• University status comes at a high price

    Date: 2019.07.17 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Illustration: Michael Mucci.Has it occurred to you that universities are fundamentally about the pursuit of status? Almost every aspect of their activities focuses on the acquisition of rank. And Christopher Pyne’s proposed “reform” of universities is about harnessing the status drive to help balance the budget.
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    Ostensibly, unis exist to add to the store of human knowledge and to educate the brightest of the rising generation. All very virtuous.

    When you think about it, however, you see that unis are about the pursuit of certification, standing, position and prestige. The main way they earn their revenue is by granting superior status to young people seeking to enter the workforce.

    In theory, a degree proves your possession of knowledge in a certain area. Often in practice it certifies little more than that you’re smart enough and persistent enough to have passed a lot of exams. Either way, try climbing the employment ladder without one.

    This makes universities gatekeepers granting access to the good, well-paying jobs in the economy. Which gives them a kind of monopoly power.

    In the old days the government paid them to teach, assess and certify young people; these days the young people are required, to an increasing extent, to buy their qualifications directly, making them customers as much as pupils.

    Such is the strength of the unis’ monopoly over access to the good jobs that most young people would be prepared to pay huge fees and take on very large debts before they resigned themselves to a lifetime of low socio-economic status.

    The status symbols issued by unis are themselves subject to a well-understood system of ranking: doctorates rank above master’s degrees, with thesis masters outranking course-work masters. Then come bachelor’s degrees, with honours degrees higher than pass degrees and first class honours higher than second class. Not forgetting the ultimate status symbol: being awarded a university medal.

    But uni degrees are subject to a second, informal status ranking: employers (and parents) tend to be more impressed by degrees awarded by the older, bigger “sandstone” universities than those from younger, outer-suburban or regional unis.

    While in the public’s mind the unis’ existence is justified by their teaching, few people become academics because of a burning desire to teach. Academics want to do research and, though some become good teachers and enjoy teaching, for the most part teaching is regarded as an unfortunate distraction.

    The unis try to conceal the conflict between their priority (research) and the public’s (teaching) by claiming that academics at the forefront of their discipline’s research effort make the best teachers.

    Students know this is rubbish. It pretends good teaching doesn’t require possession of teaching skills and forgets that most undergraduate teaching has little to do with the teacher’s super-specialty.

    Academics know the fast-track to the top comes from the quality and quantity of their research, as evidenced by their publication records. Promotion assessments – moving people up the status ladder from lecturer to full professor – give little weight to teaching, contribution to public debate or even the writing of textbooks.

    The universities themselves are driven by their desire to raise their status relative to other unis by increasing the quantity and quality of their research. The government publishes regular rankings of our universities and their faculties, largely determined by their research output.

    Universities threaten to sack academics who fail to reach research output quotas. They urge staff to compete for government research grants, granted partly on the basis of previously published research. Staff who win grants are rewarded with money they can use to pay part-timers to take over their teaching obligations.

    The quality of published research is determined largely by the reputation of the academic journal that published it. All journals are ranked, with American and British journals scoring many points and Australian journals scoring few points.

    (Since international journals are reluctant to publish research into Australian issues, this means our government uses our taxes to fund a universities-designed scheme that discourages our academics from doing empirical research on problems of particular relevance to us.)

    In recent years the eight sandstone unis’ greatest motivation has been to raise their position on a couple of regular international rankings of universities. To this end they’ve come increasingly to offer senior positions to American and British academics rather than locals, since the foreigners are more likely to get themselves published in more prestigious journals.

    Some unis’ drive to lift their international reputation involves a policy of never hiring lecturers whose highest qualification is a PhD they themselves granted. Cultural cringe, anyone?

    How does this obsession with status-seeking tie in with the Abbott government’s plan to deregulate uni fees? Watch this space.

    Ross Gittins is the economics editor. Twitter: @1RossGittins

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Narendra Modi fever grips Sydney

    Date: 2019.07.17 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    PM’s fans: Preparing to greet Narendra Modi, below, are front from left, Arpan Desai, Anshuk Desai and back, from left, Stuti Bhat, Heer Patel, Purvi Desai and Hiya Mody. Photo: Nick Moir Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Brisbane Airport to attend the G20 summit. Photo: Greg Wood
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    Nimesh, Kajal, Nirav and Anjali Shah getting ready to go out and see the Indian Prime Minister. Photo: Christopher Pearce

    Are you ready Sydney? India’s political rock star Narendra Modi is coming to town and hundreds of millions will be watching us.

    The city will get a dose of Modi-mania on Monday when the Indian Prime Minister makes a quick-fire, high-energy visit.

    More than 16,000 members of the Indian diaspora will pack Allphones Arena at Olympic Park to salute Mr Modi at a community reception. About 5,000 more are expected to be watching the evening event on big screens outside.

    But the biggest audience will be in India. The country’s major news channels have sent correspondents to cover Mr Modi’s tour and that guarantees hundreds of millions of viewers will turn their attention on Sydney when Mr Modi takes the stage.

    “There will be wallpaper, back to back coverage of the Prime Minister’s speech at the Allphones Arena,” said Rahul Kanwal, a high-profile presenter on top-rating Indian news channels, Aaj Tak and Headlines Today. “We’ve set up a special studio there and we’ll be anchoring live from the event.” About 250 media passes have been issued for the event.

    The reception for Mr Modi has generated huge excitement in Australia’s fast-growing, Indian-born community.

    “Everyone just can’t wait,” said Balesh Singh Dhankhar, the spokesman for the event organisers. “The temperature of the festive mood is rising.”

    On Sunday night more than 200 Modi fans left Melbourne bound for Allphones Arena on a specially a chartered train dubbed the “Modi Express.”

    Sydney-based Indian dance teacher, Purvi Desai, and her students will give those arriving at the reception a traditional Indian welcome – rose petals and a “tilak” on the forehead. Ms Desai, who like Mr Modi hails from the Indian state of Gujarat, admires Mr Modi for the sense of hope he has brought the country she left as an 11-year old.

    “I think he’s brought a lot of discipline and a can-do culture to India,” she said. “I’m really excited that we are welcoming an India leader.”

    Mr Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Australia in 28 years.

    The organisers hope to outdo a recent reception for Mr Modi held at Maddison Square Gardens in New York by the Indian diaspora in the US.

    However, there will be Modi-dissenters at Allphones Arena along with admirers. About 500 members of the Sikh community, and other minority Indian religions, are expected to stage a peaceful demonstration.

    Karandeep Singh Chadha, a spokesman for the protesters, says many religious minorities do not feel safe in India because hardline groups associates with Mr Modi have an “agenda is to make India a Hindu nation by wiping out other cultures, religions and ethnicities.”

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Tim Smith transcript

    Date: 2019.07.17 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Michael Short: The Honourable Tim Smith QC, welcome to The Zone and thank you kindly for your time. You are a former Supreme Court judge and a founder of the Accountability Round Table, ART. It is a non-partisan group of citizens dedicated to improving accountability, probity, transparency, and democratic practice in all governments and parliaments in Australia[1].
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    The word integrity comes to mind there, too. It is a huge area and we are going to focus on two crucial issues, mindful of the upcoming Victorian election; and those two areas are anti-corruption bodies, specifically whether we ought to have a dedicated national one in light of what we’re seeing with the experience in New South Wales and Victoria, and the second issue is the funding of political parties and elections.

     

    But before we do that, Tim, let’s have a look at some overarching things. Can you please briefly tell me about ART, in terms of its genesis and its evolution? You talk, for instance, of it having been driven initially, and it was set up in 2006, by anger and despair.

    Tim Smith: Well, in 2006 you may recall that the story broke about payments by the Wheat Board to the Iraqi government to secure sales to Iraq. And that was in contravention of the then international agreements that we had entered into, and it received a lot of publicity and criticism.

    The issue arose as to what extent the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Trade should be held responsible for what had occurred. Their defence was `we did not know about it; therefore we’re not responsible’.

    And we found a number of people who were concerned that if that proposition were allowed to be accepted, that was the end of ministerial responsibility. Ministerial responsibility is one of the fundamental conventions of our parliamentary democracy, and that resulted in the Round Table being brought together in 2006.

    Initially the focus was on that issue, ministerial responsibility. But it quickly became apparent to the uninitiated like me that it was also terribly important to identify and address some of the various trends that had emerged, which were putting pressures on the principle – including political funding, lobbying, the rotating door in lobbying and other issues.

    And so the objective became a broader one, the one we have now; essentially looking at the challenges to the integrity of our parliamentary democracy and what is required to address them.

    Since 2006 I suggest things have got worse.  At the Woodford Festival in 2012, the Honourable Malcom Turnbull  said that it has never been easier for parliamentarians to lie and that they treat us with contempt. He expressly included himself.[2]

    MS: Ministerial responsibility is one of those terms laden with importance and meaning in a democracy, and is intimately associated with another notion, which is that if you are in public office you are in a position of public trust. You talk about open and accountable government in that broader context as being fundamentally important to good government, and also to economic growth. So can you please try to bring those ideas together a little bit, Tim?

    TS: That is a challenge. I think it is clear that open and accountable government will produce better government than secret government. Secret government – government that thrives on secrecy – becomes hostage to the more powerful and assertive interests in the community, and tends not to have the benefit of the views of others in the community who have something relevant and important to say.

    Turning to the public trust principle: it is one that I was not aware of until 2009, and I have found that I am in good company. Very few people are aware of it. Now, obviously when you say that you have entrusted someone with power over your life, you expect that person to exercise the power in your interests and not their own interests.

    That would be the expectation on the person to whom you have conferred the power. In terms of public office, we voters entrust those we give our vote to with enormous powers over our lives. And simply as an ethical principle, it seems to be unarguable that in that situation the person entrusted with the power by us should give primary emphasis always to what is in the public interest, and if they find their personal interest in conflict, they must give priority to the public interest.

    But I now know, after further research and consideration and discussion[3], that this is not simply an ethical principle. It is part of the common law of Australia.

    May I quote the former Chief Justice of the High Court from his speech made before presenting the ART Parliamentary Integrity Awards last year[4]:

    “It has long been an established legal principle that a member of Parliament holds “a fiduciary

    relation towards the public” and “undertakes and has imposed upon him a public duty and a

    public trust”. The duties of a public trustee are not identical with the duties of a private trustee

    but there is an analogous limitation imposed on the conduct of the trustee in both categories. The

    limitation demands that all decisions and exercises of power be taken in the interests of the

    beneficiaries and that duty cannot be subordinated to, or qualified by the interests of the trustee”

    And while the courts cannot intervene in all cases, they have intervened in many cases and continue to develop the common law – that is, judge-made law. They are doing this particularly using the rules of construction, which are used to interpret legislation passed by our parliament, where powers are conferred on ministers in the most general terms, such as the powers given to Planning Ministers to intervene.

    Those powers are to be exercised for the purpose for which they are given. The courts accept that the overriding guiding principle is that the power must be exercised in the public interest, and not be allowed to be used to cultivate the private interests of those in whom the power is vested.

    MS: Just picking up on that then, public interest, you mentioned a phrase a moment ago that resonates throughout the debate: conflict of interest. And the question here, surely, is not whether conflicts of interest exist. Conflicts of interest exist everywhere always.

     

    The question, surely, is how they are managed and how they are seen to be managed, and in the realm of public office it is clearly crucial that the prevailing interest must be the public interest.

     

    So, how do we minimise the chances that that public interest is not honoured? And let’s look specifically at the Victorian election. There are three areas, for example, that you are really concerned about. Maybe we can go through those a little bit too, please, in that broader context.

    TS: It has to be acknowledged that there is probably no more difficult a task than being a Member of Parliament, because when you come into Parliament you bring with you a host of competing values and obligations to yourself, to your party, to those who supported you.

    You also bring ambitions. There is the electorate that you have obligations to. It is a job in which you cannot avoid conflicts of interest. So the challenge is how you deal with them. You may be interested to know that one of the things the Round Table has done is to have an Integrity Lecture each year.

    The first lecture was given by the Honourable Fred Chaney[5], who was a Minister in the Fraser government. His resolution of that problem is that what you have to ask yourself always is – “Will this decision serve the public interest?” And that is the way you find your way through this conflict-of-interest problem.

    MS: As long as you are not cognitively dissonant or delusional. TS: (Laughs.) MS: Well, you know, you could con yourself. TS: Oh, you have got to be intellectually honest about it, yes. You have got to be intellectually honest about it. You can advance arguments about why this would be in the best interest of the nation, but you’ve got to be intellectually honest.

    If you add to those challenges that you’ve got your personal ambitions, your party ambitions, and probably the most difficult one is the pursuit of power. So it is the ultimate conflict-of-interest challenge, but it can be met. It is extremely difficult to meet, but that is the way to approach it.

    And while Fred Chaney did not refer to the public trust principle, it underpinned what he said. That is what he was saying; this principle is there to guide, and sadly it appears that while until maybe 20 years ago it was to the forefront for many, it is questionable now as to whether it is to the forefront for the same number of our representatives.

    MS: Okay, so before coming back to the specifics in the context of the Victorian election, why might that change have occurred? Why might public trust no longer be central to our notions of good government and good governance?

    TS: I think it is because we have stopped talking about it.

    MS: So you think that failure at the media level and at the community level to make sure that our elected lawmakers are aware that we are aware. Do you think that has let them off the hook?

    TS: I think it has. And we all share the responsibility for that.

    MS: I was coming to that. And let’s do that now, and we will get back to Victoria. What can the citizens do, then, if they are worried about these issues?

    TS: Join a political party. Form organisations to campaign for open and accountable government. One of the Round Table’s new members, Carmel Benjamin, has set up such an organisation – Ican[6]. It has been operating now for about three months. The last information I had was that its membership is now up around 60, and there are a lot of people out there who would share the concern of the persons you are referring to about where our democracy is heading.

    The other critical thing in bringing that principle back into people’s minds and into political play is the education system. I have no recollection of being taught by anybody of the existence of this principle. Lawyers I’ve spoken to, very few of them can recall it being discussed.

    And while it would seem that if you have majored in philosophy you may have heard about it – because Plato was the first person who came up with the principle as an ethical principle –  I think the other critical thing to do is to have the issue on the syllabus of university courses, whether it be law, ethics, politics, government, planning. It should be there.

    MS: You know, Tim, I find this strange in a sense because it seems to me that this is a no-brainer, to use that horrible American expression; it is self-evidently the case that if you are in a position of publicly funded office, your primary responsibility is the public interest. Isn’t that self evident? TS: But until we started talking about it, had you been thinking about it in those terms?

    MS: Yes, absolutely. I have always thought in these terms. I did study some philosophy at university, but I don’t think it was because of that. I did grow up in a family that was politically engaged, because my father was a federal politician, and maybe it was that.

     

    But it just seems to me self-evident that if you are there to make laws for people and to administer the democratic system that your primary responsibility is to the public interest. I do not see what is difficult about this. TS: The principle isn’t, but if we are not talking about it and if the political commentary is not bringing it into discussion, it will leave sort of a vacuum in the political debate. And those who we have entrusted with power are under immediate pressures of all sorts and I suppose the immediate political necessities from day to day will tend to dominate thinking, whether we like it or not.

    MS: Well, let’s look at some pretty immediate stuff politically, and that is the Victorian election. And this is something that has national significance because of the issues that we are discussing here, leaving freedom of information to one side for the moment.

     

    You have been recognised widely as being concerned about, particularly given your former role on the bench and your role as an advisor to government, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission in Victoria, IBAC as it is called.

     

    Your concern is that it has no teeth and in fact has also been muzzled. You’ve made these points over the years and you have made them again recently in light of suggested changes to that legislation which you and others, including The Age, argue do not go far enough. We have still got that ridiculously high threshold.

     

    That is one problem. The second is the funding of political parties and elections and related to that is lobbying. Let’s start with number one, anti-corruption commissions – specifically IBAC, and then more broadly.

    TS: Let me go back to the report that was issued by IBAC. The report referred to the issue of the threshold for investigations. It said it was too high. There is no doubt that it is too high. Now, that doesn’t mean they are not able to do things. They can investigate the police.

    They can investigate acts of alleged corruption, provided they have got just about all of the evidence placed in front of them in the first place. In which case they are probably not needed anyway; it could go straight to the police.

    The real test is, is it in a position to investigate, to take an example, an Eddie Obeid matter, as the NSW anti-corruption commission, ICAC, has? And the answer is clearly no. That is because the threshold test is so high.

    MS: And that is because you have to have evidence of a criminal breach? TS: You have got to have facts which if accepted would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a relevant criminal offence has been committed. MS: And you have pointed to the evident absurdity of that situation.

    TS: Yes. Stephen Charles is someone else who has been very involved in that. He is one of our members and that is his view, too. One of the original advisors, Douglas Meagher, has described it as a waste of public money, I think.

    And that is presumably for those same reasons – that you really want it there to be able to dig out the highly organised secret conduct of the sort that has emerged in that ICAC inquiry in New South Wales. They worked for months on that before they could even get close to having enough evidence to form the view that they should bring people in to be questioned.

    MS: The last time I looked, those questions had led to a very swollen crossbench the New South Wales Parliament. What should change in Victoria?

    TS: Look, it is very simple. The promise that was made at the last election by the conservative parties was to establish a Victorian ICAC. MS: Dare I ask in light of that, and keeping in mind the other issue we are going to talk about in terms of funding, how one might vote were one concerned about probity and transparency and accountability in government in the upcoming Victorian election?

    TS: At the moment we have not got all the details of the parties’ commitments. The Round Ttable has written to them seeking commitments to three particular reforms. The first listed was the IBAC reform. At this stage, we have an initial response from the ALP, which states that they are going to address the threshold problem, but we have not yet been supplied with details.

    They have said they are proposing to publish their positions on a variety of issues as the campaign progresses. We are yet to have a response from the present government. The Greens have written indicating their support for the New South Wales approach, to put it in broad terms.[7]

    It is an interesting question that faces voters in this election, in that my impression is we have probably the lowest level of trust in our elected representatives. I have been thinking that if you are attracted by the policies of a party, there would be lingering doubt in your mind as to whether those policies would in fact be implemented, in view of the history we have been observing in recent years.

    I would suggest that one of the things that you should look at in forming your view about the likelihood of those promises being implemented is what are they proposing to do in relation to the problem areas we have in our current government integrity system. IBAC is one of them.

    You have to realise that the risk of corruption in our current society is higher than it was when the Fitzgerald Report came out (in 1989), because we have been outsourcing so many government services and services to government that there are far more people now in the community whose businesses are dependent upon getting contracts from government.

    MS: And yet, and I’m sorry to interrupt, when I was spending time studying in France in the late 1980s and having a look at governments around the place, I must say that some of the most corrupt situations I have ever seen, and I was in Cambodia recently, is where stuff had not been outsourced; it is centralised stuff.

    TS: Well it can happen there, too. Oh yes, if you have just got totalitarian situations then you have got to get favours from government in various ways, you have got to get permissions and so forth. And you would have the opposite of open and accountable government. MS: So we are looking for a sweet spot here? TS: I suppose we are. But, nonetheless, if you are talking about risks of corruption comparatively I think it has gone up for the reason that I mentioned. You have then got the political funding problem.

    It has been referred to as the arms race, parties wanting more and more money so that they can advertise more in their campaigns and so forth. We have also had develop a lobbying industry which we did not have before.

    MS: And then we have got FOI, so you have those three broad areas. TS: We had FOI brought in, and thanks for raising it. That was brought in in the 1980s in Victoria. We were leading the way. But since then, by the very creative use of exemptions by governments, we have gone into reverse and are in a worse position than we were, I think, because now you have major contracts being entered into by governments  and we don’t even know the terms.

    MS: Let’s park FOI. And I am aware of what you have written about those major contracts, so I can write them into the article. Let’s go back to the anti-corruption commission issue. I understand what you have said about ICAC versus IBAC. Do we need a national or federal anti-corruption commission, or do existing protections offer adequate rigour? TS: Those who say we don’t need one say that there is not enough evidence. The problem is that there is no Commonwealth ICAC looking for it. One of the reasons you have an ICAC is to gather that intelligence, to get a sense of where things stand. Corruption is not like any other crime. There is no victim who will go to the authorities.  The community is the victim and wont know about it.

    MS: Do you suspect that were we to look we would find corruption at the federal political level? TS: Politically, I do not know.  But the risk is very high and we do not have a Commonwealth body whose job it is to address that risk.[8]

    MS: Commercially? TS: Think of the billions of dollars of government contracts that are put out to tender and there are people who, and there will always be, believe the rules do not apply to them and if they think they need something they will use whatever means they can find to get it.

    MS: And as years of investigation by some of my colleagues at The Age here have shown, it goes to the very level of our central bank.

    TS: That is a very important example. It threw up a couple of other points that need to be born in mind. What you had there was that it came to the attention of the Reserve Bank through an officer of one of their subsidiary companies.It was dealt with by an internal investigation.  It failed to pick up similar problems in another subsidiary company. The Age subsequently blew the whistle on that company.  To have confidence in such investigations, you need an independent external body to investigate  because the officers of the government body conducting an internal investigation  will usually be  in a conflict situation. The other point thrown up was that where there is no body with the ultimate responsibility for such investigations, they can end  up being passed between relevant investigatory bodies. MS: Absolutely, so, and mindful of time, do you think, Tim, it would be a national-interest advancement for Australia were we to have a well calibrated anti-corruption commission federally? That would usurp and replace any state-based commissions? TS: No. Not at the moment, but that might be an issue for the future, as to whether to have just one national anti-corruption body.

    MS: Initially and in the interim it would compliment the state ones? TS: Yes, they would work together.

    MS: Let’s move on quickly to election and political funding. Should elections be paid for purely out of the public purse?

    TS: Look, I think not. I think there should be scope for contributions to be made, but they should be modest and public. MS: Okay, modest and public. That means declared? And that there be a minimum of loopholes? Because I think everybody agrees with the principle that one ought not be able to buy power and policy. So what is the scope?

    TS: New South Wales brought the threshold down to $1000, I think. There seems to be a consensus amongst those who wanted to see change that that is probably a reasonable figure to use, after which there needs to be a public disclosure.

    MS: It covers a bottle of Grange. Do you think that that was an undue response? Did the then NSW Premier set a good example by resigning, or did he fuel concerns about conflict-of-interest by provoking the reaction that I heard a fair bit there must have been something more going on here, that you don’t resign from the premiership of Australia’s biggest state over a bottle of wine. TS: There may well have been other connected matters. Who knows? We don’t know. But it is some evidence of what is seen in the political world as acceptable. And that is a worry. He could have sent it back.

    MS: There is a lot of what-ifs in life, isn’t there? TS: That’s right. And it is very easy sitting here making judgements on these things.

    MS: But I don’t think that you are making judgement. I do not think you’re pontificating. I think you are raising crucial issues. And they go to trust in a number of ways. A supplementary question on funding: are there any commercial categories that ought to be blocked from funding, for example property development and casinos?

    TS: They are areas where you have people seeking permissions from government. It is a classic area historically – I’m not reflecting on the people who are presently in it, but historically it is an area where there has been corruption. MS: Because you’re seeking permission to seek rent, effectively, aren’t you?

    TS: Yes, you are. I think that probably there is evidence of difficulties flowing from the developers being able to supply large sums of money. I think you would want evidence of past corrupt activity. I am not aware of any in respect of gambling.

    But that would probably also be needed I think, because if there was a challenge to the legislation recent High Court consideration of the issue has suggested that you need to have some specific reason for denying people the right to make donations. And I think that that would require some evidence of past corrupt conduct in the particular area.

    MS: There are mooted changes recently controversial, Tim, about national security and suggested restrictions on media ability to report stuff that the government is seeking to be able to just put a blanket over. Are you concerned that we might be over-reacting to perceived threats of national security in the contemporary ISIS and otherwise terrorist-filled debate, or do you think there is some validity in that?

    TS: It is obviously an issue of some importance. It is, though, an issue that should not be rushed and it should be publicly debated and publicly discussed. One of the problems in recent times is that those opportunities are not presented.

    I go back to IBAC: well, there was initially a committee established which received evidence of various issues, we still don’t know what that evidence was and we still don’t know what they reported back and there was no subsequent exposure of the Bill and an opportunity to make comment on it and submissions on it before it was passed by Parliament.

    MS: Which is quite funny, in a sad sort of way, isn’t it? It is a bit ironic.

    TS: I always wondered what was it that caused that turnabout, which is the only way you can describe it, between what was promised and what was done. Something must have happened.

    I wonder whether part of the explanation is, to come back to where we were before, that when they were thinking about what to do they were more concerned about the problems which might be exposed by IBAC then their obligation to the community to put the public interest first. And that may well be explained because it never occurred to them to think about it.

    MS: And it may be well explained by two words: Nick Greiner.

    TS: Certainly Nick Greiner was raised. But I have always been puzzled about that as a “justification” because, as I understand it,he appointed someone to a position without following procedures that had been laid down and did so to solve an internal party problem.

    MS: And thereby became the first person bitten by his own watchdog legislation. Do you think they might have been mindful of that at the time you’re suggesting? TS: I don’t know.

    MS: We shall leave that hanging. What motivates you Tim? Why do you do what you are doing now?

     

    TS: I have slowly but surely slipped into it – unwittingly, I think. I was there at the outset and was one of the people who raised the issue. We were spoiling a Christmas lunch down at the beach with my sister and she said we must do something about it and suggested talking to Race Mathews about it.

    We did that. He said something needs to be done about this’.  He said you have got to have a non-partisan organisation and set about organising it. And that is what happened – and we have a non-partisan,very experienced, knowledgeable, wise group of people involved.[9]

    MS: You have even been non-partisan with your awards. You have the Missen Award and the Button Award.[10] TS: And I think people have generally accepted them as honourable  names to use. But I was not anticipating that I would be working harder in retirement than I did when I was a barrister or when I was a judge.  I didn’t think that was possible, but that is what has happened. I don’t know whether that is wise, but the problem is there is no end to what you can try to do.

    MS: It seems to me the concept of retirement has become redundant, and increasingly people who have had fascinating and heavyweight and otherwise careers and involvements and engagements in the community and as citizens are actually maintaining their contribution and their well-being through a portfolio of activities. And you are an example of that, I think. TS: I think that is happening. My mother would have said you like to feel useful. That was her explanation. MS: I think people do like to feel part of something bigger.

    TS: I think though that there is another factor playing, and that is when the grandchildren arrive. You worry about their future. I worry about what is going to happen to our democracy unless we do something.

    MS: In the knowledge of some of the stuff we talked about at lunch, in particular that you and some of your contemporaries consider yourselves part of a very, very fortunate, if not the most fortunate, generation, can you think of some point turning points in your life? TS: I do feel extremely fortunate, and one of the areas of good fortune was decisions that I made which professionally turned out much more beneficial than I could have imagined. At the same time they could have been disastrous.

    MS: Does that mean that you took some risks that worked out?

    TS: Well, when I went to the Law Reform Commission in 1980, most of my colleagues thought I was crazy. I was getting off the ladder at the Bar in doing that, but as part of my legal education that was most important.

    And I suppose it might explain partly why I am here today, because I started looking at policy as a lawyer. When you train as a lawyer you tend not to look at policy because that may distract you from what the law is. But that was fascinating. And I have retained my interest in policy as a result.

    MS: And speaking of the ladder of the legal profession, that decision did not turn out to be a snake did it?

    TS: No. Again I was fortunate.

    MS: Yes, you were sitting on the bench for a while contributing.

    TS: Yes, for about 21 years. But I got paid for it.

    MS: Law, philosophy, politics; they are cousins, so I am not surprised that you have come out the other side doing this.

    TS: I think I came out a better lawyer as a result of that Law Reform Commission experience, but the other thing is when you find yourself in a position where you may be able to help make change happen for the better do you say no I am not going to bother?

    MS: Did you ever think of going into politics? TS: I did, actually – back in my 20s.

    MS: And? TS: I had a look at it. I in fact was a member of the ALP in the 60’s and 70’s. I got myself elected onto their Disputes Tribunal. And that gave me the chance to observe what politics was like, and I decided I was not suited to it.

    MS: Was there a moment, or a gradual awakening that you did not think this is what you wanted to do? TS: I did not think I was cut out for it.

    MS: In light of where we are now and what we’re talking about now, that’s perhaps not surprising. Would you have been any good? Would you have been an honest politician? TS: I think I would have had to try to get  into an upper house, for a start. There may be less scope for conflicts of interest up there, I don’t know. But when you look at the conflicts of interest, I think it is very hard, very hard.

    MS: I think most people who go into Parliament are decent people, and I think most of them have integrity. I think some of them don’t. And some of them lose their way. But I think that most people who go in there do so for the right reasons. But it is indeed a tough gig. And speaking of hard, what is the hardest thing you have ever had to do, Tim? That is a hard question, and is the final question to every guest in The Zone.

    TS: I have thought  about work situations and I have thought of personal situations and I’ll just briefly say this without elaborating, if I may: probably exercising the enduring power of attorney for my parents.

    MS: Say no more. I think a lot of people would understand that. Thank you very much for your time today. TS: It’s a pleasure.

    [1] Web site; www.accountabilityrt南京夜网.au

    2 http://www.youtube南京夜网/watch?v=VTOtpzMelyI

    3 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-in-politics-public-office-as-a-public-trust-is-there-hope/

    4 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-awards/sir-gerard-brennan-presentation-of-accountability-round-table-integrity-awards-dec-2013/

    5 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/inaugural-art-lecture-fred-chaney-integrity-parliament-where-does-duty-lie/

    6 [email protected]南京夜网

    7 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/

    8 Recent submission by ART to the Parliamentary JPONMt Committee on ACLEI – Submisson 11; http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Australian_Commission_for_Law_Enforcement_Integrity/Jurisdiction_of_ACLEI/Submissions

    9 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/about/

    10 http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-awards/

     

    [2] http://www.youtube南京夜网/watch?v=VTOtpzMelyI

    [3]http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-in-politics-public-office-as-a-public-trust-is-there-hope/

    [4] http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-awards/sir-gerard-brennan-presentation-of-accountability-round-table-integrity-awards-dec-2013/

    [5] http://www.accountabilityrt.org/inaugural-art-lecture-fred-chaney-integrity-parliament-where-does-duty-lie/

    [6] [email protected]南京夜网

    [7] http://www.accountabilityrt.org/

    [8] Recent submission by ART to the Parliamentary JPONMt Committee on ACLEI – Submisson 11; http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Australian_Commission_for_Law_Enforcement_Integrity/Jurisdiction_of_ACLEI/Submissions

    [9] http://www.accountabilityrt.org/about/

    [10] http://www.accountabilityrt.org/integrity-awards/

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • G20 nations to share tax information on multinationals to beat the cheats

    Date: 2019.07.17 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Treasurer Joe Hockey holds up a report with OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria in Cairns. Photo: William WestG20 leaders have recommitted to a new standard that would require multinationals to give governments detailed information about their tax affairs.
    南京夜网

    More than 90 jurisdictions will begin automatic exchange of tax information, using a common reporting standard by 2017 or 2018.

    Australia will have its systems in place by 2018, which will involve banks and other financial institutions setting up systems that will allow it to automatically feed information to government agencies.

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared the plan would “leave no place for tax cheats to hide”.

    In a joint statement with Treasurer Joe Hockey, Mr Abbott said leaders had “welcomed” OECD recommendations to restore “fairness, integrity and transparency” to the international tax system, but stopped short of saying there had been agreement on all aspects of the OECD plan.

    The OECD, on behalf of G20 governments, is working on the two-year Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan, with 15 separate parts, to address tax avoidance by multinationals who have for decades been able to channel profits through tax havens such as Bermuda.

    The part specifically dealing with how to get more tax out of digital companies such as Apple and Google – by preventing them from claiming they have no physical presence under old tax laws – has not yet been finalised.

    The communique said that “profits should be taxed where economic activities deriving the profits are performed and where value is created”.

    To allow this, the OECD is working to change the definition of “permanent establishment”, which in the old rules rested on companies having a physical presence. In the modern digital economy this has allowed companies to avoid tax by claiming most of their activity occurs in low-tax countries such as Ireland and Singapore, when in fact they may have a strong economic presence in Australia.

    A change to these rules would require countries to then determine who has taxing rights. As OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans said in an interview with Fairfax Media this week, it may result in countries battling for tax revenue.

    Despite this, there has been progress on the common reporting standard, which was initially agreed to at the G20 finance ministers meeting in Cairns last month, and would mean multinationals are required to give each country they operate in detailed information on transactions conducted in that country.

    It would “arm tax authorities around the world with the information they need to identify tax cheats and enforce the tax laws,” Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey said in the statement.

    The OECD has been criticised by groups such as Transparency International for not making the information public. But Mr Saint-Amans told Fairfax Media that the information would not be made public as it was too “commercially sensitive”.

    This is despite domestic laws in Australia from next year requiring Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan to publish the tax details of Australia’s top companies.

    The statement from Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey said G20 and OECD members, representing 44 countries and about 90 per cent of the world economy, were committed to the Action Plan reforms to bring international tax rules into the 21st century.

    “These reforms will restore the integrity of tax bases and ensure individuals and small businesses do not carry the tax burden unfairly,” the statement said.

    “They will also ensure countries receive the taxes they are due; revenue which can then be used to provide infrastructure and services to benefit their citizens.”

    The G20 is also working with developing countries on tax issues. Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey said Australia would do its part by assisting the Philippines to implement the automatic exchange of tax information, which would allow governments to share tax information held by banks and other financial institutions.

    The government statement said the OECD estimates that information exchange arrangements have already yielded $53billion dollars of revenue in about 20 OECD and G20 countries through increased voluntary disclosures by taxpayers.

    “Collaboration by tax authorities is the key to enforcing compliance and identifying tax risks,” the statement said.

    The communique also commended the OECD’s work in eradicating harmful tax practises, in particular the progress made in relation to patent box regimes.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Acquisitions not the only growth avenue for telco M2 Group

    Date: 2019.07.17 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    M2 Group chief executive Geoff Horth runs one of Australia’s quietest success stories – a telco that the average punter has probably never heard of.
    南京夜网

    But where some may see a silent public as a curse, he claims it is a blessing – a point that lets the company get on with growing profits for shareholders.

    The Melbourne-based telecommunications provider is best known as the owner of household names including Dodo, iPrimus and Commander. It has enjoyed a meteoric rise by buying its rivals to become a $1.5 billion giant.

    In an interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Horth said his goal was to make M2 one of the largest consumer internet service providers in the country with a double-digit percentage market share – up from the circa 6 per cent it currently holds. This will be done using the Dodo brand it bought in 2013 for $250 million.

    The company struggled for much of the year to convince shareholders it had shaken its reliance on using acquisitions to grow revenue and profits, having made more than 20 in the past five years alone. It recently stepped out of the race to buy energy reseller Lumo when the prices got too hot.

    “But our overall business did not do a transaction in financial year 2014 and yet for FY15 we’re guiding for 8 to 9 per cent revenue growth, which from a $1 billion revenue base is not trivial,” Mr Horth said. “That’ll drive 15 to 20 per cent net profit growth.

    “We want to remove once and forever the question of whether our business can grow organically and we don’t see any reason why we can’t continue this growth rate for many years to come.”

    M2’s low-cost products face huge competition from rivals such as TPG Telecom, which gets higher margins thanks to its ownership of infrastructure like fibre optic cabling. iiNet is also looking to ramp up sales in the small to medium business segment.

    But Credit Suisse thinks there is plenty of opportunity in the company, with its most recent note giving M2 an “outperform” rating on the stock and putting a target price of $9.35 per share on the company.

    The company’s share price also hit an all-time high of $8.45 thanks to a small number of high-volume trades that began on Thursday afternoon.

    Mr Horth said his organic strategy hinged on two key pillars – bundling energy products into telco offers and building its broadband subscriber base.

    “Energy is a highly, highly strategic part of our business,” he said. “It’s a $53 billion category and we’ve got $100 million of it today.

    “It would be very difficult to justify our new Dodo kiosk strategy without an energy product because we wouldn’t be making enough sales.”

    Getting products into the market is an area M2 will improve through acquisitions and new retail stores, Mr Horth said.

    Dodo aims to have 40 kiosks in centres across Australia selling internet, mobile and power products by early next year with some up and running by Christmas.

    “The retail strategy is a core ingredient for our growth in the medium term,” Mr Horth said. “It won’t pay dividends in FY15 or frankly FY16 materially but it’s about recognising that if we have hundreds of these things in three to four years’ time they’ll be the things delivering the next stage of growth.”

    And behind it all Mr Horth will aim to keep a low profile – the quiet parent of a garish birdy brand upon which M2’s hopes rely.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Aconex revisits float plans with smaller, discounted offering

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Aconex is back on track to float after its revised initial public offering secured $140 million from cornerstone investors.
    南京夜网

    A few weeks ago, the construction industry software provider took the unusual step of abandoning a plan to raise $230 million at $2.20 a share, following advice the stock was unlikely to receive enough support to perform well at listing.

    But joint lead managers Macquarie and UBS have now completed the institutional book-build for the re-engineered Aconex IPO, raising $140 million at $1.90 per share.

    “We had covered the book for a $230 million raising, but then the market came off, risk aversion was on the rise, investors were displaying a bit of IPO fatigue, and we wanted to make sure it traded well,” Macquarie head of equity capital markets origination Mark Warburton said.

    “The pipeline of technology companies coming to market is stronger than it has ever been. We are developing a really good local tech sector, but for that to work out this deal has to trade up.”

    Macquarie and UBS returned to Australian and Asian institutional investors that had supported the original Aconex IPO deal to cornerstone the new smaller, more competitively priced raise.

    The new deal also doubles the amount of existing shareholder stock held under voluntary escrow arrangements to more than 85 per cent. A large portion of these escrow conditions will expire after the 2015 results are announced.

    An updated prospectus is expected to be lodged with the regulators as early as Monday, after the new deal was struck on Friday and inked at the weekend.

    Exactly how much additional stock is to be made available in a small retail offer was still being determined. The listing is slated for December 9, 2014.

    Australia’s top two investment banks may have managed to convince Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot to give up $90 million in value so the float could be re-priced.

    “We are currently working with a number of other large technology companies that plan to list in early 2015,” Mr Warburton said.

    One company Macquarie is advising is Singaporean online real estate portal PropertyGuru, which Mr Warburton confirmed is targeting a listing in 2015.

    “Expect to see an increase in the number of south-east Asian technology companies listing in Australia,” he said.

    The listing of OzForex in 2013 kicked off the strongest wave of local large tech listings since the dot南京夜网 crash in 2001, including 3P Learning, Urbanise and now Aconex.

    “Over the past decade, investors have seen online businesses like Seek南京夜网, Carsales南京夜网 and Realestate南京夜网 grow in to multibillion-dollar companies that are global market leaders,” Mr Warburton said. “So the willingness of investors to put in the work to understand the more complicated models used to value high-growth internet businesses is growing.”

    Aconex will be the biggest float of an unprofitable technology company in the history of the local market. At listing the company will have a market capitalisation of $312 million.

    “The Aconex deal represents the next stage in the development of Australia’s equity capital markets. It proves that the local bourse can compete with the Nasdaq in attracting globally significant companies,” Mr Warburton said.

    “It also shows that while the pricing has to be competitive, Australian investors are becoming more willing to accept valuations based on revenue multiples, rather than the traditional emphasis on profit.”

    Founded in 2000, Aconex is today considered the market leader in collaboration software for the global construction industry. The company has offices in 22 countries, serving customers in more than 70 countries. Profits from the Australian operations have been plunged into offshore expansion, with the group forecast to record a net profit in the year ahead.

    Major international projects using the platform include the expansion of the Panama Canal, Hong Kong International Airport, Dubai Metro, Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and Battersea Power Station.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Was this fertiliser group taken to the cleaners by insolvency group and ANZ?

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    “Find out what yanks their chain. Prepare to get PO in court as soon as possible. Wants dirt on PO” – ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page giving directions to liquidators PPB.
    南京夜网

    “PO” is Pankaj Oswal, the flamboyant Indian petrochemical billionaire who came to Perth and set up the Burrup fertiliser plant. Burrup was trading profitably but ANZ put him into receivership and now Perth Federal Court judge Antony Siopis has ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the receivers PPB and how they managed to charge $34 million over 13 months, including $13 million on lawyers Freehills Herbert Smith.

    Besides the instructions from ANZ executive Chris Page to get “dirt” on Oswal – contained in a file note of a conference call – a slew of embarrassing revelations has emerged in the Federal Court proceedings in Perth.

    Here’s a taste: the Oswals claim PPB spent 48 hours filling out a form (a “second form 524”) and charged $19,240. Further high charges were incurred for the filling out of another form (a “third form 524”), a task which apparently endured for 19 hours though, according to the allegations, the form was still not filled out correctly.

    Before we delve further into the detail of these meaty charges, some context. Belligerent billing by liquidators and lawyers is hardly news but there is broader significance in the Burrup case as it is one of two epic legal battles afoot where judges have actually stepped in and investigated the behaviour of the insolvency profession – even to the point of lifting the veil of legal secrecy.

    The other is the Homeric year-long legal battle between John Viscariello and the Adelaide establishment, where judgment is slated to be handed down next week in the Supreme Court of South Australia.

    In an interim judgment in August 2012, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis dealt the liquidator of Viscariello’s home wares business (Peter Macks, then also from PPB) and his solicitors, Minter Ellison, a brutal blow.

    “I have formed the view that the proceedings were prosecuted recklessly, indifferent to the possibility that they might be an abuse,” he found.

    The liquidator had chewed up $500,000 chasing a debt of just $28,000. That $28,000 debt belonged to Viscariello’s girlfriend at the time, Tanya Hamilton-Smith. The case got personal. PPB and Minters tried to get at Viscariello’s assets by bankrupting Hamilton-Smith and a plethora of lawsuits ensued.

    In the Viscariello case, the dogged plaintiff, John Viscariello, became a lawyer and funded the cases himself. In Burrup, the lawsuits have been funded by Oswal, a billionaire who feels slighted by the system – though his own conduct as chairman of Burrup had certainly not been beyond reproach.

    Responding for this story, ANZ said Oswal’s wife has previously admitted in court documents her husband forged security documents and they had “refused to return to Australia to face these serious allegations”.

    “Mr Page’s colloquial language shouldn’t distract from the serious fraud and tax allegations Mr Oswal is currently facing,” it said. “Given the gravity of the situation, it was incumbent on ANZ to ensure these allegations were fully investigated.”

    A statement from PPB Advisory said the firm “looks forward to addressing the matters you and Mr Oswal have raised in the appropriate forum: the Federal Court. The receivership of the Burrup Fertilisers assets involved very great complexity. PPB is proud of the outcome of the receivership and of the integrity of its people carrying out their roles”.

    The Oswals claim the receivership of the Burrup fertiliser plant ought to have been a relatively straightforward affair. The plant was not put up for sale. Aside from departure of Pankaj Oswal, there were no major changes in its 100-strong workforce. It was sitting on millions of dollars of cash and made a profit of $10 million a month. This was no distressed asset. Yet, according to Oswal, what resulted was a no holds barred fee frenzy in respect of which he was obliged to pick up the tab.  He has petitioned the court for a refund. He also wants each of the receivers deregistered, fined and banned from practice.

    Had not these actions – both Burrup and Viscariello – been well funded and pursued with high indignation, however, the behaviour of the liquidators and the lawyers might never have come to light.

    The central question for Siopis in the Burrup matter is whether there was a “proper purpose” for the charges incurred by PPB and its assorted advisers.

    Of the $34 million in receivership costs over just 13½ months, PPB raked in $14 million in fees, including $2.2 million in the last six weeks. PPB claims the receivership was a complex one with litigation to resolve. Legal fees in the last six weeks of the receivership were $1.4 million, mostly accruing to Freehills.

    Here is a sample of some of the claims about the receivership.

    * PPB flew wives and personal assistants interstate for New Year Eve celebrations;

    * The unlawful charging of pre-appointment fees;

    * Discrepancies between time sheets and invoices;

    * Charging for work that was allegedly never performed;

    * PPB staff recording exactly 7.5 hours a day;

    * Charging for dry-cleaning, groceries, snacks, stationery and even a traffic infringement notice;

    * Using Burrup’s corporate box at the Fremantle Football Club;

    * Charging for the solicitation of post-receivership work;

    * Resourcing the receivership with its staff from Melbourne whose travels cost Oswal a staggering $2.8 million.

    THE CONTENTIOUS INVOICES

    PPB invoiced partner Brendan Rew for $765 to “trip to Dalkeith and Peppermint Grove personal properties to conduct surveillance” on Pankaj Oswal. Another employee, Royden Saldana, was charged out for $620 for “travel to and from the directors’ properties”.

    Among the large unitemised invoices to ANZ was $149,000 spent in last three days of receivership. Partner Jeff Herbert spent 14 hours doing “privileged”. Partner Simon Theobald also spent five hours doing “privileged”; examples of what the Oswals’ claim describes as “alleged activity”.

    Among the $2.8 million in travel costs was a hotel bill, $948 per night, for a Joshua Stacks, an “Analyst/Intermediate 1”.

    The receivership was also billed for “government liaison” – some $13,200 by Robert Fisher who urged that Burrup renew its sponsorship and box at the Fremantle Football Club from September 2011 to January 2012.

    “One of the reasons Mr Fisher identified for such renewal was that PPB staff had used the table at the President’s Suite along with the ‘prime position seating’ to the games and obtained access to government officials and business leaders,” claims the Oswal pleadings.

    Then there were charges of $172,000 for PR firm Hintons, including $58,654.75 for “media monitoring services and press releases” in the last six weeks of the receivership.

    Also included in the travel expense was a traffic infringement notice. Some $1.4 million went on “professional fees” for professionals travelling and conducting while undertaking “travel-related activities”. Of this, $573,000 was incurred for activities carried out while on an aircraft.

    Although PPB chose to send a lot of staff from Melbourne to Perth to conduct the receivership, there were still bills for flights to Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and London.

    Partners, of which there were many, flew business class. Also, their personal assistants were flown to Perth and put up in hotels. Emily Bruce was flown from Melbourne to Perth to for four nights over New Year’s Eve 2010 and was accommodated at the Duxton Hotel, and again in January. No activities related to Burrup have been cited, according to the claim.

    Another PA, Emily Smith, also flew to Perth around New Year’s in 2010 for four nights.

    Siopis has reserved his judgment in an application by receivers and PPB partners Ian Carson, David McEvoy and Theobald to keep out of court many of the embarrassing allegations of misconduct made against them.

    In a hearing on October 15, Oswal’s barrister, Martin Goldblatt, used the term “tantamount to fraud” a number of times. He said the  PPB documents obtained under discovery had “lifted the veil of secrecy under which this receivership was conducted” and “reveal a systematic failure of administration and integrity right from the outset and until the very end”.

    PPB’s legal team asked the court to limit the scope of the inquiry.

    The Oswals’ legal team has accused ANZ of “aiding, abetting of being knowingly concerned … in breaches of duty … by the receivers and others” and “conducting the receivership for improper purpose”.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Sri Lanka raises the tax stakes on James Packer’s casino proposal

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    James Packer’s Crown group faces a new set of hurdles in his quest to open a $US400 ($457) million casino in Sri Lanka after threats by the country’s president that new gaming levies will be imposed should he win the upcoming January elections.
    南京夜网

    Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is set to seek an unprecedented third six-year term, announced new funding measures in his latest budget.

    This includes a $100 entrance fee and a 10 per cent gaming levy on three proposed casino resorts, including one venture that includes Mr Packer’s Crown Ltd.

    Crown confirmed that it is still in discussions with the Sri Lankan government and did not comment further.

    Mr Packer has been actively pursuing clearance for his proposed mixed-use resort development in Sri Lanka.

    In May this year the government gave approval for all three projects to go ahead, without the casinos, and also granted 10-year tax breaks – despite strong opposition.

    The opposition UNP and some of Mr Rajapaksa’s own coalition partners who broke ranks voted against the tax concessions but the government has a comfortable majority in the 225-member legislature and the legislation was passed.

    There has been speculation that the three projects would be able to operate as casinos by transplanting the licences already held by local partners.

    Crown is undertaking the push into Sri Lanka with a local partner, Rank Holdings, which holds two casino licences.

    Mr Packer has previously remarked that Sri Lanka’s ambitious tourism targets were “only achievable with the right tourism infrastructure and attractions” and cited the success of Singapore in turning around its performance as a tourism destination with the development of two casino resorts.

    At the Crown annual general meeting in mid October, Mr Packer said: “As I have spoken about in the past, Crown is also looking at the rise of the middle class in other parts of Asia, including India. We are negotiating with potential joint venture partners and the Sri Lankan government to target this market by building the country’s first luxury integrated resort in Colombo and that work continues”.

    Crown’s projected opening in Sri Lanka is 2018, and it is being billed as the country’s first integrated resort with 450 luxury rooms, a signature restaurant and bars, a spa and pool and a “thematic lake water feature”.

    Mr Packer’s push into South East Asia follows the success of his Macau venture, Melco Crown Entertainment.

    Crown is also looking at expanding into Philippines and Japan, as well as a new property in Las Vegas.

    But Crown is also growing in Australia with a “six star” hotel and casino at Barangaroo in Sydney, which got the green light for a restricted gaming licence for Crown Sydney, from the NSW government in May.

    Lend Lease, which is developing the $6 billion Barangaroo site, has said it is in “ongoing discussions” with all the “stakeholders” in the project.

    “Nothing has changed [with Crown’s plan] … it is a very significant piece of land and we must consider a whole lot of options with a range of land owners,” Lend Lease’s chief executive Steve McCann said after his group’s annual general meeting last Friday.

    Crown has also entered into an agreement with a subsidiary of the international Chinese diversified property group, Greenland Holdings Group, to jointly prepare a detailed proposal to bid for the development of the Queen’s Wharf precinct in Brisbane.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Eddie Obeid: the weapon of choice in Auburn preselection stoush

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Eddie Obeid wrote a letter of support for Barbara Perry when she was campaigning in the 2001 byelection which saw her elected to the NSW Parliament. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer MP Barbara Perry said Eddie Obeid’s endorsement letter was a campaign initiative of ALP head office.
    南京夜网

    Corrupt former Labor minister Eddie Obeid has become the latest weapon in the increasingly bitter ALP preselection battle for the state seat of Auburn, with the emergence of a glowing letter of endorsement he wrote for incumbent MP Barbara Perry.

    Mr Obeid penned his letter of support for Ms Perry when she was campaigning in the 2001 byelection which saw her elected to the NSW Parliament.

    In the letter, Mr Obeid noted Ms Perry is the daughter of Lebanese migrants to Australia who speaks fluent Arabic and whose maiden name is Abood.

    “Barbara is one of us,” Mr Obeid wrote. “She understands migrants and the issues which confront them, especially problems facing our youth at school and work. I am very proud to support Barbara Perry.”

    Mr Obeid has since been expelled from the Labor Party after having several official corruption findings against him and may face criminal charges.

    The potentially embarrassing endorsement has emerged just days after Ms Perry charged her opponent in the preselection, former Auburn mayor Hicham Zraika, with branch stacking offences under Labor party rules.

    Ms Perry is demanding the party investigate allegations that Cr Zraika paid for memberships and has been recruiting members who do not live at their claimed addresses to influence the ballot.

    If the allegations are found to be true, Ms Perry wants him suspended or expelled from the party. Cr Zraika denies the allegations.

    Ms Perry said the endorsement letter was a campaign initiative of ALP head office which it paid for and distributed.

    She said an endorsement letter from then Premier Bob Carr was also circulated to the community before the byelection.

    “Attempts to try and link me personally to a former minister found by the ICAC to have acted corruptly is nothing more than a sideshow distraction from the current spotlight on the serious local branch membership irregularities that I have been raising with head office for more than three-and-a-half years,” she said.

    Cr Zraika has received endorsements from federal shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Werriwa MP Laurie Ferguson.

    Mr Bowen’s October 20 letter stated he had “no hesitation in attesting that Cr Zraika is a fit and proper person to represent our party in the state election” and found him to be “honest, trustworthy and appropriate at all times”.

    Mr Ferguson, a senior figure in the rival left faction, said he was confident Cr Zraika “would be a fitting representative, attuned to the area’s constituents”.

    Ms Perry said she had seven endorsement letters from community members but did not approach MPs.

    On Friday, Ms Perry’s charge was referred to the party’s internal tribunal for investigation. The preselection is due on December 6.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Murder trial with a twist: defamation jury to decide if Gordon Wood killed Caroline Byrne

    Date: 2019.06.16 | Category: 南京夜网 | Response: 0

    Gordon Wood was acquitted of murdering his girlfriend almost three years ago. Photo: Adam HollingworthAlmost three years after Gordon Wood was acquitted of murdering his girlfriend Caroline Byrne, a court has been asked to decide the question again – this time, with a lower standard of proof.
    南京夜网

    The murder trial with a twist is the result of defamation proceedings brought by Mr Wood against newspaper publisher Nationwide News for alleging he did kill the Sydney model, whose body was found at the base of cliffs at The Gap in the early hours of June 8, 1995.

    A former chauffeur to stockbroker Rene Rivkin, Mr Wood was acquitted of the murder of Ms Byrne by the Court of Criminal Appeal in February 2012 after spending three-and-a-half years behind bars.

    The acquittal, which followed a guilty verdict in 2008, appeared to mark the final chapter in one of the state’s longest-running cases.

    But Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum said on Friday that the defamation case against Nationwide News would, in effect, involve the publisher “re-running the Crown case in the criminal trial” with a lower standard of proof that applies in civil cases.

    Nationwide News is defending the case on the basis that the allegation of murder is true. A 12-person jury will have to decide whether it has proven that Mr Wood killed Ms Byrne “on the balance of probabilities”, that is, it is more likely than not that he did.

    In a criminal trial where the liberty of an accused hangs in the balance, the Crown is held to a much higher standard and must prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    Mr Wood brought defamation proceedings against four media outlets last year, including radio stations 2GB and 2UE. The court heard on Friday the Nationwide News case is now the “last one standing” after a string of settlements.

    Mr Wood’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told Justice McCallum on Friday that he had settled his case against Channel Seven Sydney, which was to be tried at the same time as the case against Nationwide News.

    In September this year, Justice McCallum ordered that the case should be decided by a jury of 12 rather than four.

    “The determination of an allegation of murder is one which weighs heavily on those who have to determine it,” Justice McCallum said in a preliminary judgment.

    “In my view, a group of twelve jurors rather than four is better equipped to bear that responsibility.”

    She added the original trial received “a great deal of media attention” and a larger jury might help “dilute the influence of any single juror whose passions or antipathies may be aroused for or against one of the parties”.

    The court heard on Friday that Mr Wood had been resisting providing written answers under oath to questions, known as interrogatories, served on him by Nationwide News as part of its preparation for the case.

    At least one of the questions related to his movements on the night of Ms Byrne’s death and his answers would form part of the evidence in the trial.

    Ms Chrysanthou said it would be “oppressive” and “vexatious” to require Mr Wood to recall events from 20 years ago and he had already provided statements to police and journalists that could be used in the case. He did not give evidence in his murder trial.

    Justice McCallum ruled on Friday that Mr Wood should answer the questions.

    In 2012, the Court of Criminal Appeal found there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Wood had murdered Ms Byrne, then 24. The court said it was unclear how Ms Byrne fell to her death or whether Mr Wood had any involvement.

    The defamation trial is expected to run for up to eight weeks. A date will be set next year.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.