Monday, 30 May 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: polling at the beginning of Week 4 of the campaign, 28 May 2016:

Three weeks into the two-month campaign, the 7News-ReachTel poll, released on Friday, has Labor ahead 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis.
Earlier in the week Newspoll and Essential had Labor leading the coalition 51-49 per cent, reversing the Fairfax-Ipsos result from the previous weekend.

For those who place more faith in the punters here are Sportsbet markets covering NSW Northern Rivers at 8am 29 May 2016:

Sitting Nationals MP Kevin Hogan since 2013 vs Labor candidate Janelle Saffin

Sitting Labor MP Justine Elliot since 2004 vs Nationals candidate Matthew Fraser & The Greens Dawn Walker

Sitting Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker since 2001 vs candidate “Any Other” & Labor’s Alfredo Navarro

Australian Federal Election 2016: oh the pain, it burns!

I’m sure there is more than one voter on a low income who is chortling about what went down in Week Three of the federal election campaign.

This has been the state of play for members of the Australian Parliament since 1999.

Excerpts from TR 1999/10 Taxation Ruling Income tax and fringe benefits tax: Members of Parliament – allowances, reimbursements, donations and gifts, benefits, deductions and recoupments:

10. Members commonly receive the following types of allowances, in addition to their Parliamentary ‘salaries’ (see paragraphs 42 to 45). Particular allowances may vary depending on the Parliament in which a Member serves.
• Committee allowance
• Daily expense allowance
• Electorate allowance
• Expense or entertainment allowance
• Opposition spokespersons’ allowance
• Postage allowance
• Printing and stationery allowance
• Private vehicle allowance/motor vehicle allowance
• Telephone allowance
• Travel allowance.
These allowances, like MPs and senators parliamentary salaries, are considered assessable income by the Australian Taxation Office.
Second property not used as a Member’s residence: A deduction is allowable for expenses of a non-capital nature, and for depreciation of plant, where the property is not properly regarded as a second residence. However, the deduction is limited to the extent to which the expenditure is incurred in respect of a property that is used by a Member for work-related travel purposes on overnight stays away from his or her residence, and the expenditure is not private or domestic in nature (paragraphs 328 to 336).

Second residence expenses: A deduction is not allowable for the costs of maintaining a property that is used as a second residence (paragraphs 337 to 343)……

These two sections of the ruling appear to allow parliamentarians to double-dip at the ordinary taxpayers expense – first using the overnight travel allowance to pay down the mortgage on a Canberra residence if it’s not owned outright and then claiming tax deductions including mortgage interest, rates, insurance and utilities on the same residence.

Then this cosy little arrangement became public knowledge……., 22 May 2016:
TAXPAYERS are helping to pay the mortgage and the rent for federal MPs who are raking in $1000 a week to sleep in Canberra and then, on top of that, claiming a big tax deduction for rent, rates, electricity and mortgage.
In a little-known tax ruling, MPs who rent can also claim a tax deduction for a second residence including “lease payments; rent; interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property; rates; taxes; insurance; general maintenance of the building, plant and grounds’’.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, charged with cracking down on budget waste, is just one of the MPs double-dipping by claiming a $273-a-night travel allowance (which, bizarrely, is not regarded as taxable income) and scoring a tax deduction as well….
The rules state that an MP “may choose to rent or buy a property rather than stay in a hotel or other commercial establishment when travelling. A deduction is allowable for expenses, that are not of a capital, private or domestic nature, in respect of such a property where it is used by a Member for accommodation when he or she is undertaking work-related travel.
“Such expenses include: lease payments; rent; interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property; rates; taxes; insurance; general maintenance of the building, plant and grounds.’’

The Guardian, 22 May 2016:
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has defended politicians receiving both a $273 a night travel allowance and tax deductions for mortgages and rents for properties in Canberra.
Speaking on Insiders on Sunday, Cormann said the remuneration tribunal granted the travel allowance and the tax office allowed deductions for politicians’ accommodation expenses.
Reports have revealed that on top of the allowance, MPs who rent or buy a property to stay in during work-related travel can also claim tax deductions for rent, interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property, rates, taxes, insurance and general maintenance.
The first report indicates that some federal politicians may be under the impression that a travel allowance paid for a presumed expense was not taxable income.
Then came this painful revelation……
ABC News, 23 May 2016:
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan stressed that members of Parliament had to abide by the same standards as everyone else.
"The rules are the same for every taxpayer, regardless of their occupation," Mr Jordan said in a statement.
"Any taxpayer who has had to travel overnight for work is entitled to deduct the costs of meals and accommodation under our tax laws.
"However, given that there are clear misunderstandings of how the ruling is applied, we will undertake to review the 1999 ruling to give greater clarity for all taxpayers on the treatment of allowances they may receive from their employer to cover the costs of work related travel."
The ATO said the returns of all taxpayers, including MPs were scrutinised, and that any taxpayer should not be claiming deductions for travel expenses unless they have declared the allowance as income in their tax returns.
In 1999, the ATO issued a ruling about how it assesses travel allowances and tax deductions for MPs.
That ruling will now be reviewed in light of the issue being thrust into the campaign spotlight.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gillian Mears July 1964 - May 2016, a Clarence Valley girl

Old Copmanhurst by the late great author Gillian Mears in Meanjin Volume 71 Issue 1 2012

Much exclamation occurs when people realise Foal’s Bread is my first novel in sixteen years. Sixteen years ago I was about to turn thirty-one. From this distance that seems inconceivably young and I was inconceivably bewildered that only horses understood that something horrible had begun to happen in my legs and feet.

I can clearly remember how for that birthday I rode my brown mare Bellini down as usual to my father’s letterbox on Old Copmanhurst Road. Although the advance author copies of The Grass Sister had arrived early, far from any feeling of luck that they’d landed in the letterbox on my birthday, only dismay was sweeping through me. Whereas a few weeks before I could’ve vaulted back onto my horse with my backpack full of mail, on that day it had become a difficult scramble.

The multiple sclerosis that would defy diagnosis for another seven years was slowly but surely taking away my ability to ride even the quietest pony, let alone Bellini, my loveliness Wind of Song ex-barrier rogue, rescued by my eldest sister Yvonne from the brutality of a Brisbane track for me to purchase.

I felt a growing sorrow that as the mystery progressed, less and less chance existed for those moments when my own soul could meet my mare’s through a long pair of favourite old leather reins. My grief at seeing her sold wasn’t unconnected to the fact that whatever was happening in my body was inexorably also severing my links with my own horse-loving family….

On 1 January 2009 the realisation dawned that Yvonne might never send out her book. I could wait no longer. My wholehearted attempts to write first a play and then a wisdom cat fable had, against all expectation and effort, utterly failed. Now I felt in a race with myself. In honour of Stow’s claim that fuelled by pork pie he wrote all his novels fast, I resolved to have a final draft of Foal’s Bread finished by the first day of spring. Memories of that kind of Newton Boyd country west of Grafton but before the Great Dividing Range, informed my writing days.

Even though I was thousands of miles away from the Clarence River, ghosts of horses of the past seemed to walk right into my writing room. When I’d typed the draft of each week’s chapter onto my computer I even developed the habit of throwing a cloth over it and the printer, as if they were horses to be rugged before nightfall. Then I could practically feel the warmth of a horse. I could feel that I really was clipping up the back legs straps of a rug as a cold wind sprang up off the river….

Read the rest of the story here.

* Photograph: The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2012

It's not just the Clarence Valley that harasses its bats

21 May 2016

Greg Hunt MP has granted a sthn NSW Shire council exemption from Australia's enviro law (EPBC) so it can harass/kill/burn/disperse the migratory colony of threatened wildlife - notably the Grey-headed Flying Fox. What precedent does this set for every other town along the east coast to demand an OK to mass kill this threatened species because a handful of people are frightened of bat poo. This is hardly 'in the national interets'. 
Flying foxes are a 'keystone species'; they play a vital role in our ecosystem, a species upon which many other plants and animals depend.
'Ecosure' is the most experienced flying-fox management consultancy in Australia and has been involved in numerous dispersal programs. Their report to the government on this said it is the highest risk dispersal scenario they have assessed...
Dispersal activities have unpredictable outcomes, are very costly, require ongoing commitment and maintenance, are often not successful and rarely achieve desirable outcomes for all stakeholders. Dispersal also often leads to flying-fox stress, injuries or fatalities, and may lead to increased human and animal health risk...
Removing their protection is an act so remiss in its duty of care to vulnerable species that it will one day be referred to as “catastrophic".…/u/16625192…
and here @GregHuntMP proudly tells the world he is happy to see thousands of threatened Flying Foxes harassed, stressed and killed off to stop 'residents suffering' from the bat's happy chatter and droppings.…/Coalition-Plan-To-Tackle-Batem…

NOTE: The Grey-headed Flying Fox is listed as Threatened in Victoria, Vulnerable in New South Wales and Rare in South Australia.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Tweet of the Week

Quotes of the Week

Policy decisions taken since the 2016-17 Budget have worsened the underlying cash balance by around $1.8 million in 2016-17…..
[Australian Treasury and Dept. of Finance, Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2016]

"F--- them. If you care about books, don't vote Liberal."
[Author Richard Flanagan at the Australian Book Industry Awards, quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 May 2016]

Joke of the Week

A tired old swaggie is trudging along one of the dusty backroads, back o' Bourke. She's just gorn 2 o'clock, about 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, the blowies are shocking and his swag feels like a bag of wet wheat. His back aches, the sweat is pouring off him and the soles of his one pair of boots have more holes than leather.
And now, from way behind him in the distance he sees a ball of dust approaching along the road at great speed. The swaggie stops, lays down the swag and wipes his brow as the car pulls to a halt beside him.
It's a brand new ute driven by the biggest property owner in the district – the only bastard in two hundred mile who smokes cigars. He winds down the passenger-side window as the swaggie savours the sudden lovely cool of the ute's air-conditioning running at full blast.
"Hop in, mate," says the filthy-rich Cockie, "Too hot to walk. I'l give yer a lift."
The swaggie pauses, slowly looks the car up and down, then turns his gaze on the driver and says, "Nah. Open your own bloody gates."
[Peter Fitzsimmons, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2016]

Friday, 27 May 2016

Euen denies his unrealistic plan for a "Yamba Super-Port" includes a coal loader or bauxite moving through the port

An short anonymous online snippet under the pen name "Maclean" in The Northern Star on 14 April 2016 included this photograph of Desmond John Thomas Euen (far left) with the Australian Deputy-Prime Minister and MP for New England Barnaby Joyce:

The photograph appears to have been taken at one of the Lismore bowling clubs on an unspecified date and the published snippet (possibly penned by Mr. Euen himself) contained no real details of what the dour former Queensland truck driver told Barnaby Joyce about his personal plan for the small Port of Yamba.

However, a local reader told me on 25 May 2016 that when contacted Des Euen is once again "emphatically" denying there will be any facilities for coal loading in his plan for Yamba and that coal and bauxite will not be going through the port.

He claimed to this local reader that there had never been any plans for a coal loader or for bauxite to move through the port.

Des apparently said “no coal loading facilities”, “no bauxite loading facilities” and “that has always been the case.”

But only one week before his denial at least one version of the invitation to the so-called "summit" in Casino posted online by Euen included the statement: ”The dual capacity of Yamba Port and Pacific West Rail to provide a viable alternative route for the carriage of mineral resources emanating from Northern NSW and the lower section of the Surat Basin".

On 25 May that 4 May 2014 dot point was also still up on the AID Australia Pty Ltd website:

In his presentation to Moree Plains Shire Council on 12 June 2014 Euen is clearly expecting that his proposed rail network will potentially carry ore from the Muswellbrook, Glen Innes and Narromine rail heads to the Port of Yamba:

On 9 February 2015 and again on 26 May 2016 this dot point was sighted by North Coast Voices on the AID Australia Pty Ltd website:

Readers have been tracking some of the text changes Euen makes to the AID Australia website and are of the opinion that reference to a coal port found at is no longer directly accessible from the 'company' website homepage and is no longer included in the AID Australia's A “Key” Nation Building Infrastructure Plan Summit invitation.

Reference to the possibility that bauxite would be loaded from this new Yamba Super-Port can be found on the Australian Stock Exchange website where a gullible Queensland Bauxite Limited told the world it had been in talks with Mr. Euen.

Des Euen has also given similar assurances (no coal and no gas) to a member of the Clarence Forum:

NOTE: Mayor Richie Willaimson has again denied he supports Euen's port expansion plan.

To be frank, to date in the Lower Clarence there is scant belief in Des Euen's facile assurances about his personal plans for Yamba.

Plans which he has never deigned to publicly present and explain to the Yamba community - perhaps because he is afraid that his grandiose phantasy would be blown out of the water by local knowledge of the Clarence River, its estuary, physical environment and coastal approaches.

Journalist Paul Bongiorno on the subject of Tony Abbott's comeback ambitions in 2016

ABC NEWS: MP for Warringah Tony Abbott’s 2016 federal election campaign launch

The New Daily, 16 May 2016:

Just ask yourself this: what other backbench member of parliament could attract all the TV networks, extensive radio coverage and print reporters to their local campaign launch?

Only a deposed prime minister keen to keep his name up in lights and intent on a comeback would be capable of the feat.

Tony Abbott’s Warringah launch had all the trappings of a national event. In fact, it had more razzamatazz than Julia Gillard’s 2010 effort, complete with a giant national flag back drop, professional placards and rows of blue t-shirted supporters.

It was followed with extensive interviews on Sky TV and with high-rating Sydney shock jock Alan Jones. And he is not up to mischief?

It is a free country and he successfully sought Liberal endorsement fair and square. But just as Malcolm Turnbull didn’t hang around in politics to be anything other than Prime Minister, it is surely not beyond the pale to ask why Tony is clinging to his parliamentary career. A lack of imagination doesn’t cut it. To serve the people of his electorate and the nation sounds, well, self-serving.

This is where the game of politics, the rules of engagement and appearances have to be well understood. Mr Abbott has assured his sympathetic media interrogators his party would never turn to him again as leader. His former chief of staff Peta Credlin scotched that one. That’s what he may be thinking now, she says, but experience tells us there’s no such thing as never ever.

Especially as a significant number of Liberals both in and out of the parliament are beginning to worry that Mr Turnbull is just not the politician he needs to be to maximise the government’s position either in the election, or if he should just win it, after the poll.

In fact there is a belief – more a shuddering fear – that the Coalition could be left with a bare majority at best.

“Anything under 80 seats spells doom for Malcolm,” was the view of one disconsolate Liberal MP. Seventy-six are needed to form government.

If perceptions of dithering and drift continue, and the government’s standing worsens, the precedent is set for a coup…..