Wednesday, March 29, 2006

There is a famous tax case where a judge used the analogy of a tree to explain the difference between capital and income. The capital is like the tree and the income is the fruit. In a country where tax planning is almost as important as the resources sector, losing money is not always a bad thing. So when ABC Learning Centres said earlier in the month that it was taking over its smaller rival, Kids Campus, Melbourne operative Geoff Lord should have been pretty happy. Australian Financial Review, 24/03/2006, Market Wrap, page 52 Lord's light shining a little more brightly

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: True blue Australian spirit
Courtesy of Margaret Lake:

I am not often givent o surges of patriotism but events of recent days have caused my heart to swell with national pride - and it has nothing to do with our medal haul in Melbourne. True courage and character are revealed in the face of adversity and that is exactly what we have seen from the people of North Queensland and many other Australians this week.

• Carolyn Tucker Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore) [This database assists in the efficient exchange of information by providing links to publicly available websites that contain information that might often be requested by competent authorities - Aussies and Bohemians - Database of public websites relevant to Competent Authorities ; The NSW opposition is again calling on the government to honour its commitment to the GST agreement by cutting business taxes to kickstart the state's economy. Iemma 'must cut business tax ]
• · AWB's no-pay-no-grain scandal should be sending chills into board- rooms across Australia. Blurred lines encourage companies to align morality with tax deductibility ; The share of national income captured by Australia's wealthiest individuals has leapt to its highest since the Korean War So, it is the rich what gets the pleasure
• · · The FBI and CIA were very concerned with the outsourcing of year 2000 work offshore because there was no easy way to control or prevent backdoors, malicious code or other opportunities for computer criminal activity in such practices. (ATO offshoring close, March 9) To provide such an opportunity to overworked and underpaid programmers in these offshoring countries, where there have been a number of reported white-collar criminal issues related to outsourcing, is an operational risk far too serious to consider in regard to something as sensitive as tax systems. Too touchy for tax ; Why "Get Rich Quick" will only ever cost you money
• · · · AUSTRALIANS who declare an income of zero are spending more on their tax affairs than the average worker, suggesting they are exploiting the tax system by using loopholes and legitimate financial structures Taxation's park bench mark attacked ; By John Wasiliev: The Australian Financial Review. Page 28. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission says promoters of illegal superannuation access schemes target vulnerable people. In many cases these same people are legally entitled to gain early access to their savings anyway. Executive director of consumer protection, Greg Tanzer, says promoters deliberately use people's ignorance of superannuation rules so they can earn exorbitant commissions. Fund members in severe financial distress can gain access to some of their savings by applying to the fund trustee. Money can also be released on compassionate grounds and for medical treatment Early access to funds is possible - 22/03/2006
• · · · · It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a government in possession of a healthy surplus, must be in want of a tax cut. The difficulty for the Howard government is persuading Australians that a surplus -- estimated to be as large as $15 billion this financial year -- does not equal an over-taxed population. Australian Financial Review, 25/03/2006, There's politics in tax ; I idolize Warren Buffett. The investment legend is unafraid to stick to his convictions, regardless of how unpalatable they may be at a given moment. When United States investment legend Warren Buffett says he is worried, the rest of us ought to be hearing alarm bells. Buffett, arguably the world's best known share investor, is worried about costs - "frictional costs" that threaten to dramatically lower investor's returns in the future. Our miracle economy is running out of spark.
• · · · · · Freedoms at risk as banks forced to act ; Why the biggest beneficiaries of globalization may be pimps, drug runners and other crooks. Merchants of Mayhem ; There are ... Merchants of Mayhem... : Consider these disparate and disturbing facts from Illicit, a new book by Moisés Naím Unsecured nuclear material ...

Friday, March 24, 2006

In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.
- Isaac Asimov, "Foundation and Empire"

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Find out how much is your media dragon worth Inspired by Tristan Louis's research into the value of each link to Weblogs Inc

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Andrew Tink like very few politicians demonstrated that his electorate, his constituency, his Sydney and the world could trust him. His advice and counsel were sought throughout his parliamentary life because the principles that motivated him are universally respected: decency, humility, compassion and dedication. Andrew Tink knows well that politics should be the most honorable profession in a free society. Jean Jacques Rousseau, 18th-century French philosopher, expressed this warning almost 250 years ago: "As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than their persons, the State is not far from its fall." Civility is caring for our society without wanting to control it or profit by it. That's the art of politics. Tink, who has made himself almost a lone Australian expert on Lord Sydney through painstaking archive searches, recounts his hero's achievements and the part they played in the history of the English speaking world. I will never forget Andrew’s leadership at the Public Accounts Committee. Andrew even helped out with washing the dishes at night ;-) It is a double honor to keep in touch with Andrew after I left Parliament. The world of politics is without any doubt the corner stone of our very existence ... Never, ever will it be said that Andrew Tink lost his political vision

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: My former Chairman and Liberal stalwart Tink bows out
Senior NSW Liberal MP Andrew Tink has announced he will retire from politics at the next election, saying he has recently found himself off the pace and increasingly testy with other people.

The opposition's legal affairs spokesman will not contest his northern Sydney seat of Epping at the next election.
He will stand down as a member of the opposition frontbench immediately. The 52-year-old former barrister, who is one of the hardest-working opposition MPs, said he had decided he could not commit to another four years in state parliament. I'll certainly miss the chainsaw voice of Mr Tink with his points of order

• Off pace and increasingly testy: I'll miss Tink: Iemma [Goodbye … Andrew Tink greets Michael Egan Stress strikes - and another political career goes west ; Thankfully, Andrew Tink is still around to inject some grunt into the bearpit Joker in the pack ]
• · In a court of law whoever tells the best story wins. The fact is a very simple one: we live in a story-driven world. Andrew has many amazing stories respected by all sides of politics. LIKE Othello, NSW Liberal MP Andrew Tink -- the Opposition's able and energetic legal affairs spokesman -- has "given the state some service". But unlike Othello, Mr Tink -- who has announced his intention not to seek re-election as the member for Epping next year -- has nothing to reproach himself for, during his time in office. As one of the Opposition's brightest -- perhaps the brightest -- performers, Mr Tink gave his party much-needed substance and intellect, and his absence will leave a gap which his party will find difficult to fill. The Opposition's brightest Othello; Andrew Tink MP
• · · The Book Andrew will write Towshend puts Lord Sydney in shadows ; List of famous Old Sydneians
• · · · Senate Clerk Harry Evans charts the stagnant waters of Parliamentary reform and outlines an agenda for future change. Evans says the current government, like all governments, would rather control parliaments than be made accountable to them. He calls for constitutional, legislative, and institutional reform to allow parliaments to better fulfil their obligations to the public Parliamentary Reform ; Male MPs barred at lawn party Male MPs in the NSW Parliament are seething over a decision to stop them from attending the International Women's Day celebrations on the lawns of Government House They are bleak, but not that bleak ; The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the heart of man. Childless, middle-aged couples may regret the life choices that ended their family lines. Yet they have no children with whom to share their newfound wisdom. Hit, hit me
• · · · · Rewarding public servants who cut red tape and a "one in, one out" strategy for Government regulation are the centrepiece recommendations of the Australian Business Limited (ABL)/State Chamber plan to slash red tape in NSW submitted to the NSW Government. Another recommendation is that a uniform definition of "wages" be developed for payroll tax, income tax and workers compensation liability within and between States and Territories. Chief Executive of ABL/State Chamber Mark Bethwaite said the 2005 Red Tape Register found that the average NSW business was spending 200 hours a year filling in paperwork required by Government departments. Cutting Red Tape In Nsw - Uniform "Wages" Definition Sought ; Political Humor ; Wonkette Politics for People with Dirty Minds
• · · · · · Three years on: the tragedy of the Iraq invasion is that there won't be another ; No need to back pointless studies ; Michigan political blogs cover the spectrum

Thursday, March 16, 2006

“I never imagined I would live to see the day when the United States and its satellites would use precisely the same arguments that the apartheid government used for detention without trial. It is disgraceful ... One cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and the United States and some of their allies have accepted.”
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
quoted in “Blair Calls Camp in Cuba an ‘Anomaly,’”
New York Times, Feb. 18, 2006

I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.
- Clarence Darrow

Until quite recently, the history of nineteenth-century sexuality was one of total repression. As the excesses of the aristocracy gave way to the domination of the bourgeoisie, women, it was argued, became cloistered and corseted, while men--when they were not whoring after the double standard--were stuffy, inflexible patriarchs. Today women's sexual behavior is more like men's than ever before in human history No Sex Please, My Mother was British!

If you are not a Media Dragon reader, a human rights activist, or otherwise obsessed with Middle East and Otoman empire, you can be forgiven for not having fisking on the tip of your tongue. 2006 is the centenary year of the philosopher Hannah Arend Fear and loathing set in: Politics and cosmopolitics

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: See! He beat me!
If the oases are destroyed by sandstorms or an excluding world, there are still watering-holes to keep mind and soul together.

As Arendt points out: the oases exist free of political relations. What went wrong was the politics, our pluralistic existence and not what we can do or create as individuals: the isolation of the scientist and the artist, the intrinsic, world-less relations between people as it exists in love and, in some cases, friendship. When one heart reaches out to another, like in friendship, or when the world around them goes up in flames, like in love. Without the preservation of the oases, we would not know how to breathe

Islands in the Net [As Kierkegaard has a character say in Either/Or, "The smallest of causes can bring about the greatest of effects." No Two Alike ; The woman responsible for picking which books are sold by Tesco, considered one of the most powerful posts in the publishing world, has left the British supermarkets chain to join HarperCollins. Supermarket chains now wield immense power in the publishing industry, selling books at deep discounts to lure shoppers -- to the great consternation of publishers and independent stores -- and heavily influence which authors become bestsellers Tesco's book maven heading to HarperCollins]
• · Lulu gets bigger; Rich Aussies get richer
• · · Does an international search for justice hurt or help the pursuit of peace? Bringing the wicked to the dock ; A man takes a woman home. Before long, he takes home another. Then he adds a third, or even a fourth love interest, flitting between them on a whim and as his workload allows. Each jostles for his attention, dealing with the knowledge she's not the only one. A scene from a 19th-century Mormon community? Or Memoirs of a Geisha where a woman might receive a kimono for her kind understanding? Try Sydney 2006. With gender ratios out of balance, Thirroul's Sydney based Barranqueros have never had it so good ; The living things that did not have the knack to deceive or that had less ability to lie died of starvation or by being eaten. They did not survive to reproduce, more than those who possessed the quality to lie and had a better chance of multiplying. Thus, evolution produced the best corporate liars Why we lie
• · · · These people who line their pockets with the lives of our loved ones? the big dark .....; Beyond Left and Right: Frank Furedi’s “Politics of Fear" ; Do we really live in an age of accountability? Ten years of Accountable Government?
• · · · · Consider Alexander Pope’s famous aphorism from his 1735 “An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” about the tonic effect of the dimpled smile: “Eternal smiles his emptiness betray, as shallow streams run dimpling all the way ... At least I know what I am trying to do, which is to live deliberately without roots. I would put it like this. America may break one completely, but the best of which one is capable is more likely to be drawn out of one here more than anywhere else.” W.H. Auden Federal Court Secrecy
• · · · · · Australia’s Daily Telegraph used school records to show that public school teachers took almost 390,000 sick days last year Australia Teacher Sick Days ; Deborah Howlett of the Newark Star-Ledger used legislative and county records to find that 42 of the 120 [state] lawmakers have two — or three — elected or tax-paid positions New Jersey Legislative Double-Dipping

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The great lesson from the collapse of communism is that complex modern societies can't be governed according to a single principle. The capitalist-socialist hybrid is messy, but it has proved durable because it reflects the two drivers of human economic behaviour, competition and co-operation. We don't need to invent a new guiding principle. We do need to rethink the role of the state in light of the fundamental changes in our society over recent decades. Mark Bahnisch of Larvatus Prodeo knows how to stir Chris Sheil and Jason Soon ;-) Reinventing Government and The Third Way

Eye on Politics & Taxes: Melting Pot's chance
The anti-Muslim sentiment voiced in recent months echoes the rhetoric of an earlier time, writes Emily Maguire.

Responding to Peter Costello's recent comments about Muslims in Australia, the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, accused the federal Treasurer of "trying to appeal back to the 1950s". Beattie would have been just as correct if he'd said the 185. This month, 155 years ago, a group of Chinese immigrants working at Long Pocket, near Ipswich, were attacked by their white co-workers.

When leaders stoop to politics of fear [Like those old jokes about Chinese food never quite being enough so you have to keep going back and having another helping, tax reform always seems to offer more political benefit than it ever manages to deliver. And once one round of reform is completed, it's not long before someone somewhere is calling for more and that single voice eventually becomes a chorus. The Howard Government, despite its reformist credentials, has tended to shy away from taxation reform. Few would argue that the current system is a model of fairness and equity, or that reform would not yield substantial economic benefit for all Australians. Equity and reward must be the goals in tax reform; The High Court ruled today that property and shares made available to the wife of a barrister who did not pay tax for almost 40 years should be made available to trustees acting for his creditors High Court rules against tax-dodge lawyer ]
• · Taking corporate social responsibility seriously Is CSR A-OK? ; Althusser and Foucault on Machiavelli's Political Technique. If the beatific smile of a child signals innocent sincerity, adult life is cloaked with masks and disguises. It cannot be a Real Person, a Concrete Individual ; Newly retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor took on conservative Republican critics of the courts in a speech Thursday. She told an audience at Georgetown University that Republican proposals, and their sometimes uncivil tone, pose a danger to the independence of the judiciary, and the freedoms of all Americans O'Connor Decries Republican Attacks on Courts
• · · Democracy & political naiveté,; We've smashed the Cambodian stack, the Vietnamese and the Latin American stack Triumphant Crean challenges Beazley over factions ; All I can see is risks, the risk that selecting a person from a particular faction or indeed sub-faction or fraction is more important than getting the best possible candidate Cut factions' power, Gillard urges
• · · · Richard Pratt and Bob Carr have known each other for many years - Visy Carr in advisory role to packaging giant ; Local companies are developing intrapreneurship programs to cultivate corporate leaders and drive innovation The way up: kissing up - kicking down
• · · · · ANAO report said that the ATO has appropriate strategies to address targeted elements of the cash economy. Its strategic directions are risk-based, follow the expert advice of the Cash Economy Taskforce and are consistent with overseas approaches ANAO audit report on ATO's strategies to address the cash economy ; Australia's income tax law, now almost a century old, may be many hundreds of times thicker than it was when adopted in 1915, but it is difficult to argue that it is much better. What can be argued is that it represents little more than a collection of ad hoc, complex and knee-jerk political responses to nine decades of unresolved problems... Success and Challenges of Online Tax Filings Examined by Policy Expert In general, citizen satisfaction levels with online filing have been quite high. The Case of Online Tax Filing ;
• · · · · · Asteron general manager sales and distribution Peter Jowett says advisers using Wealthstar will benefit from a single application form for both personal super and life insurance. Asteron takes risk in new platform ; What if there were a funeral for Asteron and nobody came? ; Kosmix a new search engine for Health, Politics, Travel

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

They were bolder in 2005 than perhaps at any other time since 1994 Down The Middle. The media are brimming with profiles of potential 2008 presidential contenders, but these stories rarely expose who is behind the image-selling -- the "brand managers" who create campaigns Profiles In Plastic

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: SYMPOSIUM: A Decade of Howard Government (23 Feb 2006)
Affirmation of ‘the family’ as ‘the most important institution in our society’ (Howard 2005) has been a consistent claim and political touchstone of the Howard Government.

In the aftermath of World War Two, Australia carved out a unique position in the international trade regime, developing an independence and influence that belied the size and structure of its economy (see Capling 2001). During the 1970s and 1980s, Australian governments capitalised on this position to vigorously promote a more inclusive, development-friendly multilateral trading order. This was a bold move in the face of the discriminatory bilateralism and aggressive unilateralism of the world’s largest economies, particularly the United States. With the election of the Howard Government in 1996, however, this proud historical trajectory was to change. We examine the systematic reversal of Australia’s fiercely independent stance, a reversal that symbolises the country’s shift from player to pawn—America’s pawn—in the international trade regime.

• Howard the politician speaks quite adroitly about women as both paid workers and carers Howard’s ‘Choice’ [In the global struggle for the advancement of human rights, the United Nations has reached a defining moment How principles defeated politics : Nikita Khrushchev gave his secret speech to the 20th Party Congress in the Kremlin fifty years ago... Robert Conquest ... Wm. Taubman... Anne Applebaum
... Claire Bigg ... Roy Medvedev
... Jeremy Page ... Boris Kagarlitsky ... John Rettie ... Nina Khrushcheva ... Tom Parfitt ... Richard Bruner
... and what an electrifying speech it was. Carlin Romano on why Cold-War cultural tactics should be a hot topic Battle of Khartoon ; Khrushchev’s speech]
• · Establish a royal commission and someone will drop the cliché that governments only appoint commissions when they know what the answer is going to be Royal Commissions bite back ; Were you as thrilled as I was when you learned that Google was resisting the government's efforts to obtain its Web-search data? Gmail Intuition
• · · We are about to repeat history with a period of significant increase in unemployment. You might think, “How is that possible? Everybody is talking about the lack of skills in Australia.” Creatively creating jobs; Compulsory super - not so super duper: No guts, no guile and no glory
• · · · A look at how much about the ambassadorial lifestyle has changed. The past is another country, they say, and it is hard to find your way back Diplomatic baggage ;
• · · · · As Stevens puts it: 'There’s no such thing as a career path anymore – it’s crazy paving, you lay it yourself.' In order to lay a path you need stones. For a career path the stones are relevant work experience and continuous development of key skills Portfolio Careerism: Are You Ready ? ; Some heroes get pulled and pushed around, long after they are pushing up daisies
• · · · · · French women might not get fat, but they are getting pregnant in increasing numbers. That is because in recent years French Governments have poured money into income and other support for those who have children. French lessons ; Domestic law punishes individuals who commit crimes, not families, villages, or ethnic groups. Why should international law punish states? Sins of the fatherland

Thursday, March 02, 2006

As usual, the market is agog with rumours about who is in the running to be the next PM. Many Australians have been surprised at John Howard's longevity as prime minister. John Howard is one of them: "I still occasionally feel a sense of mild surprise that I'm still here," he says from his chair in the suburban Australian lounge room of the Lodge, the picture of a modest man in a modest room modestly furnished. The Scottish comedian Billy Connolly described John Howard as a "boring little man" during a television interview last week. However, this is exactly how Mr Howard likes to be portrayed. Internationally Benchmarking the Australian Tax System

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: River of Nightmares: The Amazing Oversight
The principal cause of bureaucracy is that rules of work (which must be followed whether they make sense or not) are developed at a distance from reality

When an individual consistently behaves in a way that is clearly out of touch with reality, we describe that person as being; not of sound mind, mentally deranged, insane. But when an organization consistently establishes work processes that are out of touch with reality, we don’t call the organization insane. We call it bureaucratic and put up with it as if it were a necessary evil of organizational life. It is not.

• Intelligence Reform Insanity – Bureaucracy, What’s the Difference? [The number of trusts used in Australia continues to grow at a tremendous pace: Coordinator: Jessi Guy State Manager: Claire Larroumet Michael Walpole FTIA, Expert Presenters: Assoc Prof of Taxation, ATAX, University of Sydney; Steven Rosenstrauss FTIA, Director of Taxes, Moore Stephens Tax and Trusts: The Essential Trusts - Sydney Wednesday 5 April 2006 ; Anomalies aplenty, but most keep their free ride]
• · Tax system comes under microscope: We know that governments are traditionally loath to call investigations unless they already know the outcome usually goes without saying. Yesterday, however, Peter Costello was happily boasting about the likely result of his surprise, quickfire inquiry into Australia's international tax competitiveness. It is hard to see how a one-month inquiry comparing our tax system with overseas can find answers to sustain this nation's future. After Treasurer Peter Costello's announcement yesterday, NSW politicians quickly zeroed in on GST revenue. NSW government calls for GST overhaul ; Costello gets little GST sympathy; We begin with Adam Smith's contention..that peace, low taxes, and good government will lead a nation to prosperity. Timmer updates this view by analyzing the role that investments in education, technology and trade have made in the rapid progress of countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Brunei. He concludes that the "miracle" of getting rich lies in creating a durable set of institutions - some public, some private - that encourage the "Smithian conditions" as well as economic openness for long periods of time. Unfinished tax symphony
• · · Businessman Dick Warburton and business lobbyist Peter Hendy will lead a comprehensive study of all taxes in Australia as a springboard for major reforms. Treasurer Peter Costello said yesterday the study would also examine overseas tax systems to find ways to lower the burden on average Australians. An inquiry into Australia's tax system will help Treasurer Peter Costello decide on a new wave of tax reforms in time for this year's federal budget. Mr Costello said the inquiry, which is expected to report by April 3, would focus on how Australia's tax system compared with other developed countries. The findings of a lightning inquiry set up by Peter Costello to settle the argument about whether Australians are too highly taxed will drive instant tax relief in the May budget, almost certainly offering cuts to highincome earners. The Treasurer appointed prominent businessmen Dick Warburton and Peter Hendy yesterday to report within five weeks on how Australia's income, business, superannuation, property, indirect and transaction taxes compare with international and regional competitors. By Peter Costello's reckoning, Australia's personal tax system ranks only so-so by international standards. It sits on the middle of the ladder. After 10 years in government yesterday's announcement of an inquiry to benchmark the Australian tax system against those of comparable countries is long overdue. Given the parameters and the time frame for reporting it will probably find that, taking into account all levels of tax, Australians are not overtaxed. Shape of things to come: I’m here to change politics, not to have politics change me ; Imrich One Agenda, Many Voice: Being Poor is Expensive
• · · · Judging by the submissions to the taskforce set up last year to identify practical options for reducing the compliance burden on business from commonwealth government regulation, there is obviously some heavy and impractical baggage weighing on a range of industries and individuals. The regulation taskforce set up by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer last October has had just over three months to consider 151 submissions from concerned parties, including exclusive private schools, mortgage providers, small business and large financial institutions. Red tape in need of a quick snip ; Tax – who's telling the truth?
• · · · · Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has revealed he was "scarred for life by the GST experience", admitting the introduction of the tax was flawed and too generous to the states. As he prepares to celebrate the Howard government's 10th year in office, Mr Costello has revealed he believes the intended transfer of responsibility to the states in return for $35 billion in GST funds was a "failure". Costello's GST nightmare: Respect goes further than love in politics ; State welcomes GST shakeup ; Bold as brass NSW just wants a fairer slice of the pie
• · · · · · The NSW Parliament, which resumes tomorrow, will celebrate 150 years in May. Celebrations will be low-key, but is there much to celebrate? Parliament matures, not so its members; Govt to review Commonwealth penalties