Tax dodger Pat Rafter should never have been awarded the Australian of the Year award whilst he is living in Bermuda to minimise the slice that Australia gets of his estimated $40 million in career earnings.

This is what AAP is running on the announcement:

Tennis ace Pat Rafter today paid tribute to the country’s firefighters after being named 2002 Australian of the Year.

The announcement was made by Governor-General Peter Hollingworth at a ceremony at Admiralty House, in the Sydney harbour suburb of Kirribilli.

Accepting the award, Rafter said every firefighter who gave up their Christmas to help battle the devastating NSW bushfires, deserved the honour of being made Australian of the Year.

“This year I particularly think of those firefighters from all over Australia who gave up their Christmas and put their lives in danger to help out their mates – I think of every one of them as Australian of the Year,” he told guests at Admiralty House.

Rafter, the world number six ranked tennis player who is on an indefinite break from the game, described the award as the “high-point” of his life.

“This is an unbelievable honour,” he said.

“World rankings and winning grand slams have meant a lot to me but I consider being named as Australian of the Year to be the high-point of my life so far.”

He said he often thought he might pick up the Australian Sportsman of the Year award but never dreamed he would be named Australian of the Year.

“I thought I may have won Australian Sportsman of the Year but Mick Doohan kept getting in the way, and I was pretty hacked off at him actually,” he said.

“I thought maybe Australian Sportsman but never this award.”

Rafter thanked his family and partner Lara Feltham, and said his parents taught him it was not about winning or losing.

“I still remember the stuff she (mum) showed me when I dropped my racquet over the back fence,” he said.

National Australia Day Council chairperson Lisa Curry-Kenny said Rafter would be a very popular choice with the people of Australia.

“For Pat, not only is he a great sportsman, but he’s a great Australian and I think he’d do a great job in the year to come,” Ms Curry-Kenny said.

Earlier this week it was reported Rafter, one of nine children, is to become a father, with girlfriend Lara Feltham expecting a baby in July.


Should Pat be Bermudan of the year

How can a bloke who deliberately structures himself to give the smallest possible slice of his earnings in tax to the federal government then be rewarded by that same government.

Par Rafter might rank as Bermudan of the year but this is just like declaring Rupert Murdoch Australian of the Year when he is an American citizen. It is not on and reflects Australia’s blinkered obsession with sporting heros. We allows crooks like Alan Bond to run rampant just because he wins a yacht race and we decorate people who are good at sport even if they deliberately minimise their Australian tax payments.

It is true that we are have some of the highest income tax rates in the world but if it is good enough for Lleyton Hewitt to stay in Australia it should be good enough for the Australian of the Year.

Lleyton Hewitt would have been a far more deserving winner because he is the only member of the Australian Davis Cup team who remains resident in Australia, he won the US Open this year and he became the first Australian since the 1970s to reach the number one ranking.

To illustrate the point you should read this article from BRW on December 13 last year.


Lleyton Hewitt’s victory in the final of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Masters Cup event in Sydney on November 18 capped a brilliant year for Australian tennis. The $3 million Hewitt collected for winning the tournament helped to make him the fourth-highest earner in Australian sport this year, with estimated gross income of $16.5 million. Yet as the earnings power of Hewitt extends off the court and into the marketing world, most of Australia’s top tennis players must rely on doubles tournaments to earn a living.

Hewitt, 20, is aggressive, brash and sometimes controversial. He rose to prominence in 1998 when he won his first professional title, the Adelaide Open, in his home town. But 2001 was his year: he played in 33 events, winning six singles titles, including the United States Open, and a total of $US4.04 million in prizemoney. That was about $US42,141 a match, or $US15,266 for every set he played.

In January, Hewitt arrived as a marketing force when he signed a sponsorship deal with the clothing and footwear manufacturer Nike, believed to be worth about $30 million over five years. After Hewitt signed the deal, a Nike spokesman said: “If you combine his obvious tennis talent with his personality, he’s the complete package. He’s also young, to boot.”

Hewitt’s other sponsorship deals, including arrangements with Valiant Hire office furniture, American Express (during the US Open) and the racquet manufacturer Yonex, are believed to be worth about $1.7 million.

John McCurdy, Hewitt’s manager at the athlete management company Octagon, agrees that Hewitt has had a brilliant year. “It’s incredible what he’s achieved at his age.” McCurdy says that although Hewitt’s age indicates he has a long career ahead of him, his schedule and commitments are managed carefully.

McCurdy says Octagon receives a steady stream of endorsement offers, but Hewitt is selective about which companies he associates himself with, and watches the amount of time he will have to devote to each. “You’ve got to be mindful about not over-committing Lleyton. We’re always looking for three or four really good long-term associations that fit well with his profile.”

Hewitt has chosen to remain living in Australia, unlike Patrick Rafter, who is a resident of the Caribbean island of Bermuda, where he pays no income tax (Rafter earned about $8.9 million this year).

McCurdy says that although Australia’s top marginal tax rate of 48.5% eats into Hewitt’s earnings, Hewitt has no plans to move. “Even though he could have had a better tax situation living somewhere else, he’s chosen to [live] here, which is a nice thing.”

Hewitt plays at the big-money end of professional tennis. But the stereotypical view of the lives of big-earning players such as Hewitt and Rafter – private jets, luxury hotel rooms, large prizemoney cheques and even larger endorsement deals – is not true for many top Australian tennis players.

Managing a player’s future is an important issue. McCurdy says wealth creation is a key part of a manager’s role. Hewitt left school soon after turning professional in 1998 and McCurdy says Hewitt’s father, Glynn, is mindful of providing for a life after tennis, closely watching his son’s spending and investments. It seems to be working: “Haven’t got a house, haven’t got a car,” joked Hewitt, who still lives with his parents, after his Masters Cup victory.


And now you should check this piece which ran in Strewth Magazine back in 2000.

Our non-Australian Davis Cup team

Just how Australian is the Australian Davis Cup team? You might be surprised to find out that almost all of the players who’ve played Davis Cup for Australia in the last few years live in other countries. They either don’t think Australia’s the best little country in the world, or they’re a pack of tax dodging, public fund rorting, no good cheating bastards. Take your pick.

“Our” Pat Rafter lives in Bermuda. Australia’s own Mark Woodforde spent much of his tennis career living in Monte Carlo, before setting up a ranch in California. The Poo, and his comrades Todd Woodbridge and Sandon Stolle live in the tennis and golf star ghetto that is Florida. Even Wayne Arthurs, that chronic first round loser, lives overseas. Only that little Ausssie battler Leyton Hewitt still calls Australia home, in Adelaide, presumably with his mum.

So what’s up with these blokes? Greed got the better of them? Don’t want to lend a hand to their future competitors at the Institute of Sport? Perhaps they’re conducting a mass protest about tax payer dollars being used to prop up private schools and the private health care system. Whatever it is, tax dollars have got something to do with it.

In Pat Rafter’s home town of Pembroke, Bermuda you don’t pay income tax. None at all. So while Our Pat gives generously to children’s charities, he doesn’t give much to Queensland schools, roads and hospitals. He only pays the Australian Tax Office a cut on the money he earns through Australian tournaments and Australian sponsors.

Like Bermuda, Mark Woodforde’s old home town of Monte Carlo is also a tax haven where personal income tax rates are zero. In the other Woody’s home state of Florida, the tax regime also suits Australian tennis players. In the U.S. the top marginal tax rate is 39 cents in the dollar, compared to 48 cents in the Australian dollar. The top Aussie rate also kicks in a hell of a lot earlier and the Aussie is only worth half the Greenback so if you’re earning plenty, it is much better to live in Florida than Australia, especially because in Florida there just happens to be no state taxes.

The player’s managers and financial advisers will tell you that they have to leave Australia to play on the international circuit. But this doesn’t explain why Leyton Hewitt can manage to live in Adelaide and Pat Rafter has to live in a tax haven in Bermuda. Or why golfers like Greg Norman, Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby live in Florida, while Wayne Grady and Mike Harwood live in Australia. Or why legends of tennis like Ross Case, Geoff Masters and Phil Dent could stay put and live and pay taxes in their own country.

For athletes playing team sports it makes sense when they move overseas. They have to live where their team is based. It’s less important for golfers and tennis players as they end up living out of hotel rooms when they play the circuit.

The Australian Sports Commission gives out $14 million worth of scholarships a year and gives out $28 million in grants. Most of that money goes to elite athletes. But many elite athletes are not contributing to these government funded sports institutes because they’re paying their taxes, if any at all, overseas.

Mark Phillipousis and Todd Woodbridge are two of the athletes who benefited from government funded scholarships at the Australian Institute of Sport, and now pay taxes to the U.S. government. They’ve both made millions from tennis, but aren’t required to put money back into the Institute of Sport. There’s no HECS style scheme for athletes who received sporting scholarships from the AIS.

So should we try and recoup the scholarship money of highly paid sports stars who move overseas? If we can’t do that we should at least make them play Davis Cup for their adopted nations. Imagine seeing Pat Rafter lead Bermuda in a Davis Cup Tie against Australia. At least the fans would make him pay.


Why has Pat let his family tennis court go to rack and ruin

Given that Pat Rafter is worth more than $40 million and pays no income tax in Bermuda, you’d think he’s have plenty of money to splash around his family.

When Crikey was holidaying recently on the Sunshine Coast, we drove past the long-time Rafter family home near Eumundi, about 15 minutes drive west of Noosa.

Pat’s dad Jim Rafter is still living on the former dairy farm which the Rafter clan moved into in 1980 when accountant Jim stopped worked for MIM in Mt Isa. He’s been busily trying to sub-divide and develop the farm over the past few years with negligible success.

As you can see from this first photo, Jimmy Rafter can’t be at all happy to have only sold 3 of 20 lots in Rafter Valley since he started trying to sell them about five years back. Sounds like the lad is being greedy and asking too much.

And make no doubt about it, Jimmy is using the Pat Rafter name to try and boost his property sales as this billboard suggests. That’s Stephen Mayne looking like a dill, by the way:

But this one really is the lowlight of this little story. This tennis court is where our Australian of the year honed his skills from the age of 10 for about a decade until his mum moved to Brisbane a few years back so Pat could be closer to the main game. How can the Australian of the year who pays no tax and is worth $40 million, allow the tennis court that is still owned by his family finish up in this condition. The net is in tatters, there is grass growing all over the asphalt court and one of the light poles is uprooted. This is an embarrassment that Pat should move to fix immediately:

Now that we’ve really had a go at Pat, we should say that he is a gentleman and a great tennis player, but we’ve just got to keep this in perspective. Australia is way too obsessed about sport and 3 of the last 5 winners have been sports people. Where are the business leaders, scientists and artists?

Okay, now it’s your turn to express views about Pat

Stephen, how dare you get stuck into a ‘national icon’!

As much I have enjoyed Pat Rafter’s tennis, sportsmanship and easy going personalitly, his selection as Australian of the Year does, lower the credibilty of the award.

It is true that we tend to have a preoccupation with sportstars. But I think the real problem lies with ‘political correctness’.

It can come in many forms, but when it shapes your national identity as it has in Australia, you know it’s a problem.

I have know doubt that one of the reasons we are still celebrating the arrival of the British as our national day -when every other nation celebrates their departure – is because of political correctness.

The structural dominance of British imperialism since their arrival has prevented us from becoming modern. Modern in the sense that we have not become a republic; have not recognised and dealt with the blatant wrongs of the past; and have not been able to achieve a desireable national identity.

All of this has prevented us from becoming a strong, independent nation and has seen us continually want to feel part of something bigger and better. This bigger and better used to be the British Empire, but more recently, the United States. For me, this relationship was epitomised when George Bush put his arm around a childlike, grinning John Howard last September. Can you imagine Paul Keating Gough Whitlam, or even Malcom Fraser allowing that?

Constantly pandering and sucking up to these larger, more powerful nations will surely keep us in the position where we have no other choice.

I love my sport, but it is Australia’s love for sport, or watching sport, that will always push aside the real achievers that are trying to move this country forward.

Cheers, Tony

Cheers for charity donations

It has always been my opinion that Pat Rafter’s charity work and any donation he makes to his charity is a pseudo tax. He gave $300,000 donation to start Cherish the Children Foundation and everyone cheers and claps. Great bloke they say, then he gets Aussie of the year.

No one ever clapped and cheered me when I paid my proper taxes. That turd Packer is the same.

Regards, Redneck

Tax evader of the year

Dear Crikey,

Thank you, thank you, thank you – at least someone sees the ridiculous nature of this award.

Why do we as a nation reward those that massively avoid paying tax (ie MILLIONS out of the public purse, in terms of funding for education, legal & Health services) and people who live overseas as Australians of the Year?

Can someone please explain this to me?

I emailed the age today with this and thankfully they ran a cover (online only) story entitled,

‘TOP HONOUR: Despite not living in Australia, tennis star Pat Rafter has been named the 2002 Australian of the Year. ‘

They also said: ‘Rafter has previously said he lives in Bermuda because he is anonymous there. Seven of the 32 men’s seeds playing in the Australian Open have similar reasons for living in another zero-tax haven, Monaco. Conversely, the world No.1, Lleyton Hewitt, has a home in Adelaide, where the top tax rate is 48 per cent.’

Perhaps next year we can actually have an AUSTRALIAN as aussie of the year, who pays tax and contributes EQUALLY as the rest of us do. ie Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, bush fire fighters, school teachers, outback doctors, etc…ie people who make a real difference and actually live here.

Cheers, Nick Miller

Tax avoiding idiot gets gonged

Dear Stephen

Well the Courier-Mail has this to say today:

Pat Rafter: “I’m setting up now back in Australia, now with Lara and everything, and the award. This move back to Australia will be a smart thing to do.”

Chairwoman of the National Australia Day Council Lisa Curry Kenny said Nicole Kidman, Ian Thorpe, John Eales, Baz Luhrmann, and crocodile hunter Steve Irwin had been among the finalists for the Australian of the Year.

Rafter was humble in receiving the award, but could not shed light on just why he had been nominated.

“Australians must love an idiot,” he said.

OK Stephen I’m not sure what’s worse the potential to have Steve Irwin as Australian of the Year or a self-confessed idiot who’s smart enough to avoid taxes?

It’s a close call.