The obligations of political donations

Crikey – your challenge to the media to investigate and report on
political donations under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, particularly
in relation to the giant loophole that is “associated entities”, is to
be congratulated.  

However, nobody seems to talk any more about what might be done to
attack political influence buying, which has just about destroyed the
American democratic process, and is fast doing the same here.

In 1989 the JSCEM, chaired by Michael Lee MP, published a report called
“Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune”. The report suggested that
political parties could be given free time on the radio and television
for election campaigns, obviating the need for the parties to accept
major funding from sources who later demand the quid pro quo, or in the
alternative, that political advertising could be banned from the media
altogether during election campaigns.

The latter proposal was particularly stupid, as the Mason High Court
finally made clear in its “free speech” decisions. The “free time”
approach never got past first base, presumably because the ALP did not
relish facing up to Packer/Murdoch and making laws that might interfere
with their massive advertising revenues. However, such laws would
probably get past the High Court and could have a real democratic
benefit. If talking heads from the three or four larger parties were
allowed say five minutes free time (even just on the ABC/SBS) every day
during the election campaign….

HECS the missing tax

Love the tax information, why does neither major party mention the
dirty HECS word?  How many Australians now have an additional 6%
TAX on their earnings?
 I don’t see the media reporting on this as well.  Are all
the journos exempt from this or do their mummies and daddies pay for
their degrees?
Everyone is talking about top level marginal tax rates, but for a fair
amount of younger Aussies, you can add an additional 6% to those
My parent’s generation (baby boomers) for a fair amount of their lives
basically only had to pay for their “present.”  Then with the
intro of compulsory super, they had to pay for their “present” and
“future”.  Gen X’ers have to pay for their “present”, their
“Future” and their “past”, while absorbing nearly unheard of increases
in the cost of housing, which profits have been handed to the baby
Talk about wedge politics, the real wedge that the Coward Govt has used is the wedge between the Gen X’ers and the baby boomers.

CRIKEY: For more on tax see How Costello can become PM

Rehabilitated and the gun totting gun chairman

Re the James Minder story and his resignation from the presidency of US
gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson, it really does raise issues of
whether or not someone can successfully be rehabilitated and accepted
back into society.

James Minder has certainly been rehabilitated, but not it would seem accepted.
Minder committed his crimes over 30 years ago. Since then he has led a
life which is absolutely exemplary and even better than exemplary. He
established a foundation in Michigan providing social services to kids
in need. He has helped countless young people. In a literary sense he
will remind all of your widely read crikey readers of the central
figure of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables who upon being the recipient of
an unconditional act of kindness turned his life around.
So, after all of that Minder is forced from his new position. Why? What
example does that set? Why not say he did his time and he should be
held up as a role model of how a prisoner can turn his life around and
make a positive contribution after being released?
I heard an account from the Arizona Republic reporter who broke the
story. He told how he had rung James Minder to confront him with the
story and to get his response. At that stage, the reporter thought it
must be a case of mistaken identity. At first, Minder said he must have
got the wrong fellow. Minder then rang the journo back (all of 15
minutes later) and said yes it was him. You can almost imagine what was
going through his mind in those 15 minutes. After all he had been
through. After all he had done in recompense, still he was dogged with
his past.
I cannot help but think that it is a terrible terrible shame.

What are Telstra’s priorities?

I’ve been following the articles on Crikey regarding the leaking of Telstra’s proposal to aquire the Fairfax group.

One salient point that your columnists and letter writers seem to miss
is, if Telstra can contemplate spending $3bn on Fairfax why the hell
can’t they supply me with a reliable phone line.


CRIKEY: Check out Crikey’s Telstra/Fairfax coverage

Andrew Bolt and One Nation
I noted with alarm your piece on Andrew Bolt articles being greeted
warmly by a One Nation website. By this standard is Albert Langer a
neo-conservative? He certainly has some opinions in common with the
neo-cons – pro Gulf War 2 etc, but this makes a Vietnam Moratorium,
vote abstaining Marxist a neo-con?
So is Andrew Bolt a One Nation supporter? I don’t think so, he isn’t a
Muslim Turk either, and yet he has written in support of the Northern
Cyprus Republic. How about admitting that commentators don’t fit nice
boxes that satisfy categories. They are thinking human beings not
automatons (sometimes this is doubtful – but hey live and let live).
If Bolt writes on some issues from a fairly old fashioned blue-collar
conservative bent then so be it. An ignorant xenophobe he isn’t.
Various groups will always look at the media and pass around pieces
that support their cause. I have seen Crikey mentioned by causes that
would make Mr Mayne blush.
This post-modern media system will always have articles and even
sentences being taken as gestures of support by all manner of wackos,
cliches and fringe dwellers.
My two cents worth.
Tim Warner

Defence reporters and their sources

I just wanted to respond to this piece. I was a TV journalist based in Wagga Wagga where the army has

it’s recruit training centre at Kapooka; where everyone who joins the army does their 6 week initial training.

I profess to knowing more about the military than the average dumbarse journalist, and often saw basic

factual errors, not only in the reporting in East Timor (where the
blond bimbo habitually did pieces to camera in front of the same APC
night after night), but also in Iraq.

I think the solution is a media-training course. The only problem is that costs money. Who would pay?

Certainly not the tight-arses that run the media these days. They couldn’t give a rats arse if you called it

a Steyr or a Bangstick!  I also think the army might have
reservations about this and attempt to “de-brief” any soldiers that
have contact with the media during any such course. Can you imagine if
a story came out from a journalist who had done a course who had a
“well placed source”? The entire training course team would hauled over
the coals.

But I still think some sort of media training course is the best solution to address the military ignorance

that plagues modern Australian journalism.


The Jetstar – Virgin bunfight

Hey come one!  – You are stretching it a bit describing Avalon as a
dusty airstrip 60kms from Melb.  It has been used for many years as a
training centre for pilots manning the big birds and since purchase by
Lindsay Fox has been the point of departure for much of our fresh
produce to Asia. (In fact there is a chance that the Melbourne fresh
food market will relocate to Avalon) Facts are: Skybus have announced a
shuttle from CBD to Avalon at the same price as Tullamarine ($13);
travel by private car will not attract Tolls (as Tullamarine does) and
parking at Avalon will be free.

Frank at Boga

Why GST is killing small business

The ATO is operating a bit of a scam on small business.  Recently,
we got a letter from the tax department saying that we owed an extra
$4500 or so.  Apparently, the ATO assessed that my company which
has never yet made a profit, would make a profit of $40k this year and
that we must pay $14k tax in quarterly instalments.  There was no
explanation of this, merely a figure inserted into the BAS form. 
Since we have trouble finding time to fill this in without having an
ATO tricks to contend with, we did not see the added figure.  A
quick phone call to the ATO verified that there was no way to vary the
figure once the BAS due date is passed.

Currently, I am paying off that which I cannot vary but I am one of the
lucky ones, I will probably be able to afford it.  Another client
of my accountant had a one-off increase in income in the relevant
period, failed to notice the addition to his BAS, which he lodged on
the last day it was due, as most small businesses do, and now must find
$450 000.  Apparently, a scheme of arrangement could not be found
and so he is in Court and likely to be made broke by the ATO.

I will be looking more closely in future, and apparently there is a
means to vary the ATO figure, which does not account for losses in the
business or any of the other things would normally result in the
reduction of tax.  Once again, one has to be a tax accountant
first and then attend to the technical parts of the business second.

Our GST compliance costs are relatively high – we spend about 20-30h a
month that we did not spend before.  There was also no way that
the cost of this was limited to 10% of what charged previously.

Bring back Roll-Back!


Calculating Howard’s assets


Following on from your story the other week on the personal wealth of
the G7 leaders, I’d be very surprised if PM Howard has only M$1 in
assets.   My reasoning:

  • When he became PM, the Howard family home was a two story number
    in Wollstonecraft (a toney Lower North Shore Sydney suburb).  Now
    my source believes that he has since sold and bought elsewhere – a post
    PM pied a terre perchance?  Having said that, presuming he bought
    ‘across’ market ie. at the same level, it would be almost impossible
    for the value not to be double now.  The Wollstonecraft house
    would need to be worth at least M$1.5.  I’d be very surprised that
    it had a mortgage, after so many years as a front bencher.
  • I have a vague recollection that Howard owned a unit in Canberra
    (this may however been encumbered), which he shared with comrade in
  • Now on the nature of his income.  30 years in parliament – a
    good 50% on the front bench, the last 8 as PM on around $250,000 pa
    with very few non-government paid outgoings.  Come on, this guy
    has a few $ in his kick.  Presuming he (or his trustee) can manage
    basic investments, some of that income must have produced asset growth.

I’d suggest checking the pecuniary interests register and also a search
against the perfumed Mrs Howard, she who makes Bronnie look
gentle.   Happy researching


The Asset Aggregator

Working into retirement

I find myself highly amused by continued references to the
superannuation issue being put on the agenda by Peter Costello and the
Howard government. Some letter writers and ‘commentators’ have even
praised the government for putting this difficult issue on the agenda
in an election year. ‘Back on the agenda’ is the term that should have
been used.

In fact, the issue epitomises the Howard government’s role in so many
aspects of Australian life over the past 8 years. Howard will be seen
in later years as a roadblock PM who held up for many vital years
inevitable Australian progress in numerous policy areas.

Primarily, his focus has been backwards.  He has been obsessed
with reversing initiatives begun by the Hawke and, especially, Keating
governments. Regional integration, aboriginal reconciliation, funding
of education, research and development and vocational skill formation
are just a few that spring to mind. But retirement incomes policy might
just be the worst example.

Now, having idiotically stopped the nation’s progress toward the
sustainable superannuation system Paul Keating began more than 10 years
ago, he has the gall to present as a courageous initiative belated

realisation that a prodigious blunder has been committed. Thanks to his
obsessions the country has lost eight years in which we could have been
making important strides toward meeting the financial challenges of an
ageing workporce.

Your older readers may recall the Coalition’s similar folly more than
30 years ago when they used  the Senate to destroy Whitlam
Government attempts to establish a national superannuation
scheme.  Small men with small minds and even smaller visions. John
Howard is ideally suited to continuing their legacy.