Pandora’s box of tax dodgers

At least 14 current heads of state, 330 politicians and 130 billionaires have been implicated in the biggest ever leak of offshore banking data.

What we know:

  • The Pandora papers leak includes 11.9m files from companies hired by wealthy clients to create offshore trusts in tax havens (ICJ); 
  • Revelations include that Czech PM Andrej Babis, currently running for re-election on a platform against tax avoidance, moved $30m through offshore companies to buy a lavish French chateau (OCCRP); 
  • An English accountant in Switzerland worked with lawyers in the British Virgin Islands to help King Abdullah II of Jordan set up 36 shell companies and secretly buy 14 luxury homes (ICJ); 
  • Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who campaigned against tax loopholes, used one to save himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in UK stamp duty (BBC); 
  • The ATO will consider investigating the more than 400 Australians named in the leak, mostly clients of offshore services group Asiaciti (AFR); 
  • The documents reveal alleged failings in compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding rules by Asiaciti, founded by Australian accountant Graeme Briggs (The Guardian); 
  • Briggs amassed a $62m fortune partly by helping high-risk clients keep their private financial dealings out of public view (ABC). 
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Perrottet in line for NSW premier

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is in the box seat to become the state’s next premier after cutting a factional deal to replace Gladys Berejiklian.

What we know:

  • Perrottet will nominate for premier, Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres for deputy and Environment Minister Matt Kean for Treasurer (SMH); 
  • The right-wing conservative’s bid represents a blow to moderates, likely dooming efforts to pass assisted dying legislation (Inside Story); 
  • NSW’s transport minister Andrew Constance, who previously vowed to resign if a conscience vote was denied over euthanasia, announced he is quitting state politics and will run for a federal seat (The New Daily); 
  • Planning Minister Rob Stokes is yet to withdraw from the race to replace Berejiklian, who resigned over corruption allegations;
  • Health Minister Brad Hazzard rejected concerns that Perrottet, who has prioritised economic considerations over the pandemic response, would change the state’s reopening plan (SBS).
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Million dollar vax lottery

A philanthropic group will offer fully vaccinated Australian the chance to win $1m as part of a new lottery.

The campaign, which launches today, will feature a $4.1m prize pool, with the top prize of $1m to be drawn on November 5 (SBS). 

The competition will also draw 3100 $1000 gift cards throughout October.

Craig Winkler, of the Million Dollar Vax Alliance, says the competition “seeks to reward people who decide to be vaccinated now rather than waiting”.

The federal government is considering vaccine incentives but is still yet to offer anything.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews endorsed the competition, declaring he is “not fussed” over why people decide to get vaccinated.

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Advice racket under spotlight

Advice provided by the big four accounting firms to the federal government would be released publicly under a plan proposed to address public sector outsourcing.

The Australia Institute is calling for federal departments to be required to table documents to the Senate about requests for tender and contracts with consultancy firms, as well as provide final reports and advice (AFR). 

Australia Institute senior researcher Bill Browne said $1.1bn handed over to the largest consulting firms is equivalent to about 12,346 public service jobs, but taxpayers have little understanding of what they are paying for.

“It is worth reflecting on the rise of consultancy spending by the federal government, now exceeding $1 billion a year,”  Browne said.

The proposal will, for example, ensure the $11.4m in advice PwC provided for the Morrison government’s slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout would be made public.

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Panthers pounce for NRL glory

The Penrith Panthers have defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-12 to win the first NRL grand final held in Queensland.

The Sunday night game at Brisbane’s Lang Park was decided by tries to Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton, the latter from an intercepted pass by Cody Walker in the 67th minute (Fox Sports). 

The victory redeems the Panthers after their defeat in the 2020 decider.

The stadium was at 75% capacity due to a local Covid-19 outbreak, although most empty seats were in the top level of the stadium, leaving crowds who were often unmasked packed in close to the field (news.com.au).

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Australia’s climate policy is being dictated by a former accountant in a cowboy hat.

Years after his famous threat to kill Johnny Depp’s dogs, Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is once again making international headlines for another deranged hostage situation — this time waving his pistol at the entire planet (CNN).

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Postscript: Meet the Fearless Women of the Lone Star Mower Racing Association

The early September heat ... doesn’t stop Julie Tynmann from pulling on heavy, fire-resistant gloves and racing boots, a black neck brace, and a regulation long-sleeved shirt over her lucky purple racing shirt. She takes a swig of Red Bull before putting on the most important piece of gear, her “big old helmet” (Texas Monthly).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.