Inside the system

Big banks go on job killing spree

Accounts filed by the major banks show that cost cutting drives have destroyed more than 4000 jobs this year. Since March NAB, ANZ and Macquarie Group have binned 3415 workers. In the second half of this year Commonwealth Bank added to the pile, cutting a further 92 jobs. Ernst and Young banking experts euphemistically described the trend as a symptom of “cost discipline” in the face of “slowing revenues and higher ongoing costs driven by regulatory and technology expenditure.”

But CBA and ANZ reported record profits for the nine months up to 30 June 2016; $9 billion and $5 billion respectively. The “tough economic conditions” blamed for the job cuts didn’t seem to hit the bosses either. Macquarie Group’s Chief Executive Nicholas Moore became one of Australia’s highest paid CEOs in 2016, taking home $18 million. CBA CEO Ian Narev followed close behind on $12.3 million.

Twiggy Forrest named WA Australian of the year

Billionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has been named WA’s Australian of the year. The Chairman and major shareholder of Fortescue Metals Group was lauded for his philanthropy during the ceremony—in particular for tackling Indigenous disadvantage. The ceremony programme read: “Never daunted by the scale of challenge, Andrew devotes his relentless energy to society’s most vulnerable, tirelessly working to highlight Australia’s Indigenous disparity”.

In 2008 Forrest promised to create 50,000 Indigenous jobs in the private sector. By 2015 he had failed to create even 20,000 short term placements. He also chaired Abbott’s review into Indigenous employment where he made recommendations that Centrelink recipients go on a draconian “healthy welfare card” which restricts what you can buy and prohibits cash withdrawals. In 2015 the Federal Court heard testimony revealing that his mining company had tried to rig a meeting with Native Title holders in WA as part of a push to shore up mining access on Yindjibarndi land. Fortescue Metals Group paid out a $155 million dividend to Forrest in 2016, yet the company paid no net income tax last year.

MPs ‘too busy’ to scrap travel perk

It must be tough being an MP. It turns out the parliament has been so busy, it hasn’t found time to end the notorious gold travel pass for former MPs.

More than two years ago Tony Abbott announced plans to axe the scheme, yet the government still hasn’t got around to it. The failure to put the bill through the final parliamentary sitting of the year means it will survive until at least February.

Around 200 former MPs are currently entitled to ten return business class flights a year under the scheme. It costs the taxpayer around $1.5 million a year.

Major parties hide donations

A new report published by GetUp has found 85 per cent of privately raised income received by the major political parties is hidden from the public. Glaring loopholes in reporting requirements mean many donations are untraceable.

The report reveals that only 25 per cent of the Liberal Party’s private income was officially declared in 2013-2014; $19.3 million of a total of $78.6 million. In 2007-2008 the Liberals declared 30 per cent of their private income, an indicator that the pool of untraceable “dark money” is increasing.

Changes to laws have made it far easier for parties to avoid scrutiny. In 2006-2007 the Coalition changed the declaration threshold from $1500 to $10,300. As a result it is easy to conceal enormous private payments by “splitting donations”. A donor could make $20 million in undisclosed donations in a single year by making a separate payment of $10,000 every weekday to different branches of the party.

Even when donations are disclosed the identity of donors is easily hidden. Political parties and affiliated organisations regularly hold dinners, or sell tickets for thousands of dollars and record the money received as payment for a “service”. In many cases the names of those that attend are not reported at all. Finally, payments from big companies can be listed in a way that hides whether it is income from property sales or investments, or actually donations. For example, in 2014-2015 Meriton Property Services made two payments of $25,000 to the Liberals that were recorded as “donations” and one of $20,000 that was recorded as an “other receipt”.

Unemployment hits 9.2 per cent

Analysis released by Roy Morgan research in November put the actual unemployment rate in Australia at 9.2 per cent. This is considerably higher than the September Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figure of 5.6 per cent. According to their survey 1.118 million people are unemployed; a 78,000 increase compared to October 2015.

The Roy Morgan poll counts anyone looking for work as unemployed, while ABS polls are seasonally adjusted and restrict the definition of “unemployed” to someone who has been looking for work for four weeks.

Turnbull threatens to sue Medicare granddad

Malcolm Turnbull has threatened a bizarre and vindictive legal assault on Mark Rogers, a 66-year-old grandfather who runs a “Save Medicare” website in his spare time. In November the retiree received a letter from the Australian Government Solicitor giving him less than 48 hours to take the website down.

The letter demanded he formally agree to “cease and forever desist from using the Medicare name and branding”. It was sent on behalf of the Department of Human Services and claimed the domain name of the website and its use of the Medicare logo was “deceptive”, “misleading” and breached copyright.

Mark was told that if he didn’t shut down the website “by the above deadline, our client reserves the right, without further notice, to institute proceedings against you, seeking injunctive relief, damages and costs.” Rogers defied the deadline, telling Fairfax the legal attack was “Monty Pythonesque” and that “Medicare belongs to the people anyway”.

Things they say

I want to note too, that Peter Dutton and indeed his predecessor Scott Morrison have suffered from constant, often-vicious attacks, claims that they lack compassion. That they lack a heart.
Refugee rights protests are obviously getting under Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison and Dutton’s skins

Could have been a little smoother
Tony Abbott on what he could done better in dealing with his Coalition colleagues

A pleasing aspect of the overall election result was the regaining of the Senate majority by the Republicans, which should remove some of the gridlock that has plagued the US system in recent years.
Glen Barnes, chairman of Ansell—another corporate director who has no problem with the Trump victory

The Trump team advised [me] that the president-elect wants to cut federal government tape by 50 per cent in his first few months of office, and that he wants to cut company tax to 15 per cent. What a kickstart to the American economy that will provide!
Billionaire Gina Rinehart also likes what she hears about Donald Trump

He is a lot smarter than we think.
Andrew Mohl, Commonwealth Bank director and former AMP chief executive on Trump

In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There’s never been a case like this.
US President-elect Trump

I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.
Donald Trump on what he thinks about water-boarding

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.
Donald Trump in 2012

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