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Tag Archives: Tony Windsor

People in glass houses

With the very real prospect of Tony Windsor challenging Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England, Joyce, in true Coalition style, has reached for the dirt file.

In an interview with ABC’s Radio National on Monday, Barnaby brought up Tony’s property dealings, implying that he had made a large personal profit from a policy he is now protesting against – coal mining on the Liverpool Plains.

Joyce pointed out there was an existing mine at Werris Creek that “was formerly owned by a person called Mr Windsor who made millions and millions of dollars out of the sale of it”.

“I think it’s just a little bit convenient when 30km away from one mine is another mine which Mr Windsor made himself a multi-millionaire out of,” he said. “Congratulations, that’s a commercial contract. The fact is that, basically it was a 99-year lease, Mr Windsor turned himself into a multi-millionaire, got the place back at a peppercorn lease rate and I think he got his neighbour’s place back at a peppercorn lease rate as well.”

Windsor has previously defended the sale of his family’s land to a Whitehaven subsidiary in 2010, explaining it was adjacent to a small existing mine and was not on the Liverpool Plains and did not have significant water resources underneath it.

“It was put in about 80 years ago,” he told 2GB in July. “They [the company] wanted to extend that mine … the farmer has no right over their land if in fact a natural resource is found. On a small portion of some country that we owned, it was found. They wanted to mine it. If, in fact, push came to shove, they would have mined it through the land and environment court. So there’s processes that override the landholder.”

Regarding the proposed Chinese owned Shenhua coal mine, Windsor said “I think it’s an atrocious decision, not because of agriculture but because of water. Here we have this magnificent piece of land, underlain with the biggest groundwater system in the Murray-Darling and they’re going to put that at risk because of the shonky arrangement that was put in place.”

In response to Joyce’s accusations on Monday, Windsor demanded an apology with a threat to sue if it was not forthcoming and a warning to get his facts straight.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And Barnaby is in no position to throw stones.

In 2006 and 2008, the Joyce’s bought two neighbouring properties totalling 2400 acres in the Pilliga. The locals couldn’t understand why because the land was no good for farming.

A successful farmer and exporter from a nearby area said of the Joyce’s purchase ”This is scalded country. It could not support the number of animals that would be needed to make a return on investment,” he says. ”It is a strange buy, put it that way.”

Rumours abounded.

One was that the land would have to be bought back to build the inland railway, which is a long-term infrastructure policy of the National Party.

The other theory among locals was that Joyce must have bought with plans to cash in on mineral wealth in the area.

Denis Todd, a farmer from nearby Baradine and a Warrumbungle Shire councillor, recalls a conversation he had with Joyce at a petrol station in about 2009.

”I asked him, ‘Why did you buy that mongrel country out there? You could have bought better grazing land closer to St George,”’ Todd says.

According to Todd, he asked Joyce if he had bought to take advantage of the coal known to run throughout the Pilliga. Todd says Joyce responded: ”The coal’s too deep but there’s plenty of gas there.”

In 2005, the year before the Joyce’s first acquisition, Eastern Star revealed it had already spent $50 million exploring the Pilliga, mainly around Narrabri, since 2001.

At a time when few people had even heard the term ”coal seam gas”, the company had plans for 1100 gas wells dotted across the Pilliga, feeding a $150-million pipeline to the Hunter Valley.

Joyce’s property at Gwabegar lies inside the ”petroleum exploration licence” (PEL) areas that Eastern Star – before it was sold to Santos – owned the right to explore.

By 2007 – between the first two purchases made by the Joyces – CSG companies were boasting of gas reserves to the east, west and south of the properties.

All indications at this time were that the gas rush was coming.

In October 2007, Eastern Star Gas Limited announced that the former deputy prime minister (but then still-serving MP) John Anderson had been appointed chairman of the company.

A former Nationals leader, Anderson is a political ally and personal friend of Joyce and was his campaign manager in his bid to win the seat of New England in the 2013 election.

Despite this close association, Joyce maintains he had ”no knowledge at all” that the Pilliga would be at the eye of the CSG rush when he bought his land.

Joyce has proposed that a landowner get 1 per cent of the well head revenue of a CSG well. The best performing well in Queensland produces $1 million a day but an average CSG well is worth about $60,000 a day. At that rate, a single well would earn a landholder more than $200,000 a year before tax.

National Party elders, including Anderson, have been criticised for aligning too closely with mining interests over the traditional farming constituency. Mark Vaile, who succeeded Anderson as National Party leader, became a chairman of Nathan Tinkler’s ill-fated Aston Resources when he left Parliament. Former NSW leader Ian Armstrong worked as a lobbyist for AGL.

When Joyce’s land was brought up after his previous attempt to smear Windsor before the 2013 election campaign, he replied ”I’m happy to sell it, it’s for sale.” Adding: ”If someone wants to take it off my hands and make a million dollars, go right ahead.”

Later, Joyce revealed that he had instructed a local land agent to sell if he can get the right price. He said he understood the ownership could be ”viewed as a conflict of interest”.

According to his latest statement of pecuniary interest, Joyce still owns the property.

 

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Gina Rinehart hasn’t actually said the poor should be sterilised

“Gina Rinehart, a mining magnate worth an estimated £19 billion, has advised those jealous of the wealthy to “spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working” in order to be successful.

Miss Rinehart, 56, also rounded on Australia’s “class warfare”, insisting it was billionaires such as herself who were doing more than anyone to help the poor.

She warns that Australia risks following European economies ruined by “socialist” policies, high taxes, and excessive regulation.

Miss Reinhart stated there was “no monopoly” on becoming a millionaire.

In May Miss Rinehart was declared the richest woman in the world, after building upon an estimated £13 billion mining empire inherited from her late father, Lang Hancock, in 1992.

Telegraph, 30th August 2012

I notice that she doesn’t give advice on how to maintain a work/life balance. Neither does she talk about how to keep harmony at family occasions.

Basically, if you have no friends and your family all hate you, I guess it’s easy to keep working. But personally, I’m happy to be a failure, if being a success means never having any fun.

I know, I know, I’m just jealous because when my father left me several billion dollars, I just squandered it on drink, cigarettes and my friends, instead of investing it in mines to help the poor. And for past few years, I’ve just had to eke out a living with paid work. If I’d just been like Gina, I, too, could be the world’s richest woman.

Except that my father didn’t leave me a fortune, and I’m a man. Still, apart from that, there’s no reason why I can’t be like her!

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Rupert Murdoch, where’s the outrage?

You may recall that one of the fabricated fears planted in people’s’ minds before the last election was that a Labor Government would raise the GST. Those of us who remember the perceived threat may also remember the public outcry expressed by readers who left comments on popular sites like Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.

Someone, somewhere, dreamt up that Gillard would raise the GST, the papers ran with it, and public outrage followed. Now who would have raised such an idea? Given the negative aspects and the timing of the alleged threat I’m sure the Liberal camp might have had a small bit to play in it. I’m sure they might have been a little bit bemused that there were genuine calls to have it raised, with many of the callers being the end of town that party with the Liberals party.

The calls became more vociferous leading up to the Tax Summit.

But you may ask: “Why should we raise such a repressive tax?” Well, there were a number of reasons mooted at the time. Independent MP Tony Windsor started off with the most simplest of these.

Tony Windsor has suggested the GST should rise by 1 percentage point to allow 115 “inefficient” taxes to be eradicated.

Mr Windsor and fellow crossbencher Tony Crook . . . called for the GST to be examined . . . following Treasury warnings that the tax has become increasingly inefficient.

Mr Windsor’s suggestion was in the wake Treasury’s executive director of revenue Rob Heferen’s statement that the GST was costing more to collect than other taxes and was “less than robust” because of increased spending on tax-free items.

The OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration highlighted the “practical reality” of an increase, being that it was essential to achieve many of the reforms recommended by the government’s tax review (The Henry Review) of 2009.

“There would seem to be a fairly compelling logic to GST base broadening and a slightly higher rate (eg 12.5 per cent) as a means of rationalising the major state taxes and compensating low-income citizens who would otherwise be unfairly impacted by GST expansion,” said the centre’s senior adviser Richard Highfield.

Viewing the current tax system as unfair and inefficient, accounting bodies also put their weight behind the call. Among them, CPA Australia suggest that:

. . . increasing the GST to 15 or 20 per cent, accompanied by cuts to business and personal tax rates, would improve the economy and raise the standard of living. “Our research helps demystify concerns that an increase in GST would hurt Australians,” CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said.

But the sharpest call and strongest argument comes from the big end of town; the business groups with the Australian Industry Group leading the call.

The Australian Industry Group is urging an increase in the rate of the GST – or a broadening of its application to more goods and services – as a way to pay for the removal of inefficient state taxes.

The Ai Group – whose chief executive Heather Ridout was involved in the Henry tax review – says the states and territories have among the most inefficient and poorly designed of all Australia’s taxes.

Ideally, the group says, insurance taxes and conveyancing duties would be removed and payroll tax remodelled or removed. Land tax could be improved substantially.

Compliance costs could be reduced by harmonising remaining state taxes, and economies of scale exploited by using the Australian Taxation Office to collect state revenue.

A more broadly based or higher GST should finance the removal of as many existing state taxes as possible, it says.

I found it rather interesting, that during the scare campaign the Murdoch media, in particular, were wheeling out all sorts of experts calling for the increase. In the minds of the readers raising the GST would be a good thing and Labor would fall prey to this meme.

In numerous media releases leading up to the tax summit the Government clearly ruled out the increase, or that it will be tabled for discussion. To do so would have been political suicide. It may have also been seen as an easy solution to return to surplus, even though it clearly would not have been for that purpose. It was a mute point that the Government had been widely criticized for not heeding many of the recommendations of the Henry Review, namely from those critics who sit on the opposition benches.

I was opposed to the introduction of the GST and the manner in which the Howard Government hoisted it upon us, as many people were. But it is with us, and despite its obvious flaws it nonetheless could unwittingly be the vehicle that will be used to overhaul the inequalities of the current tax system. However, this was unlikely to happen because of the negativity around the GST during the last election campaign and the Government’s reluctance to pursue the matter, particularly as it is in the minds of the electorate that the Labor Government has been painted as the party most likely to raise the GST if it ever were to be raised.

Fast forward to 2013 and Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech and this widely unpublicised comment:

We will finish the job that the Henry review started and this government squibbed.

Now, didn’t the Henry Review recommend an increase in the GST? Rupert, your papers were in a frenzy the last time an increase was put in the public sphere and the outrage against the Gillard Government was carefully nurtured.

Where is the outrage now?

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Is the ‘carbon tax’ the reason for the PM’s low popularity, or is it Murdoch?

Claims that Julia Gillard’s unpopularity were linked to her introduction of carbon pricing in 2012 don’t stack up, says Alex White from the UK Guardian. White points the finger at Rupert Murdoch and the people he controls in our country. Tony Abbott sits high on that list of puppets.

White’s article is reproduced in full below. It’s the type of truth in reporting we’ll be seeing more of in our country when the Guardian opens its doors here. What a relief that will be from the biased Murdoch bile we are currently force-fed.

I hope you enjoy the article:

Since the disappointment of Copenhagen in 2009, Australia has witnessed a concerted scare campaign against action on global warming. The scare campaign has been led by senior commentators in (Murdoch owned) News Limited papers, by conservative radio shock-jocks on the airwaves, and in parliament by extremist opposition party leader Tony Abbott.

From the moment Australia’s carbon pricing legislation package, the Clean Energy Future Act, was announced Tony Abbott has barnstormed from one end of Australia to another, declaring a “blood oath” that repealing the carbon price would be his first priority if elected:

“I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood.”

Behind this incendiary phrase is Abbott’s own climate change policy, a mishmash of ineffective handouts to industry to “clean up” polluting power stations and industrial plants, a tree-planting program, investment in bio-char, and token efforts towards energy efficiency.

Collectively, these programs are termed “direct action”, which can be boiled down, in the words of shadow minister Malcolm Turnbull, to the Liberal Party’s sop to the climate change deniers in their ranks:

If the theory of climate change was proved to be nonsense, then obviously there would be no point in cutting emissions at all. If the rest of the world ultimately resolved to do nothing then we would very likely be better off spending the resources available on adaptation – moving to higher ground and so on.

The fact remains that the direct action policy, which aims to reach the same 5% carbon emission reductions as Labor’s carbon price, is mostly a mishmash of unanswered questions and wishful thinking.

Viciousness and personal attacks have characterised the blood oath carbon price repeal campaign. Abbott and other senior conservative front-bench MPs have spoken at rallies where posters and banners have depicted Prime Minister Julia Gillard as a “witch” and a “bitch”. Tony Abbott, for a time, defended conservative radio host Alan Jones for claiming at a Liberal Party fundraiser that Gillard’s father “died of shame”. Independent MP, Tony Windsor, who voted for the carbon price, received death threats.

Unsurprisingly, over the past three years public support for the Gillard government has declined to record low levels. Many in the media, and some within the government, blame the introduction of the carbon price for the low polling numbers. Unfortunately, these claims don’t stack up.

The graph below shows the decline in the two-party polling for Labor, matched alongside the total support and oppose polling for the carbon price. The polling figures are from Essential Report, a fortnightly Australian poll.

 

Australian polling of the carbon price and Labor two-party preferred rating

 

Australian polling of the carbon price support, Labor’s two-party preferred rating and Tony Abbott’s dissatisfaction rating (source: Essential Report)

Prime Minister Gillard announced the carbon price in February 2011, after winning the election the previous August. By this stage, the fall in the government’s polling numbers is already visible.

The Clean Energy Bill passed through the lower house in October 2011 and the Senate in November. The carbon price came into effect the following year from 1 July 2012. In this time, support for the carbon price dropped to rock bottom and opposition sky-rocketed. Despite a massive pro-carbon price campaign run by Australia’s environment movement, Tony Abbott’s “blood oath” scare tactics won out through 2011 (although as is clear, his personal approval suffered).

Something happened after 1 July 2012 however.

The apocalyptic predictions made by Tony Abbott did not come to pass. The sky didn’t fall. Mining and manufacturing towns weren’t wiped off the map. Regional airlines didn’t double their prices. The carbon price wrecking ball, python strike and cobra squeeze has not impacted Australia’s interest rates, employment levels or inflation.

Support for the carbon price, and opposition to it, narrowed and equalised.

What didn’t happen was an increase in Labor’s vote. Throughout 2011 and 2012, while the carbon price’s stocks fell, Labor’s also remained low. From 1 July 2012, the two numbers decoupled. Labor’s polling remained stuck, while opposition to the carbon price declined and support increased.

This month, we passed an unprecedented milestone: global carbon levels exceeded levels not seen in over 3 million years. The carbon price in Australia has contributed to a 10-year low in carbon emissions. Few in Australia have noticed either turning point. Meanwhile, conservative state governments have quietly been dismantling carbon reduction policies established by the previous Labor governments, wilfully ignoring warnings by the scientific community of the risks.

It is unlikely that the election will be fought on climate change, or that Tony Abbott will follow through on his threat to make the election a referendum on the carbon price.

If Tony Abbott does win the Australian election on 14 September, he has announced he will do everything he can to abolish the carbon price, which would leave Australia the only nation in the world to remove carbon pricing laws. No doubt, an Abbott-led Australia will accelerate exports of fossil fuels, but it remains to be seen if he can dismantle the carbon price.

 

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