Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Labor targets the rich

Federal Labor will cancel cash refunds to taxpayers who claim tax credits on their dividends, potentially saving $5.6 billion a year. Opposition leader Bill Shorten will announce Labor’s intent to scrap the refunds in a speech to the Chifley Research Centre in Sydney today, saying current policy gifts “unsustainable largesse for high-income earners”. The policy, which would affect about 8 per cent of taxpayers and 200,000 self-managed superannuation funds, likely signals Labor’s intent to target rules benefiting wealthy voters in the run-up to the next federal election. Shorten’s announcement comes as the union movement calls for a $50 a week rise in the minimum wage.

Australia is forfeiting up to $90 billion in foregone tax revenue from resource companies, according to an Oxford University energy expert. In a submission to the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies academic Juan Carlos Boué said that despite “widespread and outrageous” tax avoidance by resources companies, “the country seems fated to become the jurisdiction obtaining the second lowest share of government revenue from oil and gas production” due to the uniquely generous government concessions granted to the resources industry. “The Australian petroleum fiscal regime is producing exactly the sort of fiscal outcomes that it was designed and intended to produce”, Boué said. Australia is set to become the world’s largest gas exporter by 2020, while only receiving $600 million in revenue this year.

New South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley has called for Australia to re-examine its immigration policy, including a possible lower migrant intake. Speaking to The Weekend Australian ($), Foley said major cities such as Sydney were “groaning under the weight of a surging population”, and that state governments should have a say in setting five-yearly migrant intake targets. Foley’s comments run counter to those of federal treasurer Scott Morrison and immigration minister Peter Dutton, who last month dismissed former prime minister Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Australia slash its migration intake. Foley emphasised his main concern was infrastructure, saying “we should never have a bar of the Hansonites wanting to take us back to some racially discriminatory migration policy”.

Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has warned staff to expect “uncomfortable” revelations about the bank’s conduct as the banking royal commission gets underway today. In an email to staff, Hartzer said “you will hear about instances where we haven’t got it right for our customers”, and admitted that “over the last decade there have been too many cases where we have not treated customers with the respect they deserve”. The commission will begin witness hearings today, with initial hearings set to focus on consumer lending practices at the “Big Four” banks. Watch the hearings from 10am here.

And renowned Australian crime author Peter Temple has died. The South African-born Temple, 71, was the first crime writer to win the Miles Franklin Award for Truth in 2010. His Jack Irish series was adapted into a critically acclaimed ABC drama, while its 2007 predecessor, The Broken Shore, won the British Gold Dagger. Fellow crime writer Shane Maloney, best known for his Murray Whelan series, said of Temple: “He made every sentence count and shot the stragglers.”

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A Catholic bishop and his rural Chinese parish worry about a deal between Beijing and the Vatican

“The bishop can’t really talk about religion right now. His unofficial church is caught in a fight over the future of the Roman Catholic faith here, a struggle for control between the Vatican and the Communist Party that will determine the fate of the estimated 10 million Catholics in China and shape the legacy of Pope Francis. Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, under watch and already in trouble, knows it is not safe to speak out. But he can still deliver a sermon.” the washington post

Two years in a German teen refugee home

“Karim and his fellow residents are the sons of Afghan families – unaccompanied minor refugees. Like the hundreds of thousands of others who traveled to Europe over the Balkan route, they are all seeking a better life in Germany. They spent months living in tents and emergency shelters. Then it suddenly seemed as though they were getting close to achieving their goal. Since January 20, 2016, they’ve been living in this brown, single-family home in a trendy part of Düsseldorf.” spiegel online

The persistent crime of Nazi-looted art

“In the decade leading up to 1945, it’s estimated that the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the artworks in Europe. The scale of such theft is hard to comprehend, and even harder to quantify. The figure usually touted is 650,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, books, and other works, taken from museums and churches and private collections across the continent ... As relatives and heirs have increasingly taken legal action to get their property back, many museums have elected to challenge claims on disputed works rather than return works to the families they were stolen from”the atlantic



How’s the Batman by-election going?

“The March 17 byelection, triggered by David Feeney’s resignation over his dual citizenship, pits The Greens’ Alex Bhathal against former ACTU president Ged Kearney. It is Ms Bhathal’s sixth attempt to win Batman. But this campaign has been coloured by internal acrimony over the candidate. Several Greens told the ABC they are so opposed to Ms Bhathal that they would prefer she lose the poll.”  abc


How long have you got?

“The battle for Melbourne’s inner north at the upcoming Batman by-election is shaping up to be one of the messiest for Labor and the Greens in recent memory ... Because it is such a tight race, and because the government has vacated the field, the battle has been – let’s just say it – a complete dumpster fire.”  buzzfeed australia


and finally:

Farm Girl Café, Chelsea: ‘We don't stay for dessert, because we have suffered enough’ – restaurant review

“From the small plates comes tostadas piled with jackfruit, the latest hip, unconvincing replacement for meat. It is a fibrous tangle that gets stuck in your teeth on top of a violent, acidic sludge of guacamole. The jackfruit is described as being barbecued. This means it has been smeared with a blunt barbecue sauce of the kind they serve at pubs with a flat roof. Each of these dishes costs about £8. After this vegan calamity, this extraordinary display of dismal cooking, I find myself eyeing the Yorkshire terrier, greedily. Just hand him over, give me access to the grill, and five minutes.” the guardian

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor, and a former editor of Junkee.