre overtaking rule for motorists passing cyclists to continue beyond the end of its two-year trial.

Legislation requiring motorists to give cyclists a clearance of at least one metre when overtaking was passed in the Queensland Parliament in 2014.

The legislation, which required motorists to keep one metre between themselves and bikes in 60km/h zones and 1.5 metres in faster zones, was to be re-examined after two years.

Two years on, RACQ executive general manager Paul Turner said the club had put its “full support” behind the law’s retention.

Mr Turner said the safety benefits had become apparent.

“Two years ago we were worried that legislation may not have the desired effect of helping bring down the number of serious and fatal crashes involving cyclists on our roads, however we’re encouraged by initial findings and it’s a move our members support,” Mr Turner said.

“An RACQ survey shows more than 42 per cent of Queenslanders think the rule has made the roads safer for cyclists and about the same number want the law permanently on the books.

“Just 22 per cent of respondents want to abolish the law.

“What we absolutely need now is more advertising about the importance of this legislation from the state government, as our research has shown while more than 82 per cent of people know it exists, a large number may not know why it will help cyclists and motorists travel alongside each other.

“The only sure way to see behavioural change into the future is through further education and awareness campaigns for cyclists and motorists about safely sharing the road.”

Mr Turner said he acknowledged police concerns about the difficulty associated with enforcing the law.

“However the positive outcomes the rule has already had in giving motorists more certainty in how much space to allow when travelling alongside bikes, and better peace of mind for cyclists are a win for all road users,” he said.

“Queensland would be taking a regressive step if it repealed the law, considering similar legislation has now also been introduced in New South Wales, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania.”

CBD Bicycle Users Group co-convenor Donald Campbell, who was involved in the formulation of the legislation, said cyclists were mostly pleased with how it had worked out.

“Unfortunately, in our experience, it has not been adhered to as much as it should have been and sometimes the Queensland Police Service has not been as forthcoming with ensuring that the law has been enforced,” he said.

Still, Mr Campbell said there had been a noticeable change on Queensland’s roads since the new law was introduced.

“The cautious drivers have got even more cautious,” he said.

“The ones who would always give us sufficient clearance are now giving us extra clearance.

“It’s not uncommon for the cautious drivers to actually give us virtually the entire lane when overtaking us on a bidirectional road with only one lane either way.

“…But the drivers who don’t respect vulnerable road users have continued to do bad behaviour.”

Mr Turner said the introduction of segregated bicycle lanes should be a priority for all levels of government “wherever possible”.

Mr Campbell said separated lanes would be a “win-win for everyone”.

State opposition transport spokesman Scott Emerson, who oversaw the legislation’s introduction when he was a minister in the Newman government, said the Palaszczuk government should retain the rules.

“When the LNP introduced these laws in 2013 there were 13 cyclist fatalities in that year,” he said.

“Every death on our roads is a tragedy but it is encouraging that in the two years since the laws have been in place, we have seen a significant drop in cyclist fatalities.

“In 2014 there were nine cycling fatalities and in 2015, despite the overall road toll going up, there was another drop in cyclist deaths down to four.”

Mr Emerson said the Queensland legislation had “made the rest of the country sit up and take notice”.

“New South Wales and South Australia have adopted our laws, and that’s good news for cyclists,” he said.

“It is important that all users on our roads are respectful of each other and these laws give riders that extra peace of mind.”

A spokesman for Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey said the two-year trial had been assessed and an announcement on the legislation’s future would be made later this week.

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Celebrate Youth Week

Community events: The Street Univertisty’s Street Legacy VI is a dance and vocal competition that provides an opportunity for young people in Liverpool to celebrate street-based dance culture.Liverpool’s young people are encouraged to get involved in a range of local events on offer forthe 2016 Youth Week.

Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun said the week was a great opportunity for young people to showcase their talents, express their views on issues that affect their lives and participate in activities and events.

“Our young people are an essential part of the future of Liverpool. By encouraging innovative thinking and positive participation in the community through events likeYouthWeek, we can support them to help move the community forward,” he said.

“This year, Liverpool Council is running a number of great activities to celebrateYouthWeek. I encourage local young people to find out what’s on and see what they would like to be involved in.

“There are some fantastic events to choose from, including the Amazing Race, a unique cultural feast, a dance competition and a celebration to unveil the winner of the Inaugural Borrowed Wall Art Prize.”

National Youth Week runs from April 8 to 17 and the theme for this year is “It starts with us”.

This year’s partners include; LiverpoolYouthCouncil, The Street University, Liverpool, Headspace Liverpool, The Junction Works, South West Connect, Cucina 105, Street University, Green Valley Police, Liverpool PCYC, WestsideYouthCentre, UpFrontYouth, Anglicare/Reconnect, SWYPE Mission Australia, CPACYouthand Taste Food Tours.

What’s on in Liverpool:Street Legacy VI: Held from 12pm to 4pm on Saturday April 9, at the Street University. Street Legacy VI is a dance and vocal competition.The Amazing Race Liverpool: Held from 10am to 3pm on Wednesday April 13.Borrowed Wall Art prize: Launchedfrom11am onThursday April 14, at the Liverpool Library Forecourt. Theunveiling of the winning artwork will include live music and performances.A Place on the Table: Held from 12pm on Saturday April 17, at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. Costs $20.For more information, call 9821 7753 or email [email protected]论坛.

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Berries all aiming for quality

TOP NOTCH: Growers and breeders of Australian berries are all aiming for premium quality, something global experts predict will underpin the future growth of the sector. AUSSIE berries are adhering to global advice that quality will underpin sales into the future.

The overarching theme to emerge from the Global Berry Congress 2016 held in Rotterdam, Netherlands last month was the need for breeders and growers to deliver a quality eating experience consumers will pay a premium for.

Australia’s berry industries appear to be on top of the suggestion already, although concerns linger over quality in years to come as production expand.

Australian Rubus Growers Association (ARGA) CEO Jonathan Eccles said Australia has been in a special position when it came to raspberries and blackberries.

“From our perspective, up until now we’ve been pretty lucky that consumer demand has been there, greater than production but that’s going to change,” he said.

He agreed that quality was king but said growers couldn’t afford to lose profit margins with the high labour costs an ever-present worry.

Mr Eccles said there was potential to highlight Australia’s quality to the rest of the world.

Berries are highly perishable which creates transport concerns, something where Australia could surprisingly have an advantage.

“We have some of the cheapest airfreight in the world,” he said.

“The major hurdle we have is quarantine due to Queensland fruit fly.”

Mr Eccles said he would like to see some funding go toward research and prevention of spotted wing drosophila which is not currently present in Australia.

“We import berries and that is monitored throughout the regulated pathways but it’s the unregulated pathways which have cause for concern,” he said.

He also said the different berry groups would do well to work together.

It’s an idea that Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association president Greg McCulloch has warmed to as well.

He said local blueberry growers have had the importance of high quality fruit drummed into them.

“That’s why we have such a high standing in Asia,” he said.

Mr McCulloch said he remembers 10 years ago when a representative from a large grocery chain in the United Kingdom declared Australia as having the best blueberries in the world.

“It’s always a major worry about the quality as we expand though,” Mr McCulloch said.

“I just hope we can keep that quality coming through as we head into the future.”

He said it was heartening to see Australian blueberries starting to head back into Japan after a six year absence due to changes in that country’s import laws.

Tempering that though was his disappointment at a 45 per cent tariff on Australian blueberries into South Korea, while Chile enjoys no tariffs and a reduced 20pc tariff for the Americans, according to Mr McCulloch.

“We will never sell into South Korea,” he said.

Quality and flavour remain the big ticket selling points for Australian strawberries, according to Strawberries Australia president, Sam Violi, Victoria.

The industry is even looking at the shape of the fruit and what is more appealing for consumers.

Mr Violi said the industry was tracking “pretty well” at the moment.

He said while Australia produces top tasting fruit, the weather made things tricky.

“Unfortunately we are very susceptible to rain damage and very hot days but we are working on varieties with beautiful flavour that are adaptable,” he said.

“But that’s not an easy task. So for growers, a bit of patience is required.”

He said marketing opportunities such as inviting celebrity chefs out to farms have been paying dividends recently in lifting the profile of the berry, and educating consumers what can be created with them.

Last week the Federal Government announced it was considering the importation of fresh strawberries from Korea.

Mr Violi said if the Korean strawberries were given the go-ahead, the impact on the local industry would hinge on that country’s growing season.

“It depends on what time of year they will be coming in. We already have strawberries on the shelves for 12 months- we can supply them all year round,” Mr Violi said.

“We don’t want to jeopardise the local industry.”

Korea has indicated that its strawberry peak season is January to March.

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Eyes on tomorrow, not past, in Joyce seat

Local farmer, Tamworth Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Chair of the National Party’s New England electorate council, Russell Webb (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

VOTERS in New England will look to the future, rather than the rear view mirror, to try and move forward, when weighing up their decision between Barnaby Joyce and Tony Windsor at the upcoming federal election.

That’s the view of local farmer, Tamworth Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Chair of the National Party’s New England electorate council, Russell Webb.

Mr Webb spoke to Fairfax Media after Mr Joyce was officially preselected on Saturday after being the only candidate nominated to contest the sparse rural NSW electorate for the party.

He said the New England electoral council were preparing for any eventuality but certainly for what could be a July 2 election “and that’s what we have to do”.

Other candidates would take the field in the high profile local election battle but voters and other observers were watching the big one between Mr Windsor, who held the seat as an independent from 2001 to 2013, and his replacement Mr Joyce.

Mr Windsor will turn 66 this year and retired ahead of the 2013 election citing personal health issues after he supported the ALP to govern in the previous hung parliament.

In contrast, Mr Joyce will turn 49 this month and quit his safe position as a Queensland LNP Senator in anticipation of an election clash with the independent but was denied that opportunity.

However, he eventually turned New England into a safe National’s seat and has been the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister in the current government and in mid-February became party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Webb believes a clear voter choice exists between the powerful positions Mr Joyce now holds in the current government versus an independent member who would sit on the crossbench in what won’t be a hung parliament and would “have no say and no power whatsoever”.

“The wise choice therefore for any electorate is to try and elect somebody who will be sitting in government and we’ve not only got somebody sitting in government we’ve got a senior minister and the Deputy Prime Minister,” he said.

“Our electorate can be a lot better served by Barnaby than what we’ve had in the past with Tony and that’s not just me saying that; a lot of people are saying that and it’s starting to resonate with people throughout the electorate.

“We’ve seen Tony perform in the past and he’s delivered for the electorate in the ways that he could but we’re not looking at the past now – we’re looking at the future – and really the only one who can really deliver into the future is Barnaby Joyce, as we see it.”

Mr Webb said voters were looking ahead and would decide on issues of the day but also hadn’t forgotten Mr Windsor’s decision to go with ALP in 2010 over the Coalition.

He said the independent MP was traditionally conservative but lost a huge amount of support in New England after he backed the Labor government.

“People haven’t forgotten about that and that will certainly work against him at the next election,” he said.

“Some of that sentiment has softened but it won’t be forgotten by voters.”

Mr Webb said most people in the region also felt Mr Windsor was seeking to re-enter politics “out of spite” rather than to achieve pure policy outcomes.

“That’s the talk you hear around the towns; people are seeing that Tony’s not doing this because he really thinks he can deliver more for the electorate it’s because he doesn’t like the fact that Barnaby’s here and has the Deputy Prime-Ministership and that’s sad,” he said.

“Tony did a lot when he was here but as I say, that was in the past and now we’re looking into the future and most people I talk to think Barnaby is the only one who can deliver into the future.”

However, Mr Windsor has responded by saying accusations he’s motivated by a personal vendetta, are merely diversionary tactics by his arch political rival.

“This personal stuff is him getting away from the significant issues he’s either not interested in or he’s done nothing about – it’s a tactic,” Mr Windsor told Fairfax Media

Mr Webb said issues like climate change and the giant Shenhua Watermark coal mine, that’s no longer situated in the New England electorate, formed the “backbone” of Mr Windsor’s reasons for making a political comeback.

But with the mine now situated in the neighbouring Parkes electorate held by Nationals MP Mark Coulton and looking like it won’t proceed to the extraction phase, the political stakes have changed, despite Mr Windsor’s backing by anti-mining forces.

Mr Webb said voters were also starting to realise two candidates held the same position opposing Shenhua.

He said Mr Joyce didn’t support the mine which was initially approved by NSW Labor and did “whatever he could” to halt its development; believing it was situated in the wrong place.

“Barnaby supports mining strongly but only in the right locations so people are now starting to realise he and Tony have really been singing from the same hymn book on that one,” he said.

“Tony was probably only gaining some momentum on that issue with the antagonists, but really they both have the same position and many people out there just don’t see it as a major issue now because they see them both fighting against the development.”

Mr Webb said New England’s farmers also held a more realistic attitude towards climate change policy than the view Mr Windsor may be perpetuating on social media.

“Everybody sees climate change as very important and no matter what the cause of climate change is – whether it be induced by man or natural causes – everybody is concerned about it and everybody in agriculture is very concerned about where that might be taking us over the next few decades,” he said.

“Everybody is hoping more work will be done on that with research and development to help with what we can do, into the future, with the different crop varieties we can grow and how to best manage our agricultural land, with the climate changing as it is.

“Tony is trying to capitalise on the position he’s held in the past on climate change by saying he’s the only one who can fix it.

“But in all honesty he can’t do any more than anybody else; he’s just one person.

“If somebody is going to put strategies in place that will help us manage how we live into the future with climate change then the government of the day will do that; not just one individual.”

Mr Webb said he believed Mr Joyce had delivered good outcomes for the nation and the electorate in particular through the multi-million dollar Mobile Black Spot Program to improve mobile telephone access

He said he’d also been working hard with the 11 various local government areas in the electorate, to deliver increased road funding.

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