Thursday, September 24, 2020

Frydenberg plans insolvency shakeup

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today announce plans to adopt American-style insolvency laws, ahead of the looming prospect of thousands of businesses collapsing as Covid-19 economic assistance is wound back. In a speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Frydenberg will detail a two-tiered system, similar to US-style Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws, that sees smaller businesses with liabilities of less than $1 million restructure or fold under a simplified process. Insolvent business owners would remain in control of their company instead of an administrator and have 20 days to come up with a restructuring plan, with creditors to vote on whether to accept it in the following 15 days. Liquidations would also be simplified, with investigative processes, mandatory meetings and reporting requirements all cut back. To address fears there won’t be enough insolvency practitioners available to deal with the sheer number of businesses in financial difficulty, Frydenberg will also seek to waive registration fees for two years for those wishing to enter the industry.

A decision is set to be reached today in Western Australia’s longest-running murder trial, with Justice Stephen Hall due to hand down his decision in the trial of Bradley Edwards for the so-called Claremont serial killings. Edwards is accused of the historic murders of Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon in the 1990s. In a seven-month trial featuring more than 200 witnesses, prosecutors have alleged his DNA was recovered from underneath Glennon’s fingernails, and that fibres from a Telstra uniform were found on the victims. Edwards worked as a Telstra technician. The defence case said the DNA evidence did not definitely prove Edwards was involved in the murder.

The inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine system has heard that senior state government ministers had little or no knowledge of key decisions about the ill-fated hotel quarantine program until after they were made. The head of the Health Department, Kym Peake, told the inquiry on Wednesday that she had not briefed her minister, Jenny Mikakos, on safety concerns with the program, even after a suspected suicide and a delay in transferring a Covid-19 positive quarantine detainee to intensive care. It comes as Sky News publishes letters from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offering Australian Defence Force help in enforcing lockdowns in hotspots during the crisis. Andrews has not disputed that ADF soldiers were offered to patrol neighbourhoods, but has said that they were not specifically offered for hotel quarantine.

Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Flick ruled on Wednesday that acting immigration minister Alan Tudge unlawfully deprived an Afghan asylum seeker of his liberty because he thought the tribunal that ordered his release got the law wrong. Flick found Tudge “engaged in conduct which can only be described as criminal” by leaving the man in detention for a further five days. Tudge intervened after a man of Hazara ethnicity arrived in Australia in 2012 and applied in 2016 for a safe haven enterprise visa. A delegate of the minister refused that application on character grounds linked to his conviction in March 2018 of an offence carrying a sentence of more than a year. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturned that decision, which the Federal Court found Tudge ignored.

Kids' radio: live from lockdown
Staff and students at Brunswick North West Primary school have endured one of the longest school shutdowns in the world, and they’ve created their own community radio station to help through it. Today, Ruby Jones talks to the students and the teacher behind NWPS radio.

“When the report landed with senior Department of Health officials early in the year, its warning was blunt. This was deliberate: the confidential dossier was intended to jolt a lethargic government into action ... In trying to privatise the cost burden of an ageing population, governments – both Labor and Liberal – had transformed the aged-care sector into what was, essentially, a pyramid scheme.”

“Albanese said something more revealing during a doorstop press conference when he was asked about the target in the draft platform … ‘No one’, Albanese said, ‘is opposed to new gas.’ That may have come as a surprise to all those who are, actually, opposed to ‘new gas’, on the basis of the awkward truth that gas remains a fossil fuel. We might ask: how sound, really, is Labor on climate?”

“We cannot print his name. We know he has been in immigration detention for seven years ... In photographs the man looks like a Goya etching. His skin is loose and his skeleton is showing through. A bulldog clip holds up his trousers. He has a burning pain in his bones, which friends worry is the leaking of calcium into his blood.”

“Federal Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was disappointing that students with every advantage in the world would ‘encourage each other to behave in this unlawful and immoral way ... Police and the school should throw the book at the boys responsible for concocting such a depraved list. How depressing that sexual assault and the assault of homeless people is seen by some as a rite of passage into manhood. It’s illegal and it’s cowardly. What kind of culture breeds this?’”

“The school was blasted last week after students uploaded footage showing off the campus facilities. In the video, students showed off the Shore ‘recovery pool’, a ‘harbour view library’ and a ‘50 mill gym’. The school later ordered students to take the clip down but not before it went viral, with students from public schools using the video to show the stark comparison between their own facilities.”

“The short-term challenges were underlined last week when manufacturing adviser Andrew Liveris said Canberra should tone down its criticism of Beijing until it has reduced its trade dependence on China. Meanwhile, Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham told farmers they should not expect government subsidies to make up for lost trade to China, as such support would only worsen tensions over anti-dumping tariffs.”

“If you name [yourself] ‘Joe Smith,’ and you put out a classical music album, it’s not going to resonate with a digital consumer. If you put out classical music under the name ‘Classique Elegante,’ that is an on-brand piece of data that is put up in front and center… and is likely going to harbor more digital activity, or clicks.”

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