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    "What Simon Birmingham has been doing is absolutely fantastic. He has managed to un-mesh the terrible omelette that was created by the Gillard government, the Rudd government in terms of funding; he's undoing all that." 

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    « The post-Warren world - nominations and odds | Main | Glad-handing Adani »
    Monday
    Apr242017

    Benito Dutton's pants on fire

    April 18 to April 24 ... Experts poke holes in Turnbull's vacuous 457 visa reform ... Queensland's corruption watchdog investigates money from the Fadden Forum ... Dutton undeterred by fresh evidence on Manus Island shooting ... Chevron faces $340 million tax bill following Federal Court ruling ... Week@TheKnees with Sohini Mehta 

    AT Parliament House on Tuesday (April 18), Malcolm Turnbull announced that the government will abolish 457 temporary work visas, with a Trump-esque addendum: 

    "We are ensuring that Australian jobs and Australian values are first, placed first."

    Two new temporary skills shortage visas will impose tougher English language tests and require at least two years of work experience, as well as a mandatory police check.

    A mere few hours later, Donald Trump prepared to unveil a "buy American, hire American" executive order that will crack down on guest worker visas and require more US goods to be purchased locally. 

    Some true blue pollies have construed the PM's announcement as evidence they're dictating the government's agenda. One Nation's Pauline Hanson claimed the decision "is because of One Nation" and Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi took credit for "reminding [the government] what it should be doing". 

    The union movement, which has argued for years for reform of 457 to stamp out rorts, said the move was "more spin than substance".

    Joanna Howe, an expert on temporary labour migration at Adelaide University said, "the core problem which has dogged the 457 visa is being carried over to the government's new system - employer-conducted labour market testing".

    This system has been discredited because it doesn't prevent unscrupulous employers from exploiting the labour of temporary migrant workers. She says the government's own Azarias report identified this issue and recommended a new independent labour market testing as the best practice model. 

    Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley said the 216 occupations axed from the old list of 651 professions eligible for a 457 visa "have been pulled out of a hat".

    Lawyers remain on the foreign skilled visa list. 

    "We can hire a foreign lawyer easily and sponsor them on a 457, which we've done, but in truth there's no reason we should be able to," he said. 

     

    *   *   *

    Gold Coast Liberal MP Stuart Robert told the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission on Tuesday (April 18) he secretly financed two of his staffers in last year's Gold Coast council election.

    He allegedly funnelled $60,000 from the Fadden Forum, a Liberal-affiliated fundraising entity, to bolster the independent candidacies of Felicity Stevenson and Kristyn Boulton. Boulton, who now sits on the council, says she is "confused" about where the money donated to her campaign came from. 

    Robert was frank about his reasons for funding the clandestine campaigns: "the idea of Labor getting a foothold in my area of the Gold Coast was not particularly appealing". He also claimed the state Liberal-National party approved his actions.

    Robert resigned as assistant defence minister from the first Turnbull ministry in 2016 after attending a signing ceremony between senior Chinese government officials and mining executives of a company in which he had a financial stake.

    *   *   *

    Dutton: an issue for PNGImmigration Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC on Sunday morning (April 23) his account of the Good Friday (April 14) shooting on Manus Island was "true" despite evidence to the contrary. 

    Dutton suggested the shooting occurred after local people witnessed asylum seekers leading a five-year-old boy towards the centre. He said the allegation, combined with recent charges laid against asylum seekers and refugees for the sexual assault of locals, has created "a lot of angst". 

    PNG police have since clarified that "drunk" naval officers, following a dispute with asylum seekers playing on a football field, clashed with police and immigration officers. 

    "The soldiers fired several gunshots on the air causing great fear and threats to the local and international community serving at the centre," regional policer commander David Yapu said.

    Benito Dutton doubled down on his claims after it emerged that the local Manus MP, who rejected the immigration minister's version of events, had been sacked from PNG's parliament as a result of corruption findings. 

    However, Inspector Yapu told Guardian Australia Dutton’s comments were completely wrong. A young boy was begging for food at the detention centre entrance over two weeks ago, but he was not led there and was 10, not 5. The boy's parents hadn't made a complaint, and police weren't investigating any link between his visit and the shooting.

    Asylum seekers in the centre have urged the Australian Government to release CCTV footage to corroborate their account. 

    When asked on Sunday whether he would release the footage, Dutton churned out his go-to line:

    "... that is an issue for the PNG government. They run Manus Island, as you know." 

    On Friday (April 21), a report released by the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs opened with a seething foreword by Labor senator Louise Pratt, who said the Australian government had to acknowledge that it controlled the regional processing centres, noting it paid for all associated costs, engaged contractors, owned all major assets and was responsible for negotiating third-party resettlements.

    *   *   *

    Allsop: Chevron loan not at arms lengthMultinational energy group Chevron has been whacked with a tax bill of $340 million from its $US2.5 billion loan back in 2002. 

    The full Federal Court unanimously upheld a decision on Friday (April 21) that Chevron engaged in transfer pricing by paying a higher rate of interest on a loan from its subsidiary to shift profits from Australia to the United States.

    The Federal Court found that a US subsidiary was set up to borrow funds at a rate of 1.2 percent to lend them to Chevron Australia at an interest rate of about nine percent.

    Chevron Australia claimed a tax deduction for an average nine percent interest paid to its US subsidiary, which paid no US tax but shipped the profit it made on this cost arrangement back to Chevron Australia as tax-free dividends.

    A Chevron spokesman said pricing intercompany loans between related parties is "a legitimate business arrangement and the parties differ only in their assessments of the appropriate interest rate to apply".

    Chevron relied on the arms-length principle for transfer pricing to adduce evidence that if an independent party had loaned $US2.5 billion to Chevron Australia with no security, to be paid back in Australian dollars, then the interest rate would have been more than nine percent.

    Chief Justice James Allsop said that if the loan between the related parties had been independent and at arm's length, Chevron would've provided a guarantee over the loan, securing finance at a rate "significantly below nine percent".

    The Federal Court judges also agreed that Chevron's argument makes a lousy comparison, because Chevron's US subsidiary would, in any case, guarantee every loan.

    The ATO began its audit in 2006 and will most likely face a High Court appeal.

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