Real estate corruption exposed

An array of Australian properties have been secretly purchased by hidden overseas entities with links to corruption, the Pandora Papers document leak reveals.

What we know:

  • Four large-scale farms in Tasmania were bought by two Australian companies funded by a Canadian, who in turn sourced the money from a oil company connected to money laundering in Nigeria (ABC); 
  • A Sri Lankan power couple linked to alleged misappropriation of government funds used anonymous offshore trusts to buy two Sydney luxury apartments;
  • Chinese steel baron Du Shuanghua, implicated in a bribery scandal to secure a Rio Tinto contract, used a Singapore company to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of commercial real estate in Sydney (AFR); 
  • Experts called for the Coalition to follow through on plans it proposed years ago to implement a register of ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) behind companies;
  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Four Corners the  federal government is working to consolidate Australia's business registers, which will “enable the development of a beneficial ownership register”;
  • Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill responded to the Pandora Papers leak by calling for long-delayed reforms to enforce stricter requirements on accountants to report suspicious transactions (SMH). 
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Leadership vote in NSW

The NSW government faces a period of turmoil, with two leadership battles and three byelections ahead.

What we know:

  • Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister Rob Stokes will vie to become the next NSW Premier in a partyroom vote today (ABC); 
  • NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey will bid to assume the deputy premiership and Nationals leadership in a vote on Wednesday, with MPs Paul Toole and Adam Marshall also considered contenders to replace the resigning John Barilaro (The New Daily); 
  • NSW Opposition leader Chris Minns called on Barilaro and Transport Minister Andrew Constance to reconsider their intention to resign during the coronavirus crisis (SMH); 
  • Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been approached by senior Liberals to run for the federal seat of Warringah (The Guardian); 
  • The three resignations and upcoming byelections leaves the Coalition state government’s one seat majority in peril (ABC). 
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Record payout for abused student

A court has ordered Geelong College to pay a 46-year-old man $2.7m — the biggest damages win in an institutional abuse case in Australia.

The plaintiff was sexually abused by a volunteer in the prestigious private college’s woodworking department in the 1980s and ’90s (ABC). 

The Supreme Court of Victoria found the man was groomed and repeatedly assaulted by Bert Palframan, who was in his 70s during his offending and died in 1999.

A year before the abuse against the plaintiff began, another student had complained to teachers that Palframan was engaging in “sexualised fondling” but nothing was done.

The college has already had three former staff members convicted of child sexual abuse of students in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

National counselling helpline: 1800 737 732

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Australia drawn into Taiwan tensions

The Morrison government has raised concerns about Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone, as Taiwan backs Australia’s new military partnership with the US and UK.

Taiwan says Beijing sent nearly 150 military planes into its airspace over four days (The Guardian). 

“Australia is concerned by China’s increased air incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone over the past week,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu welcomed Australia entering the AUKUS alliance with the US and UK (ABC). 

“I’m very glad to see that Australia is going to shoulder more responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Wu said.

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Auckland opens up with Covid

New Zealand is transitioning away from its Covid-19 elimination strategy, as it eases restrictions in locked-down Auckland despite continuing cases.

The country recorded 29 new Covid cases on Monday, mostly in Auckland, which has been in lockdown for nearly 50 days (Reuters). 

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Delta variant felt like “a tentacle that has been incredibly hard to shake”.

People in Auckland will be able to leave their homes to connect with up to 10 people outdoors from Wednesday, as well as go to beaches and parks.

But a hard border will remain in place around the city, with restrictions to be eased in a staged approach.

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Looks a little bit terrifying.

In a distribution centre in Melbourne, where parcel pick ups have been suspended due to the unprecedented demand brought on by lockdown, Australia Post manager Michelle Skehan gazes in fear at a growing tower of undelivered packages (3AW).

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Postscript: Gladys To Avoid ICAC By Joining Federal Politics

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian says she wants to take a break from the high-pressure and constant scrutiny of state politics by running for a seat in the federal Coalition government. In an emotional speech today, Ms Berejiklian said it was time to take a step back and do something less demanding … “It’s gruelling. As a member of the Morrison government, that’s one less thing I’ll have to worry about. Perhaps I could become Health Minister or Attorney-General – something where you don’t need to be answerable to the people for every little thing. Or every big thing” (The Shovel).

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