Inside the system

Hockey makes $1 million on tax-payer funded house

Former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey sold his tax-payer funded Canberra house for $1.5 million at auction in April. Located in the up-market suburb of Forrest Lodge, the three bedroom house was originally purchased by Hockey and his wife in 1997 for $320,000. It was one of four properties in the multi-million dollar portfolio of Hockey and his wife, a former investment banker.

But the Canberra property whose sale brought the pair in excess of $1 million profit actually had its mortgage at least partly paid by the tax-payer. Hockey claimed a $273 a night travel entitlement while staying in Canberra for Parliament and other business, even though he was staying in a house owned by himself and his wife. Other Liberal MPs paid Hockey rent to stay there too, including Ross Cameron, Bob Baldwin and Brendan Nelson. While Treasurer, Hockey told struggling first home buyers to “get a good job that pays good money” if they wanted to afford a house.

Sydney and Melbourne millionaire magnets

Sydney and Melbourne have become magnets for the world’s millionaires. In the “Millionaire Migration” report, published by the Wealth research firm New World Wealth, Sydney was ranked as the world’s top millionaire capital after an inflow of about 4000 millionaires in 2015, and Melbourne ranked second with an inflow of 3000 millionaires.

There are now 95,400 millionaires living in Sydney and 66,800 living in Melbourne. In contrast, Paris was at the bottom of the list. Relatively high income tax saw 7000 flee the French capital in 2015. There is now a 45 per cent income tax rate for salaries over $223,000.

The rich don’t face such infringements on their wealth in Australia. Not only does Australia tax the rich lightly, but the Federal government recently announced a “fast track” visa for wealthy immigrants with money to invest. If only our government was as kind to refugees as it is to millionaires.

Aboriginal people starving in Utopia

In early April Arrernte-Alyawarra Elder and NT person of the year Rosalie Kunoth-Monks put out a call for help from Utopia, with Aboriginal people starving. Utopia is made up of 16 outstations 260 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Rosalie, who lives on one of the outstations with her daughter Ngarla and grandchildren, says that the elderly in particular are not being fed under the dysfunctional aged-care program that exists there.

“Last week after having to call for the meals, one elderly man with end-stage Parkinson’s received two small packets of mincemeat and white bread, the elderly women close-by received nothing,” said Ngarla Kunoth-Monks.

Rosalie slammed the recent review of the punitive and bi-partisan “Stronger Futures” policy, formerly the NT Intervention. She said, “the recently released Review of Stronger Futures was disappointing. The legislation should have been repealed and on food security there was no mention of freight subsides for the delivery of food to remote communities which would help make food more affordable.”

DHS social media witch-hunt fails

A Department of Human Services witch-hunt against staff who use social media to air criticisms of the government has been exposed in a recent Fair Work Commission unfair dismissal case.

The case details the bizarre lengths the department went to in order to track down a dissenting staff member who was pummelling his employer, Centrelink, online. Centrelink employee Daniel Starr was tracked down after engaging in an argument in an online forum with the official DHS account “Flick@HumanServices”. Starr posted with the username “mmmdl” in order to criticise official claims about Centrelink waiting times, understaffing and public service cuts.

The Fair Work ruling details how senior DHS bureaucrats Mark Withnell and Melissa Ryan ordered a hunt for the identity of “mmmdl”. The Fair Work decision said that “this involved a wholesale trawl through all of ‘mmmdl’s’ online posts, since it was discovered from those posts that ‘mmmdl’ claimed that he was approximately 39 years old in January 2015, had been employed at Centrelink for 20 years, lived opposite the Telstra exchange in Corrimal, and would be travelling overseas during late May to early June 2015…

“These claims were matched with the Department’s internal data sources, and permitted ‘mmmdl’ to be identified with a high degree of confidence as Mr Starr.” Starr was then fired. However, the Fair Work decision went against the DHS and Starr got his job back.

Liberia outsources entire education system

The West African nation of Liberia has announced plans to outsource its entire primary school and early childhood education system to private contractors. An $85 million contract has gone to a company called Bridge International Academies.

The for-profit company formed in 2008 has received backing from the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation and Bill Gates.

Liberia’s Minister for Education George Werner says the plan was inspired by the proliferation of Charter Schools in New Orleans in the US following hurricane Katrina.

Werner says, “After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, New Orleans’ education system lay in tatters. The city government made the bold decision not to rebuild the monopoly of public sector provision.”

But Kishore Singh, the UN special rapporteur on the right to education, has lambasted the plan: “It is ironic that Liberia does not have resources to meet its core obligations to provide a free primary education to every child, but it can find huge sums of money to subcontract a private company to do so on its behalf”.

Instead of using trained, experience or qualified teachers, Bridge International Academies will hire unqualified local people for around $118 per month. They will then be sent into class rooms with tablet computers loaded with lesson scripts the “teacher” robotically reads out to the class.

According to the Independent newspaper, the lesson script on the tablet literally directs the teachers’ every move and, “instructs the teacher to look up from the e-book every five seconds, to wait eight seconds for children to answer.”

Things they say

Unlike France or Britain, we lack a colonial past to complicate the present.
Tony Abbott shows his ignorance of Australian history again, writing in Quadrant

Apparently in the eve of an election when there is a few reports about banks, Bill Shorten’s up there in his ill-fitting suit, puffing his chest up, and saying we need to thump the table
Scott Morrison gets agitated about the call for a Royal Commission ino the banks

You’ve got to have a lot of renewal in this business—it’s a talent business—and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got new people coming through
Turnbull explaining why he doesn’t want Abbott back in his cabinet

Israel is known as start-up nation for good reason
Mike Baird on his visit to Israel

Basically the message is don’t do it but if you have please come and speak to the tax office because … penalties will be reduced significantly.
Mr Michael Cranston, deputy tax Commissioner warning the high flying
tax avoiders revealed by the Panama Papers data leak

So whether it is Howard as leader of the Liberal Party, Abbott or Turnbull, we’ve had the same policy on border protection…it was not something invented by Tony Abbott
Turnbull explains how he was always committed to keeping out refugees

I’m starting to feel a bit strange about these questions
Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson when asked about his offshore dealings

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour
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