Menu lock

Tips and rumours

Sep 15, 2017

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Slippery slope to classroom orgies. The proposed changes to marriage will have Australia’s children participating in classroom orgies, according to one pamphlet handed out in Parramatta earlier this week. The respectful debate continues.

A mysterious knight in shining armour. Is the anti-marriage equality campaign a “David and Goliath” struggle, as the likes of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton insists? Well, not so much. Damian Wyld of the Marriage Alliance emailed opponents of equality yesterday morning to inform them of a wonderful opportunity. “I’ve got some great news to share,” he wrote. “Knowing our urgent need, a generous benefactor has offered to match all gifts we receive over the next 10 days, to a maximum of $200,000 … It goes without saying, though, that we need funds NOW – and with the generous matching offer on the table, I’m confident we’ll be able to keep raising the support we need.” So who is the mystery opponent of marriage equality who has $200K to sling at the No campaign? Alan Joyce was upfront about his donation. We think Damian’s mystery mate should be, too.

Not flying high. A Crikey tipster has lived long enough to find out what happens when you’ve been a Qantas frequent flyer for 30 years. He writes:

“A nice high quality envelope arrived today and I opened with anticipation – an upgrade certificate for a future flight booking or a lounge pass, perhaps a 30 year logo bag tag? Well ‘little’ was right.  It is a mocked up boarding pass. I was a ‘little’ underwhelmed. First thought was ‘straight to the poolroom’ but I would have to spend money getting a frame for it. I decided that a very nice bookmark was its best use. Thirty years membership for what is now a major revenue program for a bookmark. Impressive.”

 
Cash lashes ‘feminists’. Under pressure for appointing a bloke who broke the law to your prize building watchdog? Facing media questions about what you knew, when you knew it and when you told the PM? Why not have a go at female journalists? Yesterday, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash held a media conference to celebrate the strong employment growth in the jobs figures, but that only lasted one question before the assembled hacks got onto Cash’s appointment of the now-resigned Nigel Hadgkiss to the ABCC despite knowing of his conduct in breach of the Fair Work Act. Despite not coming within cooee of the subject at any stage, Cash responded to Crikey’s question regarding when she told the Prime Minister about Hadgkiss by saying “I’ve already answered that”. She then lashed out at the female journalists present, demanding to know why they weren’t asking about CFMEU organiser Luke Collier, who was jailed in 2016 and who had abused a female officer of the Fair Work Building Commission (predecessor body of the ABCC) and who has previously been charged with domestic violence offences. “Where are the feminists in this place?” she angrily demanded. True feminism, it seems, lies in not trying to hold ministers to account for their actions.

The dismissal. The University of Sydney has pursed its lips around the circumstances of the sudden removal of Professor Shane Houston, its deputy vice-chancellor (indigenous strategy and services). An email was sent to all staff on August 24, but no reason was given for Houston’s resignation and/or sacking or if he was moving to another job. Houston has previously drawn the ire of students. A Crikey tipster informs us that Houston was escorted from the campus and his email and phone were disabled. We hear he is likely to bring an unfair dismissal suit, but neither Houston nor USyd responded to our questions. You can give us more information about this anonymously. The university’s email says:

It is with regret and disappointment that I must advise that Professor Shane Houston will be stepping down from his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) and leaving the University today.

Since 2011, Professor Houston has led our institution-wide strategy to advance Indigenous participation, engagement, education and research through the Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Strategy.

This strategy has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at Sydney, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers have almost doubled, and our success rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have been consistently high. Through the strategy, the University has also become a more culturally competent institution, and an Indigenous perspective has become more firmly embedded in our day-to-day life.

I wish to thank Shane for his contribution to this success. He has brought a vision and determination to ensuring that the University of Sydney is a place where we all have a greater understanding of the history and the distinctive contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Australian society.

This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Shane’s team, with whom I have met today to share this news, and the rest of the University community, who have embraced the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and research as core to our identity as an Australian institution. I look forward to continuing to support them as we build on Shane’s work. The University remains committed to ensuring the continuing success of the Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Strategy, and we will take this opportunity to refresh and strengthen our approach so we can continue to be relevant and responsive to the needs of our Indigenous communities.

I anticipate starting the recruitment process for a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) shortly, and I will keep you updated on progress. Meanwhile I have asked Professor Juanita Sherwood to act in the role on a temporary basis until the recruitment process has been completed. The appointment of a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor will lead into the renewal phase of our Indigenous Strategy and build on the good work that has been done over the past six years.

Please join me in wishing Shane all the very best for his future endeavours.

Yours,

Michael

Dr Michael Spence AC

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.auuse our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely

Tips and rumours

Aug 16, 2017

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

With military precision. If there’s a change of government at the next election, some companies already have a foot in the door. This morning, a Labor MP was to host Lockheed Martin — yes, the manufacturer of the flying heap of crap — in Parliament House to discuss the company’s “industrial narrative”. “I will be hosting a briefing with Lockheed Martin Australia CEO, Vince Di Pietro, this Wednesday at 9:30am,” Labor MP for Wills Peter Khalil emailed colleagues this morning.

Discussion topics will include Lockheed Martin’s industrial narrative and continuing investment in Australia, and partnerships with Australian companies, specifically around existing capabilities such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and C-130 Hercules aircraft.  The discussion will also include Lockheed Martin’s investment and partnership in STEM initiatives, especially their STELaRLab in Melbourne.”

Illustrating the “revolving door” nature of the military-industrial complex, Di Pietro is a former senior naval officer. We hope at least someone asked him if the F-35 is still asphyxiating its pilots, catching fire, unable to shoot or getting beaten by 30-year-old aircraft in dogfights.

Throwing stones. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has today ramped up her rhetoric against Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, asking on Sky News if Shorten was “directing his troops to ask these questions in other parliaments around the world” after it was revealed yesterday that Penny Wong’s chief of staff Marcus Ganley had spoken to New Zealand Labour MP Chris Hipkins about New Zealand citizenship laws. Hipkins then asked questions about NZ and Australian citizenship laws in New Zealand parliament.

Yesterday Bishop said she “would find it very hard to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government”. A Crikey tipster tells us that if Bishop wants to ask anyone with experience in influencing a foreign government, she should just walk down the hall to PM Malcolm Turnbull’s office. This newspaper clipping from The Guardian in the UK in October 1988 covers then-barrister Turnbull’s praise of British Labour leader Neil Kinnock for questioning the way the UK government had conducted the Spycatcher trial in parliament, as well as the line that Turnbull had suggested that Kinnock raise the issue:

“The initiative in contacting Mr Kinnock was taken by Mr Turnbull, who wanted him to raise the roles of Sir Michael and Lord Rothschild, who, the court heard, had acted as an intermediary between Mr Pincher and Mr Wright.”

History is fun, isn’t it?

Trust us, we’re banks. When it comes money laundering, the Commonwealth Bank is our national champion, but it has a long way to go to match Deutsche Bank. Earlier this year the bank copped a US$630 million fine in the US and the UK relating to US$10 billion in laundered money from Russia (plus there was a trivial US$41 million fine a couple of months later). That hasn’t stopped the local arm of the bank weighing in on the issue of wage stagnation and offering a “novel” solution. Adam Boyton opined in today AFR that we shouldn’t be increasing wages as it would make Australia less competitive and cost jobs, etc, etc. Instead, he says: “I’ve previously proposed in these pages that government should embark on a serious deregulation agenda in concert with business and peak business groups. In return, businesses which benefit from that agenda agree to real wage increases.”

So there we go — businesses will deign to give us tax cuts if we’re good and cut regulation. But we wonder which kind of regulation Boyton has in mind. Couldn’t be … anti-money laundering regulation, could it? Deutsche Bank could probably have handed out a lot of bonuses except for that pesky multi-hundred-millions fine …

Grounding the Flying Kangaroo. We hear users of the Qantas Frequent Flyer system encountered major issues with the website yesterday, with half of members unable to log in to due a “system compromise”. One Crikey tipster spent “over three hours” trying to sort the issue out. Consumer website Product Review shows at least one person had similar issues, with a user posting this morning that she had “[b]een on Qantas site over 2hrs & still can’t book a flight using my rewards points, no matter how hard I try using different stages of process to log in to Frequent Flyer Account!!”

 

A Qantas spokesperson told Crikey“due to maintenance” some users had encountered “intermittent login issues between Monday evening and Tuesday morning”. They added that this affected the main website (qantas.com), but not other channels through which a user might access their points, such as Qantas points or Qantas epiqure. No general correspondence about the login issues, or the nature of possible workarounds was sent to users of the service, but the spokesperson told us “going forward we’ll look at including that advice on the login error message”.

Where’s the ABC? Back in 2014 the ABC cut its New Zealand correspondent’s position because of budget cuts. Dominique Schwartz was the last, having been in the land of the Long White Cloud since 2010. Given the furore about Barnaby Joyce, that looks like a foolish cost cut now.

Well, this is awkward. A tipster tells us that the Queensland University of Technology decided to let its students know last week that they should vote in the marriage equality plebiscite through the phone app used by students. “Love is love. Vote for equality” was the headline, with an unequivocal message in favour of enrolling to vote and voting yes at the plebiscite.

Not long after that, users of the app got a second notification, taking that message straight back:

So is love love or not?

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.auuse our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely

Companies

May 26, 2017

5 comments

A freelance Crikey sleuth* has acquired a draft Qantas ASX statement regarding tennis legend Margaret Court’s recent declaration that she would boycott the airliner because of its support for marriage equality:

 

ASX and Media Release

Qantas Group (ASX: QAN)

Melbourne, May 26, 2017 –

Qantas Group (Qantas or the Company) is providing an emergency trading and outlook update due to extraordinary circumstances arising in the week beginning Monday, May 22, 2017. Qantas projects an imminent profit downgrade and the likelihood of a consequent rapid decrease in the company’s share price. Despite satisfactory performance in the current financial year, board and management are unable to ignore the ramifications of the recent announcement of Margaret Court AO MBE, to the effect that she will no longer be choosing Qantas for her travel needs. Ms Court’s announcement has forced us to accept that a collapse in operating revenue is now inevitable, with shareholders to suffer the unfortunate brunt.

Our records indicate that in the last 12 months, Margaret Court AO MBE flew Qantas on three occasions from Sydney to Brisbane and back at $242 apiece, once from Sydney to Adelaide at $188, and once from Sydney to Perth and back at $580. If we can reasonably project that a similar pattern were to unfold over the coming 12 months, the effect of suffering the loss of these flights will be catastrophic on our bottom line — particularly Ms Court’s trip to Perth, which forms the main foundation of our revenue base. We also have reason to believe that on several of her past journeys, Ms Court has, while on board, purchased a can of Sprite at $4.80 each, and at times a small can of Pringles at $6.45. The loss of these transactions is expected to result in severe uncertainty in our profit outlook.

Qantas management will of course enter into emergency talks with Ms Court in an attempt to resolve the situation. We are prepared to offer Ms Court numerous blandishments, including but not limited to: VIP access to the Qantas lounge; twenty percent discount on Pringles; the placement of bibles in all seat pockets, to persuade her to reverse her decision to lay waste to the company’s financial position. Although we retain hope that Ms Court will restore her custom to Qantas, we are obliged to inform the ASX, shareholders and the public that the expectation is that her decision will stand and the company’s solvency will therefore come under severe threat.

The Qantas board and management apologises to shareholders and assures the business community that it is working hard to ensure that no other sporting legends boycott our airline. Discussions with Betty Cuthbert, Kerry Saxby-Junna, and Peter “Zorba” Peters are ongoing.

-Ends

Enquiries: alanjoyce@qantas.com.au

*Actually a satirist named Ben Pobjie

Federal

May 11, 2017

5 comments

Forty years ago this October, the public leader of an US lobby group called “Save our Children”, Anita Bryant was holding a press conference in Des Moines making the argument against the march of gay rights, such as they were in 1977. 

After speaking in support of employers who were able to fire gay employees for choosing to “flaunt it” in the workplace, Bryant copped a strawberry-rhubarb pie in the face from gay activist Thom Higgins.

The image of Bryant getting the pie in the face has become one of the iconic images of the gay rights movement globally. It was the first image to come to mind this week when Qantas CEO Alan Joyce copped a pie in the face from a man due to Qantas’ advocacy for marriage equality in Australia.

It’s much harder for employers to fire people for being gay (except for religious organisations), and it’s now expected in Australia that companies, as good corporate citizens, will support LGBTI rights. But there still seem to be some people trapped in 1977.

The “pie man”, former farmer Tony Overheu, claimed in a series of bizarre rants sent to radio and print news outlets that he was motivated to pie Joyce at the event in Perth because “middle Australia rejects corporate bullying aimed at social engineering”.

He claimed that Qantas’ “propaganda” on social issues was insulting to passengers, and then listed off a number of other companies supporting marriage equality like Airbnb, Holden, and now Coopers like he was reading an Australian Christian Lobby press release. So affronted by it all, Overheu thought his only solution was to humiliate the most high-profile gay man in corporate Australia.

Police have not pressed assault charges at this stage, but in a press conference in the Senate courtyard in Parliament House specifically called to discuss the matter on Wednesday, Joyce said he intended to seek charges against Overheu to send a message — despite Overheu emailing him to apologise. Joyce said the incident strengthened his resolve to be vocal on issues that were important to him.

“I have every intention of continuing to be vocal on those social issues. It’s important for our shareholders, our employees and our customers. It’s called ‘good corporate social responsibility’,” he said.

While Bryant got her pie in the face for her activism that promoted the damaging trope that gay people were somehow a danger to children (which conservatives have since adapted to now fight against transgender rights), Joyce’s sin was simply suggesting that LGBTI Australians should be treated equally under the law. What in 1977 was an act of courage by a persecuted minority literally in the face of bigotry in 2017 is a heterosexual man as sour as the lemons in meringue trying to put a gay man back in his place.

The CEO, brandishing his orange lobbyist pass on his hip, was in Parliament on Wednesday for Treasurer Scott Morrison’s National Press Club address following the budget. This would normally would have been the focus of a press conference business leader on the day after the budget, but, with the issue of marriage equality still not resolved, tensions have reached a boiling point. Between the pie incident and a cat-and-dog wedding to promote the cause on Real Housewives of Sydney this week, the debate has reached peak absurdity.

The “Where Are The Moderate Muslims?” established protocol of the culture war demands those who are on the same side as whoever has done something condemn-able must condemn whatever happened quickly and in the strongest possible terms.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was quick off the mark and issued a strong condemnation of the pie thrower before the full details were public, suggesting he might have understood the man’s motives and might have suspected his “stick to your knitting” comments to Joyce might have provoked the assault.

Eric Abetz also condemned the attack but inserted a “but what about what the other side do?” in his own press release. The ACL’s Lyle Shelton tweeted once condemning the incident in a brief interlude from his usual role of playing the victim.

It is not difficult to imagine that if someone had done this to Shelton or another marriage equality opponent, conservative media would be running on it for weeks, shouting from the rooftops that it was a sign that the “LGBTI brigade” were fascists and couldn’t be trusted to tolerate different views. But it was a “devout Christian” — as he was described by The Australian — said he couldn’t even stand the sight of Airbnb ads in Canberra airport calling for marriage equality. 

I would be completely unsurprised if the response this week from conservative columnists is “but it would be much worse for Joyce to be a gay man in a Muslim country” or “but Joyce was the real bully”. This is the current standard of debate from conservatives on LGBTI rights in Australia.

The budget this week reiterated the government’s support for continuing with the policy for holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, should the legislation ever be passed by the Senate. It remains unlikely that this is how it will be achieved, but those calling for the plebiscite now have to admit, this incident alone should show it won’t be a “respectful debate”.

Companies

Apr 19, 2017

5 comments

Former News Corp COO Peter Chernin

Should Macquarie Group be able to vote on a controversial pay system that has allowed it to milk hundreds of millions in fees out of a listed toll road company?

In a little-remarked development, that’s precisely what happened at the Macquarie Atlas Roads AGM in Sydney last Thursday, when Macquarie Group voted its 12.2% stake in favour of the remuneration report, thereby averting a first strike, as the total “against” vote came in at 24.13%.

Having received a record $163.5 million in fees in 2016 — exceeding the total $98 million distributed to investors — there is no doubt that Macquarie Group is conflicted in voting in favour of its own excessive fee deal at Macquarie Atlas Roads.

However, the Corporations Act only refers to conflicted individuals, not corporate entities. James Packer can’t vote on his pay at Crown Resorts, but a different set of rules apply to the Millionaire Factory. This is one loophole that should be shut.

If Macquarie Group had abstained all of its 68.2 million votes last Thursday, the against vote would have been 29% and the Macquarie Atlas Roads board would have been facing a potential spill at the 2018 AGM.

Instead, the board, with its unusual combination of local and Bermuda-based directors, will soldier on for another year, although concessions have already been granted, with the base annual management fee being cut to a flat 1% of the current $3 billion market capitalisation.

The performance fee — based on a 15% share of any market upside — has been what has really delivered for Macquarie Group because low interest rates and canny deal-making as a minority investor in a range of offshore toll road assets in France, Germany, the US and UK has let investors enjoy a profitable ride.

The AGM presentation pack pointed to $328 million in distributions since Macquarie Atlas Roads was created in 2010, but this is less than the total fees generated for Macquarie over the same period.

But will the board propose an excessive divorce payment on top of the largesse we’ve seen in recent years?

If Macquarie were a person, the recipient of all these excessive fees would undoubtedly make the following list of the 10 most questionable CEO payouts over the past decade:

The 10 most questionable CEO payouts over the past decade

News Corp, 2009: not only did Rupert Murdoch’s outgoing chief lieutenant Peter Chernin receive US$34 million in his final year, the severance package also included a commitment to buy two movies a year from him for the next six years, plus a range of other perks such as access to the corporate jet and secretarial services.

Santos, 2008: outgoing CEO John Ellice-Flint received a staggering $16.8 million termination payment.

Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd, 2007: John Alexander has made tens of millions from James Packer, but the $15 million termination payment as part of the 2007 demerger of Consolidated Media Holdings was difficult to justify, especially considering he stayed on the board.

Oz Minerals, 2008: $10.7 million proposed share payout to outgoing CEO Owen Hegarty was defeated by shareholders, so the board just gave him $8.35 million in cash instead.

ASX, 2006: when Tony D’Aloisio didn’t get the top job as part of the SFE merger, his Maurice Newman-led ASX board approved a termination payment of $7.78 million instead.

AGL, 2007: 63% vote against the remuneration report after CEO Paul Anthony departed with a $5.2 million termination payout out, which meant the Welshman received about $17 million for 17 months of work.

Transurban, 2008: 59% protest vote against remuneration report over the final $16.6 million pay packet to departing CEO Kim Edwards.

Qantas, 2009: 41% voted against the remuneration report due to the package of former CEO Geoff Dixon, which led to an $11 million pay packet when he served just five months of the year.

Challenger Financial Group, 2008: 70% against remuneration report due to $6 million pay packet for former CEO Mike Tilley.

Centro Properties Group, 2008: unexpected collapse caused a huge shock in 2008, and then the CEO Andrew Scott got a $3 million termination payment. Quite generous, considering investors lost more than $5 billion.

Companies

Apr 4, 2017

5 comments

Qantas customers’ personal data has been compromised after a data breach revealed the names, seat numbers and frequent flyer numbers of eight passengers to another passenger looking at the Qantas check-in app on Thursday. The app, which was used to check in for a flight between Newman, Western Australia, and Perth, showed the length of the flight and that a snack or brunch would be available, but the Qantas passenger was shocked to be able to see details for other passengers.

Qantas does not believe the incident should be considered a data breach, as the incident occurred when a group booking was made by one of the major mining companies. Usually workers with flights booked by the mining companies don’t see details belonging to other passengers. A Qantas spokesperson said the airline took security matters seriously.

It is not the first time Qantas customer details have been shared with others. In January, an email sent to customers flying out of Melbourne warned of traffic delays on the Tullamarine Freeway included surnames and booking references of other passengers. 

It is unclear how many customers saw other passengers’ data, or how many people were booked on group bookings with such data available.

Other major Australian companies have had issues with customer data breaches. In 2012, major bank NAB mistakenly sent details of 60,000 customers to the owner of nab.com (who also owns a series of adult websites) — the bank uses nab.com.au. The data breach was only revealed this year. The Privacy Commissioner is also investigating the sale of personal details of Australian customers of Optus, Telstra and Vodafone.

Last month the government passed laws that make it mandatory for government agencies and businesses with turnover of more than $3 million to notify individuals affected by data breaches that could cause serious harm. The Notifiable Data Breach system will come into effect in February next year, and it includes breaches as a result of hacking as well as mistaken releases of information. 

Qantas appointed its first chief information security officer, Darren Argyle, last month. 

Tips and rumours

Mar 20, 2017

5 comments

There are 20 CEOs who signed the letter asking the government to legislate in favour of marriage equality — but just one is named over and over again by conservative columnists looking to discredit those who dare to say marriage equality would be good for business. After taking aim at Telstra for supporting marriage equality while failing to fix his home phone, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton turned his attack to Qantas’ Alan Joyce — a favourite target of News Corp columnist Miranda Devine. Today Devine wrote about how many of the CEOs are from overseas — singling out Irish-born Alan Joyce in the lead.

Devine isn’t the only one to have a go at Joyce; The Courier Mail‘s Des Houghton writes today that he will never fly Qantas again: “I have some news for you Mr Joyce: You can leap around like a leprechaun all you like but Australians have already voted for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage at the last federal election.”

Piers Akerman goes hard on Joyce, saying he is pushing his personal views on the government:

“Today, if we are to believe Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the airline is more interested in putting the interests of the homosexual minority front and centre of its operations, painting an aircraft in the rainbow colours of the sexually confused, sponsoring a float in the annual homosexual parade on Sydney’s Oxford Street, and pushing Joyce’s personal views on the elected government.”

Why are no other CEOs named? Is it because Joyce is gay (and gasp! born overseas, much like Tony Abbott) and also lobbying for marriage equality? Six years ago, Andrew Bolt loved Joyce (and that he was gay) during Qantas’ industrial disputes with its workers, writing that Joyce broke stereotypes of “effete, flighty and soft” gay men:

“But good luck for the rest of us that we got a lesson on the stupidity of stereotyping people. Not least of gays. … But there’s one other stereotype Joyce smashed. This tough, cool union-buster is also gay, sharing his life with a New Zealand man. What a fine challenge to the notion of gays as effete, flighty and soft — a straitjacketing that limited the media careers of gay friends, keener to talk politics than showbiz. And, again, what a rejection of the role Labor wrote for Joyce as a Liberal zealot, conspiring with Tony Abbott. Stupid stereotypes. How they kill our possibilities. How they dull our reason.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t stereotype conservative columnists, but it looks like homophobia and racism are coming out to play — hidden by claims of fighting “political correctness”.

News

Mar 20, 2017

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Dog whistling on Alan Joyce. There are 20 CEOs who signed the letter asking the government to legislate in favour of marriage equality — but just one is named over and over again by conservative columnists looking to discredit those who dare to say marriage equality would be good for business. After taking aim at Telstra for supporting marriage equality while failing to fix his home phone, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton turned his attack to Qantas’ Alan Joyce — a favourite target of News Corp columnist Miranda Devine. Today Devine wrote about how many of the CEOs are from overseas — singling out Irish-born Alan Joyce in the lead.

Devine isn’t the only one to have a go at Joyce; The Courier Mail‘s Des Houghton writes today that he will never fly Qantas again: “I have some news for you Mr Joyce: You can leap around like a leprechaun all you like but Australians have already voted for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage at the last federal election.”

Piers Akerman goes hard on Joyce, saying he is pushing his personal views on the government:

“Today, if we are to believe Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the airline is more interested in putting the interests of the homosexual minority front and centre of its operations, painting an aircraft in the rainbow colours of the sexually confused, sponsoring a float in the annual homosexual parade on Sydney’s Oxford Street, and pushing Joyce’s personal views on the elected government.”

Why are no other CEOs named? Is it because Joyce is gay (and gasp! born overseas, much like Tony Abbott) and also lobbying for marriage equality? Six years ago, Akerman loved Joyce (and that he was gay) during Qantas’ industrial disputes with its workers, writing that Joyce broke stereotypes of “effete, flighty and soft” gay men:

“But good luck for the rest of us that we got a lesson on the stupidity of stereotyping people. Not least of gays. … But there’s one other stereotype Joyce smashed. This tough, cool union-buster is also gay, sharing his life with a New Zealand man. What a fine challenge to the notion of gays as effete, flighty and soft — a straitjacketing that limited the media careers of gay friends, keener to talk politics than showbiz. And, again, what a rejection of the role Labor wrote for Joyce as a Liberal zealot, conspiring with Tony Abbott. Stupid stereotypes. How they kill our possibilities. How they dull our reason.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t stereotype conservative columnists, but it looks like homophobia and racism are coming out to play — hidden by claims of fighting “political correctness”.

Scribes’ night of nights. The who’s who of the Victorian media turned out in their finery on Friday night for the annual Quill Awards, celebrating excellence in Victorian journalism. Or at least they tried to turn out — airport delays kept a bigwig from sponsor Virgin from attending, and Four Corners heavy hitter Caro Meldrum-Hanna was, as they say, late to the party as her flight was delayed. Executive producer Sally Neighbour accepted the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year award on her behalf, with a harried-looking Meldrum-Hanna finally making it to Crown about an hour later to give her acceptance speech. The coveted Gold Quill Award went not to favourite Adele Ferguson (whom Ms Tips likes to think of as Australia’s Meryl Streep when it comes to these things — she won her 10th Quill award last night) but to Louise Milligan and Andy Burns for their 7.30 report on allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal George Pell. Host Michael Rowland’s dad jokes were a bit much for the audience, but a grand night was had by all, with journos kicking up their heels at Crown’s numerous bars until well into the wee hours.

Where’s the meat? Senator James McGrath has found a less than polite way to thank animal protection body PETA for the gift of vegan sausages, declaring the items on his interests register as “disgusting vegan sausages”. That’s a guaranteed way not to get a second batch delivered!

Council amalgamation issue could bite Libs. The NSW Liberals have preselected Felicity Wilson to contest the seat of North Shore at the byelection caused by the retirement of Jillian Skinner. Wilson, now corporate affairs manager at Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield), faces a mixed bag of independents also contesting the seat, many campaigning on the issue of forced amalgamation of councils. It’s an issue new NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has moved to neutralise by backing down on some mergers in country areas. Wilson may become an easy target for some of her rivals on the issue — she was acting NSW executive director of the Property Council of Australia last year when it made a submission to the NSW government recommending proceeding with the mergers, “compulsorily if necessary”. 

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Technology

Feb 28, 2017

5 comments

“Norwegian” mightn’t register as an airline of note in this country, but it is doing to aviation what flags-of-convenience shipping did to once-powerful maritime empires worldwide.

It carries the branding of one of the highest cost yet most liveable and wealthy countries on Earth, and is rapidly expanding its reach using offshore bases in such places as Ireland, Thailand and now the US — as in the “broken” or “forgotten” parts of America.

The latest and arguably most significant chapter in the Norwegian story will begin soon when it starts flying from small-town America to Europe with the latest and longest-ranging single-aisle jets.

That story is told in some detail in this Skift report. (Norwegian Air is part of the Norwegian Air Shuttle group, and although the intricacies of its structure and branding will bore most readers to tears, they should keep company tax investigators on their toes.)

While Norwegian’s small-town USA romance seems unlikely to bring new tech versions of single-aisle jets — like the 737 MAX and A320 NEO, flying to Bali or Rarotonga from Dubbo or Bendigo — anytime soon, it echoes something Qantas seemed to be trying to do with its offshore Jetstar operations in Singapore and maybe elsewhere in recent years.

That was when there was a controversy over Asia-based Jetstar’s operating so-called tag flights — i.e. those shorter domestic flights attached to the start/end of an outgoing/incoming, respectively, international flight — within Australia, usually involving Darwin or Cairns. It never quite gained traction. Domestic passengers were sometimes dropped off at international terminals, or vice versa, causing headaches for airport staff and those dicked-around passengers.

But the capabilities of more efficient versions of single-aisle jets might allow such thoughts to have more operational credibility in the next decade.

The debate could be bitter. Economic purists might argue that the real future for Australian aviation is to have all those expensive pilots and cabin crews living instead in Singapore or Manila under terms reminiscent of indentured labour camps predating World War II or maybe the American Civil War for that matter.

They would just commute to Australia on international flights, pump themselves up with magic pink pills for a few Sydney-Melbourne rotations and then fly home to company compounds or whatever for an overly generous nine-hour, 15-minutes sleep break, including the transit times from airport to bunk and back.

Or that’s how the critics lambasted such services, and they did have some very good points, too. Alternatively, and perhaps more realistically, some of the proponents mused that the very existence of such a threat to allegedly overpaid and unproductive Australia-based labour would be enough to force wage and conditions “reforms”, and discourage such offshoring.

At the absurd extremes of each position, Australia would either move closer to some sort of debt-fuelled consumer paradise where nobody actually made or did anything and outsourced everything, or sealed itself off from the wicked forces of globalisation, had no trade contract with the outer darkness, and drove 30-year-old cars between capital cities because there would be no air services, and otherwise sat around eating dirt while chanting “oi, oi, oi”.

Sarcasm aside, Norwegian is exploiting a different and much deeper and richer range of geographical opportunities to do to established carriers what Qantas (to its critics) seemed to want to do to itself, and only a matter of years ago.

*This article was originally published at Crikey blog Plane Talking

Federal

Dec 9, 2016

5 comments

Australian software company Atlassian, often the go-to darling of the Australian startup industry, paid no tax in 2014-15 according to data released by the Australian Taxation Office on Friday.

Atlassian, which listed on the NASDAQ late last year, is the poster child of successful tech startups in Australia that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would like to replicate across the economy. Its founders, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, in October topped the Young Rich Llist in Australia with a combined wealth of over $4.6 billion after the float.

The company has made a point of staying in Australia and has even criticised other companies moving offshore for a lower tax rate. Cannon-Brookes said in March that he would have moved the company to Singapore if he wanted to lower the company’s tax rate.

“I’ve always regarded tax as the thing you pay when you make money,” he said. “If you have to pay it, you’ve made money.”

But data released by the ATO shows that in the 2014-15 financial year, Atlassian was one of around 35% of the top 1900 companies in Australia earning $100 million or more not paying tax. The company reported income of $367.4 million, and a taxable income of $34.5 million, but no payable tax.

A spokesperson for Atlassian confirmed to Crikey that no tax was paid because of research and development offsets that mean the company had no tax to pay:

“Atlassian is one of the most innovative companies in Australia. As one of the biggest tech employers in the country, we invest millions in Research and Development (R&D) every year to create products that transform how teams work together at over 65,000 companies in more than 170 countries around the world. That deep investment generates R&D tax offsets for every dollar Atlassian spends on eligible R&D activities, reducing the company’s Australia tax payable to nil.”

This is the second time the ATO has released this data publicly, and many of the major companies on the list last year for not paying tax, including News Australia Holdings and Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), again paid no tax in 2014-2015. Broadspectrum’s income for the year was close to $3 billion, but it had no taxable income.

The ATO has again been at pains to point out that companies not paying tax in one financial year does not mean they are avoiding tax, as they can operate at a loss or use offsets, as Atlassian has.

The biggest taxpayers in the year were the Commonwealth Bank ($3.1 billion), Westpac ($2.8 billion), and Rio Tinto ($2.7 billion). Banks and Telstra made out most of the biggest tax earners.

The company with the highest revenue with no tax payable is again Qantas with $15 billion in income and no tax payable (due to making a loss).

Everyone’s favourite whipping boy when it comes to tax, Apple, paid $146 million in tax from an income of $8.3 billion in the financial year.