From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Trickle-down economics. One of the persistent lies peddled by advocates of company tax cuts and their media supporters at News Corp and The Australian Financial Review is that businesses will invest their windfall in more jobs. How do we know this is a lie? One of the elements of Donald Trump’s tax “plan” (more accurately, set of talking points) released overnight is a one-off tax holiday for some of the world’s largest companies — Apple, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard — to bring more than $2.5 trillion dollars in offshore profits currently held outside the United States back into the country from tax havens at a much lower rate than they would have to pay otherwise. Naturally, this colossal sum would be invested in new jobs, the companies claimed. The CEO of Cisco, for example, has long claimed it “could be used for creating jobs, investing in research, building plants, purchasing equipment, and other uses”.

But in January The Intercept revealed some companies — in a splendid example of how companies tell the media one thing and investors another — had told analysts they would be using it for share buybacks, mergers, increasing dividends and restructuring debt. Cisco, HP and health tech company Agilent have all told analysts they’ll be using the money for pretty much any purpose other than jobs. One investment banker quoted in The Intercept put it well:

“Almost $2.5 trillion of cash for corporations that have cash overseas, if that were to come back about 60 percent of that would go in the coffers of companies located within our urban coastal markets. … That would perhaps be positive for things like M&A, maybe some dividends or stock buybacks.”

At least that will create more jobs for investment bankers and screen jockeys.

An anthem-a. Inspired by the work of government MP Andrew Laming, who suggested it’s time for a new verse of Advance Australia Fair, we asked our tipsters for their suggestions of an extra verse of our national anthem — one that really conveyed our Australian values. Laming suggested the new verse would include celebrations of larrikinism and our sense of humour. While Ben Pobjie has the exclusive on the new and improved lyrics, our tipsters have well and truly delivered. This is just a few of the contributions, with more to come tomorrow. Some of these do capture a sense of humour — it’s more the “laugh so you don’t cry” kind:

From Myki Smith in the comments:

“Beneath our radiant Stock Exchange
We’ll push for minimum pay
To profit all we corporate chums
God bless us all pray;
For refugees across the seas
We’ve compounds fit to share;
So bugger off, don’t dare come here,
We don’t friggin’ care
And as we strain, to dodge the tax
Sing ‘We don’t friggin’ care'”

Klewso had a very personal one for the PM, and while it has a nice rhyme, we worry about how it would age:

“When Malcolm did the Abbott in
How little did we know
That he would be as weak as this —
A pony for a show.
He owes so much to Party rights —
Not game to make a call;
While once ‘we knew’ for what he stood
He’s gone and lost it all.
In joyful Strine then let us sing,
Advance our Malcolm’s fall.”

And an anonymous songsmith has this one:

“We stride towards our future fair
Our socks around our feet
Our scientists could raise them up
But that would seem elite
We’ve boundless plains to share, alright
With comp’nies large and small
With refugees in desp’rate straits
We do not share at all
Our politicians bought and sold
Paid for fair and square
Advance Australia fair, I think
Advance Australia INC.”

Yassmin Abdel-Magied gets a whopping $11k of your money. Attacks on ABC presenter and writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied are nothing new; before this week’s storm over her comments on Anzac Day, she was targeted by the right-wing press and members of the government over a trip to the Middle East sponsored by DFAT. Promoting her book and speaking to classes of girls, Abdel-Magied visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, among others. Before you read another headline attacking Abdel-Magied for the trip, here’s exactly what went down when Senator Eric Abetz grilled DFAT officials at Senate estimates last month over just how much the trip cost — $11,485, he was told at the time. Answers provided on notice show that the travel was $3246.20, the accommodation was $4605.87 and incidentals $3632.93. A bargain compared to the trips made by former minister Philip Ruddock (as revealed by Crikey’s Josh Taylor today). Abetz pressed DFAT over whether or not Abdel-Magied had mentioned the death penalty or female genital mutilation on her speaking tour — the department says she stuck to promoting Australia:

“Ms Abdel-Magied promoted Australia as a destination for investment and education and helped broaden knowledge and understanding of Australia’s modern, open, diverse, and inclusive society. She also promoted the role of women in male dominated industries such as science, technology and engineering, drawing on her background as a mechanical engineer.”

While there doesn’t seem to be a scandal here, that hasn’t stopped The Australian before.

We don’t need no legislation. Tougher laws aimed at the franchising industry are completely unnecessary, says the franchising industry. Quelle surprise! Following recent revelations of systemic and serious underpayments across the sector (think 7-Eleven), the government has a bill before a Senate committee that would increase penalties, improve evidence-gathering powers for the regulator and hold franchisors responsible for certain breaches by franchisees when they failed to take steps to prevent them.

Submissions to the committee from both the International Franchise Association and the Franchise Council of Australia oppose the legislation. According to the IFA, the introduction of the provisions “will have the perverse effect of hurting vulnerable workers by reducing employment opportunities”.

The FCA (which is led by former small business minister Bruce Billson) argues in their submission the “legislation is unnecessary” and “singles out franchising for no apparent justification,” as “franchise systems are leading the way with industry-led action.”

Basically they are saying, “leave us alone, we’re fixing it without new laws”.

Really? Ms Tips couldn’t help but notice that, when presented with the chance to be collaborative and constructive, most franchisors passed. In December 2015, the Fair Work Ombudsman — the agency that would enforce the new laws — wrote to eight leading franchisors asking them to enter into compliance partnerships, meaning they could volunteer to regulate themselves instead of facing new legislation. So far, only one has agreed — Foodco signed up a little over a year later, in January 2017. Apart from that, one said no, one went into administration, one is in “ongoing discussions” with the Ombudsman, and the FWO is “yet to receive an indication” from another about whether they are willing. The remaining three just never responded. The letters were sent after discussions with the Franchise Council of Australia, who clearly know all about how collaborative franchisors are willing to be. The industry, after all, is “leading the way”.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to[email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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