What a cosy gathering it was to hear
Peter Costello lay out his foreign policy credentials at the Lowy
Institute in Sydney yesterday. The head table featured Lachlan Murdoch
next to James Packer, Frank Lowy next to Peter Costello and Ian
Macfarlane next to wannabe Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett. New Fairfax
chairman Ron Walker also featured on the head table and was pictured
walking outside with James Packer yesterday, in another example of his
willlingness to consort with the enemy.

There was a time when
Fairfax and Packer were arch enemies and bitter competitors. Now
Fairfax have made what James Packer described as “an inspired choice”
in choosing a mate in Ron Walker to run the show as we count down to
what might well be Prime Minister Costello’s vision for even bigger
media conglomerates dominating power in Australia.

You only need to read The Latham Diaries
to get a real insight into how paranoid the ALP is when it comes to
sucking up to the Murdoch and Packer interests. Rupert shifts his News
Corp shareholding to Bermuda to dud NSW taxpayers of $51 million in
stamp duty revenue and no-one in Macquarie St says boo. Sad, isn’t it?

Which
brings us to Lachlan Murdoch’s tax arrangements. Peter Costello might
well have leant across the table and asked him yesterday: “Hey you with
the buzz cut, I see you’ve just pocketed a $10 million payout from
dad’s company. Are you giving me $4.8 million of that or are you giving
George Bush $3.5 million?”

It’s an interesting question. Because
Australia’s punitive personal income tax regime makes it a lot more
expensive for Lachlan to become an Australian resident for tax
purposes, why wouldn’t he delay this until the 2006-07 financial year?

Still, News Ltd executive chairman John Hartigan told The Australian
today that Lachlan is in the Sydney office “pretty much every day,”
which would suggest he will owe Cossie a big whack. Then again, within
days of his grand arrival in Sydney after a holiday on his yacht in
Tahiti, Lachlan was back in New York enjoying the tennis with Nicole
Kidman.

If any tax experts out there can explain how many months
you need to be out of the country to avoid being a resident for tax
purposes, drop [email protected] a line. Similarly, can Lachlan
claim he was a US citizen at the time he received the payout, August
31, or is it based on overall income for a financial year?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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