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December 20, 2005

Opposition claims Australian Treasurer misled parliament

Opposition claims Australian Treasurer misled parliament

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Peter Costello

Australian Treasurer Peter Costello is facing controversy for the second time in three weeks following the release of a treasury document circulated on October 6, 2005, claiming that the government’s Work Choices Act could suppress labour productivity in the short-term.

In November, 2005, when questioned in parliament Costello denied that any report or modelling had been done by the Treasury. When speaking on ABC Radio, Costello claimed that the document is a “minute” not a report and therefore he did not mislead parliament. He later went on to say that the “report” had cemented the government’s claim that the industrial relations reforms will have economic benefits in the long term. Costello further explained that a key phrase in the minute, relating to job numbers, was misprinted, and should read “jobs should not fall” instead of “jobs should now fall”.

The report also stated that under the new system minimum wage increases are likely to be smaller than those made in the past by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

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December 2, 2005

Federal Opposition hounds Treasurer over appointment to RBA board, Gerard resigns

Federal Opposition hounds Treasurer over appointment to RBA board, Gerard resigns

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Friday, December 2, 2005 The Australian Federal Opposition has hounded the Treasurer, Peter Costello, over the appointment of Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) board. Mr Gerard announced on Friday 2nd that he will resign from the Board, citing the events of this week as the reason.

On Tuesday, November 29, Wayne Swan, the Shadow Treasurer asked of Costello in the first question of Question Time about an apparent statement that Costello made to Gerard, namely, “I know there’s an issue with the Tax Office but I don’t have a problem with you on the board”. Costello responded that he had no problem with Gerard, noting that “he brings a great understanding of Australian manufacturing industry to the board”, and that the obligatory declaration of interest was “indeed was signed by Mr Gerard”.

Later it was said by Swan in the House of Representatives that Gerard’s company was using “tax havens as tax avoidance schemes to the value of $150 million” and that the declaration of interest mentioned was only in regard to his personal affairs and on asking the Treasurer when he knew this, claimed that him actually knowing the information “would breach the secrecy act”. Later Swan revealed that Gerard “and his corporate vehicles” have been “susbtantial donors” to the Liberal Party. Costello maintained that the Government “[does] not think that supporting the Liberal Party is a disqualification from holding ministerial office, prime ministerial office, Treasury office or other offices in Australia”

Swan moved a censure motion to “provide this House with a full and proper explanation of…his communications with Mr Robert Gerard…and his knowledge of Mr Robert Gerard’s dispute with the Australian Taxation Office…”, which failed in the Government’s favour with votes 83 to 59 in division.

On Wednesday, November 30, Swan opened the House in a movement to suspend standing orders again to get information from the Treasurer, stating that “The Treasurer is in real strife” before the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer moved the gag. In Question Time, the Opposition continued to ask every question in regard to the appointment of Gerard. The Leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley revealed in his question to the Treasurer that “some of his cabinet colleagues have privately said that they did not consider Mr Gerard was ‘a good choice’ in the first place for the Reserve Bank board”. The Treasurer responded that Gerard’s “appointment was supported by all members of the cabinet”

In the subsequent Matters of Public Importance debate, the matter selected was that proposed by Wayne Swan, namely, “The need for the Treasurer to uphold the highest standards of probity in the selection of candidates for the Reserve Bank Board.”

On Thursday, December 1, the Opposition again reserved a number of its questions for inquiring about Gerard’s appointment. Swan revealed in a question to the Treasurer that Gerard Corporation had “acquired an investment company in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands eight months after the Treasurer recommended his appointment to the Reserve Bank board”. Costello responded to Swan referring him to “a statement about that allegation in the Australian Financial Review today…in which he makes it clear that no income has been derived.”

Later, the Leader of the Opposition tried to move a censure motion on the treasurer, but leave of the House was not granted, so he had to resort to moving a motion to suspend standing orders to move the same motion, to censure the Treasurer for his appointment. The motion failed due to Government numbers, but the Matters for Public Importance (which follows Question Time) which was selected as “The need for the Government to govern for all Australians not just a privileged few.” in order to draw a comparison with the unequal treatment of the Treasurer in supporting Gerard and the new industrial relations legislation, dubbed WorkChoices, and said how the Treasurer and the Prime Minister were “laughing up their sleeves”, that the Treasurer was “not fit to lead”, and Gerard “is the worst attendee on the Reserve Bank board.”

The Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, however focused elsewhere on the MPI, and drew the attention of the Australian Labor Party’s ties to the unions, had described the Opposition as a “policy free zone”, said that “there is one group that represents privilege in this place and that is the Australian Labor Party”, and stressed the benefits of WorkChoices.

Craig Emerson noted that the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party participated in “deliberate tax evasion”, and that Mr Gerard “paid penalty tax in circumstances of deliberate tax evasion”. Emerson later said that the Liberal Party was “soft on tax cheats”, “soft on tax cheating Liberal Party donors…and members”.

The adjournment debate also brought up criticism of Gerard’s appointment in the adjournment debate. Christopher Bowen noted the “disquiet” in the media, and noted the previous Board member Bernie Fraser also calling for his dismissal. Bernard Ripoll called for a “full inquiry” into the Government’s “self serving public policy”.

Swan has said that Gerard had done the “honourable thing”, but that he will not let up on pressing the Treasurer for a full disclosal of the facts.

The House of Representatives as of this date sits next on December 5, 2005.

Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard, dates November 28 through December 1 inclusive.
  • Gerard quits RBA board” — Australian Broadcasting Corporation, December 2, 2005
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November 3, 2005

Australian Members of Parliament removed from chamber again in rowdy session of Question Time

Australian Members of Parliament removed from chamber again in rowdy session of Question Time

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Thursday, November 3, 2005 In what appears to be a continuing trend from the Australian House of Representatives Question Time session November 2, an further six Federal Opposition members and one Government member were ejected during and just after Question Time November 3.

Anthony Albanese, having been warned earlier to Question Time was the first removed, and after Opposition members had interjected “Boring, boring!” to an answer from the Australian Treasurer Peter Costello describing the Opposition stance on the industrial relations reform as a “scare campaign”, the Speaker Neil Andrew issued a “general warning”.

Wayne Swan, Tanya Plibersek|Tanya Plibersek, Jill Hall, Julia Irwin (who was also removed yesterday) were also asked to remove themselves under standing order 94(a).

When controversy arose after a question was asked to the Leader of the House, Tony Abbott, about the issue of distributing bills on the industrial relations changes and the Speaker intervened in favour of Abbott, he went on to say that Stephen Smith “took copies of the workplace relations bill, handed them to an adviser and then the adviser exited the chamber…he then raised a point of order claiming copies were not available”. Graham Edwards said “You’re a fraud, Abbott!” and he was also removed.

Later, when Smith rose after Question Time to make a personal explanation that he did not “[remove] nor [steal] 60 copies of the bill”, Michael Ferguson had interjected and was removed — the only Government member to be removed over the previous few days. Julia Gillard asked the Speaker that of the eighteen Opposition members and one Government member removed over the last two days, “whether 18:1…equals a fair application of the rules as to keeping order in the House”, to which he said that “the last two days have been particularly noisy and…it has required more discipline than the chair would like to have to exercise.”

Sources

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November 2, 2005

Australian Treasury related agencies spend 17000 AUD on massages in 2004

Australian Treasury related agencies spend 17000 AUD on massages in 2004

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Australian agencies under the responsibility of the federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, spent approximately $17,000 AUD on massage services in 2004, namely the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

The Australian Labor Party member Christopher Bowen asked the Treasurer for details on massage services in a question on notice, and received the answer on October 31.

637 ASIC staff made use of massages, compared with only 50 in the ABS, who however spent more on massages than ASIC. ABS staff paid $15 for 15 minutes and $10 for 10 minutes, while ASIC staff paid only $10.86 per massage.

Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard (pdf), October 31, 2005. (Question No. 984)
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October 27, 2005

Australian anti-terror laws will be delayed

Australian anti-terror laws will be delayed

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jon Stanhope, the Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister, is the first Australian state or territory chief to reject the Howard Government’s proposed anti-terror legislation in its current state.

He said he would not vote into law the ACT’s part of the legislation, including extending preventive detention of terror suspects to 14 days, unless there were changes.

The Federal Government requires the support of a least four states to give the final legislation the go-ahead. If the Commonwealth proceeds with its laws without the ACT’s co-operation – the territory could become the odd jurisdiction out, as the only one without preventive detention for people suspected of planning a terrorist attack.

“I’m quite happy to change it provided the situation is covered,” Mr Howard told reporters in Madang, at the Pacific Islands Forum. “I’m quite relaxed about the final form of the legislation, providing it delivers on the substance of the agreement.” Mr Howard said he was not committed to introducing the changes next week, although he wanted them by Christmas.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, who was outraged that the Government had chosen Melbourne Cup Day as a cover to introduce the Bills, pointed out that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister were at odds.

Constitutional Questions

The Australian PM has agreed to changes to Australia’s controversial Anti-Terror Laws, after comments from his own Treasurer.

Peter Costello, speaking to The Age Newspaper for the first time on the issue, apparently contradicted earlier statements made by the PM, saying, “Unfortunately nobody ever finally knows these things until such time as the court rules”.

“Peter Costello contradicted John Howard today and went out there and said ‘Well it might be unconstitutional but let’s just sort of suck it and see’,” Mr Beazley said to Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper.

Mr Howard said there was nothing of concern in legal advice from the Solicitor-General and he remained convinced the laws were constitutional, but did concede to changes to the so-called “shoot-to-kill” provisions for police. . Queensland Premier Peter Beattie welcomed Mr Howard’s move on the shoot-to-kill clause and said he was confident all constitutional issues could be overcome.

Human Rights

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission(HREOC) president is of the belief that the bill needs to be reconsidered because it is not in line with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

HREOC is a national independent statutory body of the Australian Government. It has the responsibility for investigating alleged infringements under Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation.

The Head of HREOC says under the proposed laws the opportunity to challenge a detention order against an individual or a control order against the person’s family is unrealistic, and has concerns about what happens to a person after they are subjected to a preventive detention order.

“They’re not told why they’re subject to it, nor is there any way in which they can go about challenging the facts upon which that order is made,” he told the ABC.

“That’s the real, the most serious of the human rights issues in the whole procedure. There is no means of reviewing what has been done once its happened.”

“International human rights law requires that a person who is detained must have the right to challenge this detention in a court without delay. Review before the court needs to include: consideration of whether the order is based on a correct understanding of the facts; whether the detention is fair; whether it is reasonably necessary in the circumstances; and whether it is proportionate to the goal of protecting national security. The current form of the bill simply fails to meet these basic guarantees.”

HREOC says a special court should be established to review enforcement provisions in the draft bill.


Related news

  • “Australian Minister ‘leaks’ draft of anti-terror bill” — Wikinews, October 15, 2005
  • “Australian “terror laws” face backlash” — Wikinews, October 19, 2005
  • “Premiers take on Australian PM on Shoot To Kill Laws” — Wikinews, October 20, 2005
  • Australian PM says proposed Anti-Terror Laws are Constitutional” — Wikinews, October 25, 2005

Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Australian Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005

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September 4, 2005

Australia hits new Telstra privatization hurdles

Australia hits new Telstra privatization hurdles

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Sunday, September 4, 2005

The Australian Government’s plan for the full privatization of Telstra, Australia’s dominant telecommunications company, received criticism leveled at the government and company by executives. The government owns 51.8%, with the remaining 48.2% of Telstra stock held by shareholders, having been partially floated in the 1990s.

Phil Burgess, senior executive, made comments that Telstra was “a loser” hindered by excessive regulations and that he would not recommend purchasing the shares to his mother. The government responded, with Treasurer Peter Costello telling the Telstra management to manage the company and leave industry regulation to the government. Prime Minister John Howard repeated those sentiments, saying Telstra’s problem was government ownership over government regulation.

There are plans for introducing legislation next week which will approve the sale of the remainder of the government’s share. This is the first time such legislation will have gone through the Senate with the Coalition, consisting of the Liberal and National parties, controlling both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This may allow the predominantly Liberal-backed proposal to be passed. However, members of the National Party have spoken out against full privatisation, citing concerns over the future of less profitable rural services. A major base of support for the National Party is in rural areas.

Two major financial institutions divested their Telstra stock as shares dropped to their lowest point since mid last year.

Sources

  • Mathew Charles, Geraldine Mitchell and Gerard McManus. “Telstra feud deepens” — The Courier Mail, September 03, 2005
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July 20, 2005

New U.S. immigration bill proposes time-limit and employer scrutiny

New U.S. immigration bill proposes time-limit and employer scrutiny

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

United States Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said it is unlikely that a new bill to reform immigration legislation will receive action by the legislative body this year. The bill, introduced yesterday by Jon Kyl (R,AZ) and John Cornyn (R,TX), would require immigrant workers to apply from their native countries for a visa to remain in the states.

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is estimated to be in the range of 10 to 12 million.

The bill is in contrast to a different measure by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) submitted two months ago. That bill would create a visa category where temporary workers are not tied to any job in particular and would allow them to apply for permanent residence regardless of employment. The bill has republican co-sponsorship from Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona where the porous US-Mexican border is an issue.

The Kennedy-McCain bill allows illegal aliens already in the U.S. to petition the government to remain. A position that Kyl in effect calls the equivalent of granting “amnesty”. Kennedy answered that criticism by saying, “The mass deportation of illegal immigrant persons as contemplated by the Cornyn-Kyl bill is not a realistic solution, and won’t solve the security and economic problems we face.”

The Kyl-Cornyn bill proposal is an attempt to tie immigrant status to U.S. employment. The legislation would create a guest worker program that would match immigrant workers with jobs mostly not wanted by American citizens. An immigrant worker would be given five years to come into compliance with an employment order. It calls for 10,000 federal agents, at a cost in the range of 2 to 5 billion, to audit employers who hire undocumented workers. Companies that break a proposed new law to monitor undocumented immigrants would be subject to penalties.

The bill drew criticism from immigration groups which include two leading Hispanic organizations because of the “mandatory departure” requirement. Immigrants who wait five years before leaving the U.S. would pay annual fines totaling $5,000 each year. Or, after making a return trip to their native country, they can again apply from there for a temporary job in the U.S. They would work for two years in the U.S., return home for a year, and then reapply for two more two-year work cycle. The maximum would be six years in the United States. In their home country, they could also apply for U.S. immigrant programs, including the “green card” that grants permanent residency.

Kyl said he believes businesses will not object because his plan would make verifying legal workers easier by reducing the documentation required. The basics of the plan include:

  • Requires immigrants to be registered, fingerprinted and checked against criminal and terrorist watch lists.
  • Allow immigrants two years under the a temporary-worker visa, after which they would have to return home for a year. Temporary-worker visas could be used three times for a maximum stay of six years total.
  • Illegal immigrants now in the U.S. register for a “mandatory departure” program that would give them time to leave voluntarily. They could re-enter through the temporary-worker program, but could not apply for permanent residence while in the U.S.

The bill also calls for replacing the practice currently in place in the U.S. of issuing paper Social Security cards with the issuance of a tamper-proof cards. The Social Security Administration identification card is treated by most states as no form of personal identification at all. A birth certificate is considered a primary form of identification, along with driver’s licenses, passports and other official state or other territory photo-identification cards. The bill proposes that social security cards should be “machine readable” and a primary form of identification.

A terrorism-driven drive to turn driver’s licenses into a national ID card faces hurdles. Peter Costello, treasurer of Australia, said he will not support national ID cards unless there is convincing evidence it fights terrorism.

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July 5, 2005

Australian Prime Minister\’s popularity at all time low

Australian Prime Minister’s popularity at all time low

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

According to recent polls, Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s popularity has hit an all time low in response to his policies in industrial relations. This has combined with a backlash against Treasurer w:Peter Costello, after he said in an interview on Lateline that religious teachings caused children “only a little harm”. This comment followed a media stunt at a major church where Mr. Costello was attempting to capture the “Religious Right” vote.

The Liberal party has hit back by calling the public reaction “Labor propaganda”.

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April 2, 2005

Australian Treasurer told to \’try harder on welfare\’

Australian Treasurer told to ‘try harder on welfare’

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Saturday, April 2, 2005

A professor from Australia’s most prestigious university said yesterday that Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, “must try harder on welfare.” Professor Bob Gregory of the Australian National University and leading economist said, “If people could not hide on disability and sole parent pensions then [Mr Costello] couldn’t claim credit for the fall in unemployment.”

“In my view, the Treasurer has to come out openly and say that he has not been able to produce full-time jobs at a sufficient rate to get people off welfare. Either he has to wait until the economy generates unskilled jobs or he has to play around with the wage system.”

Another report relating to the Australian Social Security system was released yesterday by researchers at the University of Melbourne. It found that care-givers who look after mentally ill dependents claim significantly less stress when they engaged in work outside the home.

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