Monday, 29 August 2016

Turnbull Government about to walk back superannuation changes and cost federal budget bottom line up to $335 million over first four years?


ABC News, 23 August 2016:

Independent costings suggest the Federal Government could end up losing money out of its proposed overhaul of superannuation changes if a key measure is watered down.
The Government has proposed a $500,000 limit on after-tax contributions to superannuation, in a move it says will save $500 million over four years.

The changes have upset a number of Coalition MPs, with some pushing for the $500,000 limit to be increased.

Analysis conducted by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) — commissioned by the Greens before the Government's proposal was put in place — suggest any increase of that limit could see those budget savings evaporate.

The PBO document from last year modelled the impact of hypothetical caps on superannuation after-tax contributions, ranging from $500,000 to $800,000.

According to the PBO, placing a $500,000 lifetime cap — which the Government is proposing — will see an additional $165 million put into government coffers over four years.
Increasing that cap to $600,000 would see those savings disappear — and end up costing the Government $85 million over the same period.

An $800,000 cap would cost the Government $335 million.....

The analysis did not look at the impact of back-dating the measures to 2007, which is a key part of the Coalition's proposal……

Mr Morrison announced the cap in non-concessional contributions as part of an overhaul of the superannuation system, forecasting it would save $550 million, starting from July 1, 2017.
Mr Morrison has been negotiating with the backbench following concerns raised within the Coalition about aspects of the policy.

On Monday, Mr Morrison resisted rolling-back on superannuation unless savings were found from elsewhere.

"I would find it pretty hard to look my kids in the eye and tell them they have got to saddle a higher debt because someone who had a very big income wanted to pay less tax," Mr Morrison told 2GB.

The changes are yet to pass through Federal Parliament.

ADVOCATES URGE LABOR & CROSS BENCH TO VETO PLEBISCITE / TURNBULL'S "PLAN B" SHOULD BE FREE VOTE IN PARLIAMENT



just.equal

MEDIA RELEASE
28 August 2016
 
ADVOCATES URGE LABOR & CROSS BENCH TO VETO PLEBISCITE
TURNBULL'S "PLAN B" SHOULD BE FREE VOTE IN PARLIAMENT

"If the Prime Minister is really concerned about achieving marriage equality as quickly as possible he will have a back-up plan should a plebiscite be vetoed, and that 'Plan B' should be to allow a free vote in parliament."
- Rodney Croome

Advocates have dismissed a renewed call by the Prime Minister for a marriage equality plebiscite and urged the Senate to veto it.

Malcolm Turnbull has said a plebiscite is the quickest path to marriage equality but Labor is hardening its position against the plebiscite because of the harm and cost.

Long-time marriage equality advocate, Rodney Croome, said,

"I reject the Government's rhetoric about a plebiscite being the quickest or the only way forward for marriage equality, and call on Labor and the Senate cross bench to unconditionally block plebiscite enabling legislation."

"If the Prime Minister is really concerned about achieving marriage equality as quickly as possible he will have a back-up plan should a plebiscite be vetoed, and that 'Plan B' should be to allow a free vote in parliament."

"If a plebiscite is vetoed by the Senate the political landscape changes and I expect the issue to return to the Liberal Party room and for Liberals who support marriage equality to push for a free vote or cross the floor."

"The risk there isn't a free vote is a risk the LGBTI community is willing to take to avoid the hurt, harm and indignity of a plebiscite."

"This was confirmed by a recent scientific survey of the LGBTI community that was the largest of its kind ever conducted in Australia with over 5,500 respondents."

On Friday the Greens announced they will vote against plebiscite enabling legislation. The Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch say they also oppose a plebiscite, meaning if Labor opposes it too it cannot pass.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Turnbull Government to sell off public access to Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) corporate database


Access to the national database containing the corporate history of all companies, trusts and business names registered in this country to be controlled by an Australian or foreign-owned company – what could possibly go wrong?

GetUp! Petition here

The Guardian, 18 August 2016:

More than 20 civil society organisations and unions have made a last-minute call for the Turnbull government to stop the sale of the Asic’s corporate registry to a private company.
The Panama Papers scandal demonstrated that governments need to take action against shell companies with concealed ownership, they argue, and the corporate watchdog’s registry of business data must remain in government hands to help in that fight.
The Australian Council of Social Service, the Tax Justice Network, the Uniting church, and GetUp!, among other groups, have sent a joint letter to the treasurer, Scott Morrison, asking him to stop the sale of the registry.
“We are writing to seek your assurance that the Asic corporate register will not be privatised to become a private monopoly,” says the letter, seen by Guardian Australia.
“The Asic corporate register is currently relied upon by law enforcement agencies, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office, in identifying company ownership and location.
“Placing this register in private hands risks undermining a range of law enforcement activities as well as Australia’s attempts to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”
Asic’s corporate registry is a critical database of information on more than 2m companies in Australia, including business names, histories, financial records, and backgrounds of directors.
It can be used by the public to search millions of companies – and their documents – not listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Only about 2,000 companies are listed on the ASX.
The Abbott government announced plans in the 2015-16 budget to undertake a competitive tender process for the registry business, believing it would be better run in private hands.
The government says it will retain ownership of the data once the registry is sold, but software upgrades of the register will be undertaken by its private owner.
The sale is supported by Greg Medcraft, the Asic chairman.
But the group warns the Turnbull government its plan to introduce a “public register of beneficial ownership” – which will reveal the identities of the beneficial owners of shell companies in an effort to stamp out tax avoidance by multinational companies – will be undermined by the registry sale.
“The obvious starting point for a register of beneficial ownership would be the existing Asic corporate register, so selling off the register into private hands closes off important options in the consideration of a register of beneficial ownership,” the letter says.
“There are already problems with Asic not having the resources to ensure the accuracy of the database, as the Fair Work Ombudsman has encountered labour hire companies on the register that are registered at false addresses with front people as directors.
“It is difficult to believe that a private owner of the database will be able to put in the same level of resources as Asic to ensure the accuracy of the database, making it even easier for criminals to register businesses with front people as directors and registered at false addresses.”
Morrison could not be contacted for comment. Final bids for the tender process are due by 29 August.

Failing To Meet Aspirational Health Targets: childhood immunisation rates on NSW North Coast lowest in Australia


There was only four Primary Health Network Areas in Australia which came near to meeting the aspiration health target of 95 per cent full childhood immunisation of all children by 5 years of age.

None of those areas were on the NSW North Coast. In fact North Coast Primary Health Network Areas had the lowest percentages of fully immunised children in Australia in 2014-15 – achieving only 89.2% by 5 years of age.

From the Clarence Valley to the Tweed there were 2,100 children (aged 1 to 5 years of age combined) who were not fully immunised. Only 167 of these children were Aboriginal-Torres Strait Islanders as the childhood immunisation percentage in this cohort is 95.1% by 5 years of age.

NSW Far North Coast

NSW North Coast


In late 2014, the Australian Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory chief health officers agreed to an aspirational target for 95% of children to be fully immunised in line with the National Immunisation Program Schedule. The report shows that for 1-year-old children, rates are below 95% in all PHN areas, although this fact does not reflect on the performance of PHNs as they were set up after the period to which the data relate.

The report finds:

*90.9% of all children aged 1, 2 and 5 years were fully immunised and 9.1% (84,571) were not fully immunised, though rates vary across local areas

*89.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1, 2 and 5 years were fully immunised and 10.8% (4,922) were not fully immunised, though rates vary across local areas

*Immunisation rates for all 1 year olds ranged across PHN areas from 93.6% to 87.7% with a total of 26,671 children not fully immunised nationally. None of the 31 PHNs had immunisation rates of 95% or higher for this age group

*Immunisation rates for 2 year olds ranged across PHN areas from 92.3% to 86.7% with a total of 33,681 children not fully immunised nationally. None of the 31 PHNs had immunisation rates of 95% or above for this age group, although rates for 2 year olds may have been lower due to a recent change in the number of vaccines counted in the definition for ‘fully immunised’ 2 year olds

*Immunisation rates for 5 year olds ranged across PHN areas from 95.6% to 89.2% with a total of 24,219 children not fully immunised nationally. Only two of the 31 PHN areas had immunisation rates of 95% or higher for this age group

*Across smaller local areas (SA3s), among all 1-year-old children, 39 out of 324 local areas (SA3s) recorded a significant increase in immunisation rates, while only one area showed a significant decrease. Among 5 year olds, 16 SA3s showed an increase and six a decrease


*Immunisation rates for 1-year-old Indigenous children significantly increased in seven out of 49 geographic areas (SA4s) where data were available, and decreased in none.

Immunisation helps protect individuals and the community generally against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis). To be considered fully immunised, children need to have completed the immunisations appropriate for their age as set out in the National Immunisation Program Schedule by the time they turn 1, 2 and 5 years of age.

This release also includes a new interactive web tool that allows users to build their own graphs on immunisation data that interests them.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Quote of the Week


“That east coast low the other week was just the ticket to show the dreamers what can happen to the ocean and the coast in only a few hours during one of Mother Nature's tantrums. Those massive movements of wind, water and sand are why we'll never see big offshore wind farms hereabouts and, hopefully, why that greedy, crazy grab for a Clarence River mega-port will never get off the drawing board. This is a very exposed coastline that doesn't have a great deal of respect for human engineering.” [The Northern Star, 19 August 206]

Tweets of the Week



This tweet is by a journalist with The Age & The Guardian newspapers



This tweet is by an ABC TV journalist/news & current affairs presenter


Friday, 26 August 2016

Policy Platforms of Candidates in the Clarence Valley Local Government Elections, Saturday 10 September 2016 - Part One


North Coast Voices contacted as many Clarence local government election candidates as was possible and issued an invitation to supply their policy positions for our readers.

Here are the first four candidates in this series.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PETER ELLEM

Peter Ellem with wife Susan and daughters, from left, Lily, Tess and Zoe

Yamba resident, Walkley Award-winning journalist, editor of  The Daily Examiner and Coastal Views newspapers from 2001 to 2007 before becoming the Grafton-based policy/media adviser to the former Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin from 2007 to 2013.

In November 2011, Mr Ellem gained further political experience by standing as Country Labor's candidate in a by-election for the State seat of Clarence. He is running as an independent candidate for CVC and funding his own campaign.

Mr Ellem said his forebears had helped pioneer the Clarence Valley from the 1860s, and he was motivated by a desire to serve all local communities to make the Valley the best possible place for families and individuals to prosper.

Mr Ellem and his wife Susan have raised three daughters Zoe, Tess and Lily here in the Valley.

“Clarence Valley Council is our largest employer and its staff do a lot of good work in the community, but its long term financial position is unsustainable and should be of concern, particularly to ratepayers, but to all residents,” Ellem said.

“As an editor, I led the popular Not A Drop campaign against moves to dam and divert the mighty Clarence River westward, and campaigned for the Grafton Base Hospital redevelopment, fast tracking of the Pacific Highway upgrade and second Grafton bridge crossing.

“I managed multi-million dollar budgets for a top 100 company, and I would bring the same common sense approach to the real challenges facing the council.

“As a public servant, I liaised with five Northern Rivers councils to successfully lobby for major infrastructure projects and grant programs, and to keep capital works projects on track and to budget.

“CVC needs some new blood – progressive councillors who will try to ensure good governance and greater transparency wherever possible.

“We need to encourage appropriate development under existing planning controls to protect and create local jobs. However, growth should not be at the cost of our wonderful environment or existing industries like tourism, fishing and farming.

“This is why I will fight to stop the proposed mega-port from swamping and destroying the Lower Clarence. I have also consistently opposed coal seam gas exploration and mining in the Valley and the wider region.”

Fighting for the Clarence Valley
* Strong financial management to keep rates low
* Sustainable development for local jobs
* Support communities in sport and culture
* Protect the Clarence River from mega port, diversion and CSG

How to vote for renewal:

Novak, Debrah - Independent

Clancy, Greg - The Greens

Kingsley, Jason - Independent

Ellem, Peter - Independent

De Roos, Joy

Text and photograph supplied by Peter Ellem

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MARGARET MCKENNA

Margaret McKenna

I was born in Grafton, went to school here and then "did my time in Sydney" before returning to start a family in this beautiful part of the world.

My first taste for politics was when I was the Mayor of Grafton Junior City Council in 1977.  I have spent many years involved in charity work locally and overseas with Rotary and other community groups and when I sold my Accountancy Practice in 2008 I decided my next "charity work" would be as a Councillor.

I was elected in 2008 and again in 2012 and I feel privileged to be able to represent my community to shape the world we live in.

My years as a Registered Tax agent has demonstrated my ability to understand complex financial matters but also my ability to explain things in a "down to earth" manner to people of varying backgrounds. 

My interests would be exemplified by some Council Committees I have chaired.
Heritage Advisory - protecting our natural and built heritage, Tourism  Advisory,  and the Clarence Regional Library Committee.

I am the current Chair of the Coast & Estuary Advisory Committee. This has given me the opportunity to work conscientiously to get the Coastal Zone Management Plans for Brooms Head and Wooli to the Minister for approval. I want to see this completed to give these communities security and protection.

I am opposed to the Yamba Mega Port.
There may be an argument that the mega port will provide Economic benefits but the River already provides economic, social and health benefits.
- It is a potential for environmental noise and visual pollution.
-Tourism is one of the Lower Clarence’s major economic assets. Recreational fishing is a big part of our water based tourism and is a multi million dollar industry (and one of our major industries in the Valley) and will be destroyed. ‘
- Fishing - both Recreational and professional will suffer. Currently the commercial fishing industry is worth at least $90m annually, and generates over 400 jobs
- traditional owners must be respected
- our environment and Eco system has a delicate balance and should be respected. 
A mega port will damage the environment and ambience for tourists but most importantly,  and frightening to think of, how our local residents will be affected.

My proudest moment in the past 4 years?  Standing up for the Maclean residents who needed me to fight for the survival of the camphor laurel trees in McLachlan Park. It certainly wasn't a successful battle but I faced fierce criticism and very strong opposition from 8 Councillors and I faced it head on and didn't give up on the trees and the community . It wasn't about what I wanted or what I thought was right, it was that after listening to the community I decided they need strong representation. I proved to myself and others that I would stand up and speak up for our community and those with no voice

My future priorities:
-  financial sustainability without a Special Rate Variation
-  continue my push to get the Grafton Riverfront Plan substantially commenced, to see the McLachlan Park redevelopment completed and then continue the Maclean Riverfront Precinct Plan.
- ensure CVC water supply remains available and affordable by ensuring water assets at Nymboida are owned by CVC, not sold off by the State Government.
- further investigate free overnight 12hour camping where there is no commercially available facilities 
- provide shade over all our parks with swings and all council owned eating areas
- Increased recycling incentives to minimise dumping on our roadsides and waterways

"NO CSG
NO MEGA PORT
NO SPECIAL RATE VARIATION 
NO DAMMING THE CLARENCE
Our River is for Tourism, fishing and for our children."

Text and photograph supplied by Margaret McKenna

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GREG CLANCY
Greg Clancy

A Clarence Valley resident for almost 40 years, I have played a major role in the environment movement, from the Washpool and pulp mill campaigns to today’s mega port proposal. 
I am standing for Council to represent those who care about social justice and environmental issues. I will work to ensure meaningful community engagement in Council’s decision-making.  I chose to be a Greens candidate because I share and will be guided by the core principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, grassroots democracy and non-violence of the Greens.

My vision for the Valley is a healthy, prosperous and united community respecting our natural world. Social and environmental values are not at odds with a good economic base. Development and employment need to enhance our Valley not degrade it.  Ecotourism and renewable energy have great potential.
Small businesses and the self-employed, the backbone of the north coast, need to be allowed to prosper, bringing work and self-respect to our many unemployed.
The ongoing loss of public sector jobs from Grafton is disturbing. Tertiary educational facilities such as TAFE need to be maintained. While the reopening of Grafton Gaol is good for jobs, we need to address the reasons why there are so many inmates.
Mining threatens the Clarence Valley. Proposed Gold and Antimony mines should not be allowed in our catchment. Coal Seam Gas, although put on hold, could rear its ugly head again in future. I oppose schemes to create a mega port at Yamba and to dam the Clarence to divert its water west. Water running to the sea is not ‘wasted’ – it supports the health of the estuary and our fishing industry.   

I believe I would make a good councillor. As a consultant ecologist who also has experience working for various government departments (including planning), I have an extensive knowledge of relevant planning and environmental legislation. My doctorate is in wildlife ecology and I was the Ecological Society of Australia’s scientific representative on the Clarence Regional Vegetation Committee.
  • No mega port at Yamba
  • A healthy dam-free Clarence
  • Keeping the Northern Rivers free of gas mining
  • Local biodiversity protection through full implementation of the Clarence Valley Biodiversity Strategy
  • Sustainable employment and industry, including ecotourism and ‘clean’ small businesses
  • Support for minority groups, Aboriginal communities and outlying villages.
I have had over 30 years’ experience in running a small business. I have also been heavily involved in many community groups, including:
  •  Susan and Elizabeth Islands Recreation Trust,
  •  Coutts Crossing Tidy Towns Committee,
  •  Clarence Valley Branch of the National Parks Association,
  •  Grafton District Services Country Music Club and
  •  Grafton District Services Big River Jazz Club.  
How to vote:

Clancy, Greg The Greens

Tibbett, Brett Independent

Kingsley, Jason Independent

Ellem, Peter Independent

Ellem, Trevor Independent

Hughes, Sue Independent

McKenna, Margaret – Independent

De Roos, Joy - Independent

Text and photograph supplied by Greg Clancy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

KAREN TOMS
Karen Toms

I am self-employed. I have served two terms on Council and represented Council on many committees covering a range of issues.

If I am re-elected I will continue to work hard representing my community and getting our finances in order. I want a Council that treats its residents with respect. One that answers questions quickly respond to enquiries quickly. I want to help build back trust. I want a Council that listens even when it is a complaint, especially when it is a complaint.

We have an enormous amount of infrastructure that needs attention and yet we are still spending millions on new things.

I did not support the previous 37% Special Rate Variation application. Even IPART didn’t approve. They approved the variation for one year only, the application was for 5. Even so 5 councillors wanted to try again and have set it up to apply again after the elections. This time for a WHOPPING 41% Special Rate Variation.

I assure you if I am re-elected I will not support this proposed increase in your rates.

I’m certain a rate rise of 41% over 7 years will put financial pressure on our families our retirees and our residents who rent.

The stupid thing about the excessive rate increases is they will not fix the problem we face. Even the experts agree.

I am also concerned by our huge debt of $130 Million. Some of this debt is good debt (sewerage water) BUT WE MUST WORK ON REDUCING THE BAD DEBT. OUR General Fund is actually like having a credit card with no limit. It is a trap to think it is our money sitting there to be used. It is borrowed money generating interest bills our community have to pay.

We pay millions of dollars in interest, which could be put to better use if we reduce debt. We own an enormous amount of unused property that could be sold to reduce debt, and reduce our maintenance backlogs. Instead we have had majority of Councillors who have supported charging the ratepayers excessive rates rather than taking another course of action.

More of the same will not improve our financial situation. Experts Ernest & Young advised Council to reduce debt to a manageable level. We’ve had TCorp tell us we have gone from a weak outlook to a neutral outlook. They also say they are not sure about some of our modelling and want it checked. This is nothing to be happy about, in my opinion.

I will continue to work and challenge all unjustified spending, analyse every cost/benefit before commitment.

I will not support building new infrastructure unless a strong business case is put forward that proves it will not burden the ratepayers further.

During my 8 years on Council, I have earnt a reputation for asking questions and being a strong advocate of scrutiny and transparency.

I will continue standing up for you. Please give me your number 1 VOTE and support those who will do the same.

Thank you

Text and photograph supplied by Karen Toms

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Coal Seam Gas: even the Murdoch media can't disguise this betrayal by Turnbull & Baird Governments



Conversation between NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts & Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg at COAG Energy Meeting, August 2016*

The federal and state governments on the east coast of Australia stood quietly by as APPEA and the gas industry structured export and domestic contracts in such a way as to businesses and families pay increasing high gas bills in order to subsidise the industry’s export markets.

Now the Baird Government decides that the best way to deal with this is to let the gas industry expand its exploration activities once again - creating new gas fields across the state.

Gas fields which will still produce gas for sale under the very same commercial arrangements which see Australian domestic gas prices so much higher than the price paid by international buyers.

That is unless the Turnbull, Baird, Palaszczuk and Andrews governments insist that the wholesale domestic gas price is no longer tied to the export price and state domestic gas reserves are established so that supply adequately keeps pace with demand.

The Australian, 22 August 2016:


New frontlines in the battle among environmentalists, pastoralists and gas explorers are set to be drawn, with governments in NSW and Victoria weighing up moves to reopen the door to critical energy projects to avert a looming price crisis.

The Baird government is preparing to stare down fierce envir­onmental opposition to coal-seam gas mining by lifting a moratorium blanketing most of NSW and approving projects on a “case by case” basis.

The move, which will reignite a debate largely extinguished after the buyback of earlier mining ­licences, comes as Victoria is ­expected by the end of the month to decide on the future of its longstanding moratorium on all new gas projects.

NSW Energy Minister Anth­ony Roberts said it was a priority to keep supply stable and reliable as the market transitioned to ­renewable energy.

“Gas is also an important feedstock for a number of manufacturing processes, not just a fuel source, and therefore ensuring continued reliable and affordable supply underpins employment and investment in a number of key sectors and locations,” Mr Roberts told The Australian……

Narrabri farmer Alistair Don­ald­son is adamant the development of coal-seam gas close to his beef and grain property would ­create economic and environmental problems.

“As landholders, we are held to ransom for what is essentially a highly invasive and potentially destructive industry,” Mr ­Don­aldson said.

“They’ll spruik the economic benefits of the mine, but at the end of the day it comes at the ­expense of other industries without even considering the environmental issues, which are monu­mental.”

NSW has significant reserves of coal-seam gas in the Gunnedah Basin, where Santos is already working on a project near ­Narrabri, as well as in the northern ­Clarence-Moreton Basin and near Gloucester, north of ­Newcastle.

Mr Donaldson said gas supply had not been an issue until the ­development of an export industry focused around Gladstone in Queensland.

“They will take up all available gas no matter what, and I can see us having domestic gas issues for the foreseeable future no matter how many fields we open up in this state … that really frustrates me,” he said.

Anti-mining group Lock the Gate is already threatening to campaign against any easing of restrictions, and is calling for a complete ban in the state.

“If the NSW government opens up the countryside again to unconventional gas and fracking, they know very well that it will be met with widespread community protest and resistance,” said Georgina Woods, Lock the Gate’s state co-ordinator.

“Better to make sensible laws that match the public’s expec­t­ations and protect farmland and water than cave in to gas industry pressure and face a popular ­backlash.”

The Baird government paid $25 million to buy back three ­exploration licenses from ­Metgasco late last year after the ­Supreme Court had found that ­licences granted by the previous Labor government had been ­improperly suspended. The move to a case-by-case assessment of gas projects in NSW was recommended by the Australian Competition & Consumer Com­mis­sion and endorsed by last week’s meeting of federal and state ­energy ministers.

NSW allows coal-seam gas projects in a small slice of the state focused on Narrabri, where Santos is hoping to develop a mine.

The development of that project could supply between one-quarter and one-half of the state’s gas needs, according to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.
A Santos spokesman said the company was finalising environmental assessments for the Narrabri gas project, which it would submit to the government shortly.

Any change is likely to mean the government will make ­stringent assessments of the social, environmental and economic impact of potential projects and allow those that are deemed appropriate to be put to ­tender.

A more detailed strategy is ­expected to be released by Mr Roberts later this year…..


Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, media release, 19 August 2016:

COAG ENERGY MINISTERS AGREE TO SIGNIFICANT REFORM PACKAGE

The COAG Energy Council has agreed to significant reforms and a major new program of work to ensure the energy system remains affordable and reliable as we transition to a lower emissions future. Council focused on three key areas of reform: · Increasing liquidity and transparency in gas markets

· Empowering consumer choice
· Ensuring stability and connectivity of the National Electricity Market (NEM)

Significant reports on gas market reform from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) provided a strong evidence base and momentum for action. To fast track implementation of the recommendations from these reports Council will form a new Gas Market Reform Group headed by Dr Michael Vertigan.

These are the most significant reforms to the domestic gas market in two decades. Council recognised the growing importance of gas as a transition fuel as we move to incorporate more renewables into the system.

The reforms will improve competition, encourage more supply and put downward pressure on prices. Another key focus of the Council will ensure consumers can confidently take advantage of new technologies such as battery storage through the introduction of appropriate consumer protections.

Council acknowledged the important role played by interconnectors in the NEM and agreed to review regulatory settings to ensure they do not present barriers to appropriate investment in the current market environment.

Officials have also been asked to provide advice on economic and operational impacts of existing and proposed state and territory emissions reduction policies on the energy system.

This advice will inform the Council’s consideration of how to better integrate energy and emissions policy.

The Council has proved its ability to respond to current issues and I look forward to further engagement with my colleagues when we meet again in December to build on the progress made today.

Ends

* ROBERTS: “We’ll just back you…..people aren’t going to love us, they’re going to hate us….”
   FRYDENBERG: “Well I won’t say that in front of the T.V….”{laughing}

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Yamba Port & Rail Scheme: was the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Crown Land misled?


“We service the property developers and property investors by unlocking access to the best available lands at the best available price.” [United Land Councils Ltd, website page retrieved 20 August 2016]

On 15 August 2015 four representatives of United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd gave evidence before the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 INQUIRY INTO CROWN LAND.

These are excerpts of evidence given by MICHAEL ANDERSON, Deputy Chair, United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications:

We advocate the idea of forming a working party with key government stakeholders through which we will secure the support of Aboriginal New South Wales. We are confident that, if we cannot achieve greater unity of Aboriginal people, we will certainly be able to deliver a large number of the most important strategic areas of New South Wales, particularly the coast and some regional locations west of the Blue Mountains. We have brought to the Committee a sample of works we are doing. We present to the Committee our introductory brochure with which we introduce ourselves to Aboriginal organisations across Australia. The brochure sets out our objectives and the benefits we bring to them as members uniting with us. In that brochure, we identify major projects such as damming the Great Katherine dam and building pipelines inland to irrigate the arid central Australia, converting it to Australia's food bowl to the world. We also discuss the project of a super port in Yamba to cater for the international trade for the next two centuries and, through that port, opening up the vast network of disused rail networks to provide a safe and efficient transportation mode. We attach a separate summary of the Yamba super port proposal because that is directly relevant to this Committee and how, working with Indigenous communities, major infrastructure can be created combining port and rail to become the leading means for distribution throughout Australia. We also attach a profile of our leading joint venture partners such Grossman, which a leading German solar, civil engineering and construction company, and the MHR Group, which is a leading Dubai pipeline and infrastructure group. One thing Arabs know is deserts and how to irrigate them. We provide a Lever arch folder that contains some of the template agreements used to effect an amicable settlement on the current Aboriginal land claims that are outstanding. We have drafted a master settlement agreement and we provide for every conceivable use of the land. We provide draft agreements for parks and conservation management, licences for Aboriginal farming and fishing use and access, Indigenous social housing models, trust funds for the provision of the next generations of Aboriginal peoples, and a series of land use agreements to promote business and industry….

Large high-tech warehousing is ideally suited to land under claim. The promise of employment and lasting careers for the younger generation on their own land is meaningful to the Aboriginal community. This same thinking applies to the Yamba super port and rail development. New regional hubs will be created around train intersections. Almost all of these potential growth areas involve Aboriginal lands or land claims.…..

As we hope to present to you, we have the backers, both in international investors and venture partners. We have the capacity and funds to change our destiny. All we ask is that we get on with it. We need no charity. We need no patronising. We ask that we plan for the future together and get the red tape out of our way…..

I sit on another national committee on water planning. New South Wales is yet to put its water plans in to the Commonwealth Government under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I sit on those committees and I am one of the assessors on whether New South Wales is doing the right thing with their water resources plan. So we are looking at those rivers and factors that are important to us in terms of looking after them. When you talk about planning, Aboriginal people already know what can be used and what cannot be used. I can tell you that a lot of that land will not be used……

The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW: Could you come back to us on notice as to which land councils in New South Wales are part of your organisation?

Mr PETERSON: Sure.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I would ask on notice what is your relationship like with the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council? Is it a positive relationship, have you sat down and spoken with them about this particular proposal, are you on the same page? Secondly, what do you mean by "progressive" land councils, if you could provide that on notice?

Mr PETERSON: Those that have been keen to show interest in development.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Development-focused land councils?

Mr PETERSON: Yes, taking it from bush to something.

Mr ANDERSON: I know a lot of the land councils really want to progress and develop economic strategies, housing estates and start doing that, but unfortunately they are really tied down with a noose around their neck.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: If you could answer Mr Farlow's question and mine about the land council on notice that would good.

The CHAIR: We are also looking for the cemetery and the ports attachments, if you can table them.

Mr PETERSON: Yes. [my red bolding]

This development group was thought to have been in discussion with Des Euen and Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd (A.I.D.) for some time and, although it is possible that United Land Councils & United First Peoples Syndications may have adopted this infrastructure scheme as its own when the original Yamba Port & Rail (Y.P.R Australia Ltdunsolicited proposal was rejected by the NSW Government in April 2014, all may not be as it first appears.

A.I.D. and United First Peoples Syndications are sharing the same graphics and presenting the port proposal in the same terms.

Clarence Valley residents who attended the 2 June 2016  A.I.D.'summit' in Casino will probably recall this graphic prepared by David C Jones, Inverell, for Yamba Port and Rail aka Y.P.R Australia Ltd sister company to Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd (A.I.D.):

This is a similar graphic also prepared by David C Jones, Inverell, for Yamba Port and Rail, being used by United First Peoples Syndications:

[See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loWRePyoHjI, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KzCURkafsI & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sgGg8QU_Uc, Sydney, 17 May 2016]

If any sort of business relationship exists between A.I.D. and either or both of the two companies which gave evidence, then a reasonable person might expect that this would have been disclosed to the Inquiry - given formal rejection of the Yamba Port & Rail development proposal by the Baird Government.

Just as this inconvenient fact was sidestepped, so too the companies avoided telling these same committee members that both United Land Councils Limited (registered in New Zealand in July 2016) and United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd (registered in Australia in April 2016) share Richard John Green as sole director of both companies and, when one delves into the official corporate history, he is the only reliably identified shareholder as well.

Nor did any of those representatives who appeared before the Inquiry explain why United Land Councils appears to believe that it has a right to use Clarence Valley estuary land to; service the property developers and property investors by unlocking access to the best available lands at the best available price. Outright sales are available, but often it will be the interests of the developers or investors to enter into collaborative arrangements…..

When it came to the actual Yamba ‘mega port’ it was more than misleading to avoid mentioning to this parliamentary standing committee the fact that the Yaegl people (holding native title on Clarence River waters from just above Brushgrove right down to the river mouth at the breakwater walls) are concerned about this scheme to industrialise 27.2 per cent of the total estuary area and had refused to meet with A.I.D. in August.

That some measure of local indigenous concerns would have been known to the United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications can be inferred by the following statement in the Clarence Valley Independent on 24 August 2016:

Chair of the Yaegl Traditional Owners Corporation (YTOAC), Billy Walker, told the Independent that his board has not yet discussed the matters raised at the inquiry; however, he said it had met with Messrs Green and Anderson earlier this year. Mr Walker said: “From my point of view, I’d have to see what they have to say to the board before making any comment.” He said that a future meeting had not been organised.

When questioned on the subject of the peak state land council the companies avoided disclosing the obvious antipathy towards the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, evidenced by the director's opening remarks at a company event:

“We’ve got the state land council which is not helping our people in any way. You know we’ve got all the councilors sitting up in there in those big offices earning all this money and what have we got for over the last forty years….”
[See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loWRePyoHjI]

There was also a marked failure to mention that, along with the existing port infrastructure ie. “Goodwood Island wharf, a large shed that can accommodate vessels up to 120 metres in length, a small tug wharf and pontoon” [Port Authority of New South Wales Annual Report 2014/15], the estimated land area required to build the proposed "super port" terminals is land on which native title has been officially extinguished

Additionally, the vast majority of this land is privately-held regionally significant farmland. In other words, not Crown land (including land under claim) which is the focus of the inquiry.

Full details of the extent of the legitimate Native Title proudly and responsibly held by the Yaegl people can be found here.

When United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd spoke of having backers who were international investors and venture partners, like A.I.D.,  they weren't telling untruths. One only has to look at what correspondence is publicly available and, the photos and videos turning up on social media of various "super port" proponents with individuals representing foreign capital, multinationals, professional company directors, corporate strategists and legal shills.

It is hard to escape the suspicion that Chinese investors and foreign/domestic infrastructure and development companies have been using both these companies (just as they use Australian Infrastructure Developments) as a way of bypassing the values of Clarence Valley communities and other vulnerable communities across Australia in order to sate their own financial avarice.

One has to wonder what the Committee Chair The Hon. Paul Green (CDP, LC Member), Deputy Chair The Hon. Lou Amato (Lib, LC Member) and members The Hon. Catherine Cusack (Lib, LC Member), The Hon. Scott Farlow (Lib, LC Member), The Hon. Daniel Mookhey (ALP, LC Member), Mr David Shoebridge (The Greens, LC Member) and The Hon. Ernest Wong (ALP, LC Member) would think of being given less than the full picture when it came to the proposed Port of Yamba overdevelopment.

The Inquiry into Crown Land reports to the NSW Parliament on 13 October 2016 and, as there is no way for local communities to correct the record, Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6  will make recommendations regarding Crown lands on the NSW North Coast with an imperfect understanding of the situation in the Clarence Valley.

Brief background

A full list of registered New Zealand companies in which Richard Green was/is a director and/or shareholder can be found here.

Further information on a number of these companies can be found here.

Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd organisation details:

It is noted that no company named First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust of 89 Kiteroa Street, Rd 2, Cambridge appears on the New Zealand online company register as of 20 August 2016. However, on 22 April 2016 First Peoples Advancement Charity Pty Ltd was registered in NSW, with Richard John Green as sole director & company secretary and all shareholdings held by First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust (NZ) on behalf of unidentified individuals and/or corporations.

Google Earth image of the New Zealand address of the First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust: