CHINESE private investment leading BEIJING’s push into the PACIFIC

IS this what happens when you take your neighbours for granted?

WHERE was Australia over the last 20 years?

IS this what happens when you over-price your attractiveness and tourists go elsewhere?

AND despite what happened elsewhere politically Australians are still going to other places in the South Pacific … Vanuatu isn’t near the top of the list …
New colonialists. ….


IS this why Scomo and Co are attempting to cover it all up?

Chinese private investment leading Beijing’s push into the Pacific

By foreign affairs reporter Melissa Clarke and Prianka Srinivasan

24 OCTOBER 2019

VIDEO: The Chinese-backed Rainbow City project is the biggest residential development in Vanuatu. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: Why are Chinese nationals snapping up Vanuatu passports?

RELATED STORY: What’s in the secret documents signed by China and Vanuatu at APEC?

RELATED STORY: ‘A stadium is pretty cheap for China’: Gifts roll in ahead of Pacific summit

Rainbow City is little more than a swathe of grassland on an island in the Pacific, but it has an apparently grand future.

Key points:

  • Rainbow City is being marketed to foreigners as a “Little Singapore” in Vanuatu
  • The project covering more than 86 hectares will dwarf nearby villages and resorts
  • Locals say they have been kept in the dark about the development

The grass is slowly being replaced with roads, the soil forming the base for apartments, villas and shopping centres.

*This patch of paradise on Efate, the island that is home to Vanuatu’s capital, will eventually become a mini city for foreigners.

Over the next 10 years, the buildings over 86 hectares of open land will come to dwarf the surrounding villages, private homes and small resorts that neighbour it.

*Supported by private, Chinese-backed investment, it is the biggest residential development in Vanuatu.

Australia and the United States have been worried about the growing level of Chinese government interest in Vanuatu and the Pacific more broadly, but private investments from China like Rainbow City are booming.

And for locals, it is the most direct source of disquiet and discomfort about the future of their island homes.

‘Little Singapore’ in the Pacific

The front gates of Rainbow City. They are big and brown with the words "CITY" and "THE Rainbow city" on the left and right sides

PHOTO: Rainbow City’s developer expects the project to be complete in about 10 years. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

Behind Rainbow City is one woman, Ruimin Cheng, who has lived in Vanuatu for about 10 years, and is known locally as Amy Feng.

She is the head of the Port Vila-based FPF Company, which, as well as developing Rainbow City, runs a weekly newspaper and advises foreigners on Vanuatu’s citizenship-by-investment program.

‘Passports for sale’

'Passports for sale'

Under Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment scheme, successful applicants can become citizens within a matter of months, and there’s no requirement to even set foot on Vanuatu soil.

Rainbow City, according to Ms Cheng, is part of her efforts to contribute to Vanuatu’s economy.

“We want to help Vanuatu … open the tourist market, have tourists come here,” she told the ABC.

“People from the whole world will come here … [from] England or Australia, or … China or Hong Kong, Macau.”

Although ostensibly aimed at attracting investors from around the world, the marketing and design of the development — which the company has dubbed Little Singapore — is clearly geared towards Asian investment.

Preliminary construction has begun, but not a single property has been sold yet, or even put on the market.

“A lot of people [are] asking how much to buy,” Ms Cheng said.

“Soon we will make it to market,” she went on to explain, saying the first property sales were due to take place around the end of the year.

Inside the Rainbow City gates, some construction work can be seen on a structure. Two people are inside the gate, and a truck.

PHOTO: Details about how the huge development project is being funded remain vague. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

In lieu of buyers, the first stages of the development are being funded by Ms Cheng’s private companies — some based in Vanuatu, others in China.

When pressed, she was vague about how many and which companies were financially backing the project.

A walled mini city

The concrete wall that rings the Rainbow City site was the first thing to be built and it sits uneasily with ni-Vanuatu, as the people native to the islands of Vanuatu are known.

Graham Toara’s village neighbours Rainbow City, but proximity has not brought clarity.

A concrete wall build in tropical greenery, which surrounds the Rainbow City site. The brickwork appears sloppy and crumbly.

PHOTO: Neighbours are concerned the concrete wall around Rainbow City may be a sign of things to come. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

Although the developers are promising ni-Vanuatu will be able to access the schools and hospital planned as part of the mini city, Mr Toara is suspicious.

“When you are talking about a town — town means that there’s no wall,” he said.

“If you build a town, you have to remove the wall.”

His frustration and confusion are clear, as he grapples with the prospect of a giant, gated community of foreigners on his doorstep.

Gabriel Toara, left, and her son Graham Toara sit in chairs looking to the right of the photo.

PHOTO: Gabriel Toara (left) and her son Graham Toara live in a village beside the Rainbow City site. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

“We don’t understand the Rainbow City, actually. We need the Government to explain it to us,” he said.

All the Chinese is building this. The community that is living around here, they do not understand.”

There is no shortage of resorts and foreign visitors in Vanuatu, with tourism the mainstay of the nation’s economy.

China’s diplomatic weapon

China's diplomatic weapon

A ban on Chinese tourists to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau is leaving hotels empty and an airline in limbo.

Vanuatu is made up of more than 80 islands in the South Pacific, east of Townsville and west of Fiji, which makes it a hotspot for travellers seeking quiet, untouched beaches and world-class diving.

But this development is of a previously unseen scale and coincides with growing concern about Chinese influence in the region.

Mr Toara is emphatic this development is unparalleled in Vanuatu.

“Never. Never. Never. I am ni-Vanuatu and I have never seen this before,” he said.

His mother, Gabriel Toara, presses the point, switching from her native Bislama to halting English to get her message across.

A dog walks under a clothesline, next to a tin house at a lush looking village on Efate, next to Rainbow City.

PHOTO: Local ni-Vanuatu people are worried about the scale of Chinese land purchases on Efate. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

“Over here, and up there, and the other side,” she said, pointing out where different Chinese investors had purchased land around her family’s village.

“They try to buy here, but my son doesn’t want. He come to the land and stop them, not allow [them] to buy here because this is my land.”

“We worry how the Chinese come and build house and buy everyplace in Vanuatu and we didn’t understand why they buy Vanuatu.”

Vanuatu on the world’s radar

A small tree stands in a green space near a lagoon along the sandy shore of Efate Island, Vanuatu.

PHOTO: Pacific Island nations, and their huge ocean territories, are seen as strategically important countries. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

Anxiety around Chinese-backed development in the Pacific is not new, but it is heightened, given the renewed focus on the region by the world’s great powers.

The vast oceanic territory under the control of the island nations through their exclusive economic zones — and their strategically advantageous mid-ocean locations — has thrust the Pacific back onto the radar of China and the United States, as well as their allies.

Last year, US and Australian officials were alarmed at the prospect of China establishing a permanent military presence in Vanuatu, despite both countries strenuously denying such talks ever took place.

The Chinese-funded redevelopment of Vanuatu’s Luganville port did little to assuage their concerns.

Vanuatu denies base claims

Australia warns Vanuatu after reports the Pacific nation was talking to Beijing about hosting a Chinese military base.

Vanuatu is already one of the biggest recipients of China’s largesse in the Pacific, according to a comprehensive analysis of aid to the Pacific by the Lowy Institute.

Their Pacific Aid Map shows China donated almost twice as much to Vanuatu as Australia through $US99.65 million ($145 million) in grants and concessional loans.

That money paid for the redevelopment of the Luganville wharf along with smaller projects, such as building new offices for the Prime Minister, President, and the Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries.

However, Australia remains the biggest single national contributor of aid to the Pacific, having spent $1.2 billion across the region.

New Zealand and Japan still outrank China in aid committed to the region, too.

Diplomatic officials from both Australia and the US have told the ABC they are concerned China’s strategic lending will lead to “debt-trap diplomacy”, though some experts have recently cautioned against overstating such concerns.

Claims workers paid $1.70 per hour

John Bakoa stands near a grassy path next to an empty, tropical paddock. Two children and a woman are walking down the path.

PHOTO: John Bakoa says he was paid less than Vanuatu’s minimum wage while working for the developer. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

While nations that rim the Pacific jostle for influence across the ocean, on the islands and atolls the concern reaches into everyday life.

*Developments like Rainbow City hold the promise of jobs and training for ni-Vanuatu, but locals tell a different story.

John Bakoa lives on a property just down the road from Rainbow City and worked on the construction site, helping to build the perimeter wall.

*“They don’t pay us well,” he said. “They pay us 130 vatu … per hour.”

*That is about $1.70 in Australian terms, and is well below Vanuatu’s minimum wage.

Ms Cheng vociferously disputes this, saying full-time workers on the site are paid a “good and high salary” that is “always over” the minimum wage, although it is not clear if that applies to casual workers too.

*Locals are also worried Chinese workers will either refuse to buy fruit and vegetables from them, or undercut them at markets.

People sell fruit and vegetables in a large metal shed on the island of Efate, Vanuatu. There are some big green lettuces

PHOTO: Selling produce at local markets is an important source of income for many villagers. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

Mr Bakoa acknowledges his former workplace has the potential to bring investment and infrastructure that will benefit ni-Vanuatu as well as foreigners.

“The Chinese have a lot of money they bring in,” he said, but Mr Bakoa does not see it helping those around him.

“The work conditions aren’t great, they push you really hard and then you only get a bit of money in return,” he said.

*The need for assistance and development is high, but so is the desire to retain control and national identity

*Mr Bakoa is unsettled by the changes on his island home.

“I hear that … lots of people could be helped by the development.”

“But I’m not really sure. You know, because it’s Chinese, they have their ideas. We don’t really understand it.”

Contact Melissa Clarke




SYDNEY Needs ‘A Metre of Rain’ to break Drought as Dam Levels Extend Dive!

Sydney needs ‘a metre of rain’ to break drought as dam levels extend dive

Peter Hannam
By Peter Hannam

Updated October 23, 2019

View all comments

Sydney’s dam levels are falling so quickly the city would need the equivalent of a metre of rain and a major deluge to break the dry spell.

Details of the state of Sydney’s catchments were circulated to government agencies this month as NSW braces for increasing stress on water supplies, particularly across the northern Murray-Darling Basin.

Warragamba Dam's storage has fallen below 50 per cent this month.
Warragamba Dam’s storage has fallen below 50 per cent this month.CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

“It will take approximately 1000 millimetres of rain to fall over the course of a year in order to break the current drought in Greater Sydney, including an intense rain event of 200 millimetres over 1-2 days,” the government document states. “The annual average is 850 millimetres.”

Sydney’s dams are 48 per cent full, down more than 10 billion litres over the past week. The weekly drop of 0.4 percentage points would have been more without the 250 million litres being produced daily by the city’s desalination plant.

“Greater Sydney is in drought and dam levels are dropping faster than they have in decades,” a spokeswoman for Sydney Water said.

“This … is around 50 per cent greater than the Millennium Drought,” she said, adding that storage levels had sunk from 90 per cent to below half full in about two years.

Play video0:30Warragamba Dam time lapse

How our dam’s levels have changed since 1984.

Governments have been scrambling to respond to a sharp reduction of rainfall even as evaporation rates have increased with record temperatures.

In NSW during the first nine months of 2019, rainfall has been half the average while daytime and mean temperatures are running at the hottest on record.

“The Bureau of Meteorology’s climate forecast indicates no foreseeable signs of reprieve from current drought conditions, with warm and dry weather predicted,” the Sydney Water spokeswoman said, citing bureau outlooks.

“Based on these forecasts, the drought is therefore unlikely to break within the next year.”

Cataract Dam spillway: the reservoir near Wollongong is the lowest among the Greater Sydney network at just 27 per cent full.
Cataract Dam spillway: the reservoir near Wollongong is the lowest among the Greater Sydney network at just 27 per cent full.CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL

Sydney’s warm, dry spring may see one of the hottest days in recent years on Friday, when the mercury is tipped to climb to 33 in the city and 37 in the west. There’s no rain on the horizon in the coming seven days.

Sydneysiders use about 210 litres of water a day, or about 30 per cent more than in Melbourne, said Ian Wright, a senior lecturer in Environment Science at Western Sydney University. Towns such as Orange in central-west NSW have cut usage to about 133 litres a person each day.


Friday is shaping up to be a day for the beach in Sydney, with a coastal high of 33.

Burst of hot weather to hit almost every Australian capital this week

While many inland towns have moved to level 4 or higher restrictions, Sydneysiders have only had to cope with level 1 curbs since June.

Residents, for instance, can only use a hose – which must be equipped with a trigger nozzle – before 10am and after 4pm each day.

Sydney Water said its “Love water, don’t waste it” campaign was having some success.

For the first nine months of the year, Sydney used 414.1 billion litres, with demand down 7 per cent from the 444.7 billion litres consumed for the same period last year.


Burrendong Dam, which supplies water to the Macquarie River is currently hovering at just over 4 per cent full.

‘Asleep at the wheel’: NSW government ignored years of water warnings

That reduction “made a big difference to Sydney’s water security”, the spokeswoman said.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said Sydney’s restrictions were already “equivalent to the level 2 water restrictions we experienced during the Millennium Drought. The trigger point for level 2 water restrictions [this time] is 40 per cent capacity for the Sydney catchment.”

Labor’s water spokesman Clayton Barr said “there is a growing concern across parts of the Sydney water network, and the state more widely, about how water is being handled and preserved”.

Mr Barr said he recently met community groups at Cataract Dam, the largest dam in the Macarthur Region, who were worried that levels had dropped from 90 per cent to under 30 per cent in just two years.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.




Get Ready for Another Structural HOUSING SHORTAGE …

Get ready for another structural housing shortage

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Property

October 23, 2019 | 15 comments

Australians are going to have to get used to living in more cramped and crowded accommodation as housing supply once again falls below rampant immigration-fuelled population growth.

That’s the view of Australia’s largest listed developer, Stockland, who has warned that housing shortages are developing from coast-to-coast:

The country’s largest listed residential developer Stockland has warned that housing shortages could emerge in every market in Australia as the property cycle accelerates…

“We expect you will see quite a considerable undersupply emerge in just about every housing market in the country,” [CEO Mark Steinert said]…

Tim Johansen, the global head of capital at development financier Qualitas, backed this view:

“There might be a lot of cranes on the skyline but that masks what is happening”…

“We think the supply has dropped off big time and it’s taking a lot longer to get a new development started”…

The RBACBA and BIS Oxford Economics all made similar predictions last week.

It’s hard to disagree. Both dwelling approvals and commencements have collapsed, meaning that dwelling supply will fall sharply over the next two years at least:

Growing concerns over apartment quality, alongside growing developer bankruptcies, will also prevent construction from rebounding. Thus, we are looking at a protracted construction downturn.

However, just because Australia’s housing market is headed into structural undersupply doesn’t automatically mean that prices and rents will surge.

Household income growth remains anaemic:

Whereas unemployment is also set to rise, owing partly to the construction jobs bust:

Australian households are also carrying gigantic debt loads at the same time mortgage rates are approaching their structural bottom:

The likely scenario is that household formation will slow as more Australians hunker down together (e.g. youngsters will live with mum and dad for longer or in group homes).

Accordingly, the slowing housing supply will be met by slowing demand, thereby limiting any rent / price increases.





The big four parasites of kleptocracy

The big four parasites of kleptocracy

By Houses and Holes in Australian budgetAustralian Economy

October 23, 2019 | 7 comments

Via Michael West:

A former school teacher from Copacabana Beach has just locked horns with the four most powerful private institutions on the planet. And they don’t like it. The shoddy audit standards, massive government consulting business and global tax avoidance operations of the Big Four accounting firms, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, now finally face government scrutiny. Michael West reports.

On a crisp Thursday morning early this month, Deborah O’Neill walked into the Senate with a good idea. The Senator from the Central Coast of NSW had watched events unfold in London, the retinue of scandals which had enveloped the Big Four; and their intimate connections to a raft of corporate collapses and their attendant, gargantuan, conflicts of interest.

Here, the Big Four accountancy firms – shadowy partnerships who reveal nothing of their spiralling profits – had staged another breezy escape from accountability. In the Royal Commission into the Banks, where they booked another breathtaking bevy of advisory fees, they fielded nary one question as to their own culpability in the systemic fraud perpetrated upon ordinary Australians.

Yet in the UK, the calls were rising for the oligopoly to be broken up; too big, too profitable, too failed in its self-appointed role as the Guardian of Global Commerce.

At 11.49 am, O’Neill rose in the Chamber to speak. “I move that the following matter be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Inquiry into Corporations and Financial Services …”. She went on to note the failure of audit in detecting fraud, and conflicts of interest arising from their government consulting fees. As well as booking monster fees from advising multinational corporations on how to dodge tax, it was audit and consulting which had helped the Big Four to double-digit revenue rises in recent years – yes, rises in revenue, not profits; much of this coming at the expense of taxpayers.

Hansard from August 1 records: “Question agreed to”. What Hansard did not record was the dismay at how O’Neill managed to get away with this motion, nor the surprise and high indignation of the Big Four, the bewilderment of Liberal party senators across the floor, and even the surprise among her own colleagues.

The Big Four are among the largest donors to both major parties, tipping in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to both Liberal and Labor coffers, effectively political bribes to garner government business and to avoid precisely this kind of nosy, intrusive government activity.

This had been coming for a while, Deborah O’Neill told last week. “They (the auditors) escaped scrutiny in the Hayne Royal Commission. ASIC has been calling on the Government to deal with the quality of auditing for the past seven years and they have done nothing. What impact does their consultancy work, which is unregulated, have over their capacity to audit independently?”

For the Big Four, the dollars at stake are mind-boggling. The following chart shows Federal Government consulting fees which have gone to these four firms alone over the past seven and a half years until this month when O’Neill called her probe. In the red is Department of Defence, in the blue, all other departments.

Big Four fees. Source: Greg Bean analysis of Austender.

In the three weeks since the Inquiry was announced the phone calls from the Big Four have been flowing. “What a cheek it was to announce this inquiry without so much as consulting us” … “there is nothing to see here anyway”, sums up the mood of indignation.

“She slipped that one through,” said one long-term Labor Senate operative. Canberra insiders are variously surprised and amused that the motion was not killed from the start. Now the word is the Committee is stacked with Liberals keen to kill it and Labor senators under pressure to kill it.

One senior lawyer au fait with the practices of the firms confided the Big Four had already enlisted senior partners at the big city law firms and their Big Four colleagues in London to kill it. They will be vigorously looking at their “document retention” policies, he old this reporter, “which really means document destruction”.

“Make no mistake, they (EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC) will be prepared, they are preparing already. They are not, in the least, worried about this”.

Indeed, the last time they faced parliamentary scrutiny was during the 2015 Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance where the Big Four despatched a tight platoon of slick witnesses to bat away committee questions with casual efficiency. Their clients: Google, Uber, News Corp, Microsoft and the oil majors were suitably shown up, embarrassed for their tax chicanery. Yet, on the masterminds of global tax avoidance themselves, not a glove was laid.

As the Big Four practise their defence strategies for the audit inquiry, their lobbyists, PR people and senior partners have shifted into overdrive with phone calls to the major parties and even the press. One newspaper boss in the financial media has been summoned to the gleaming Barangaroo headquarters of one of the firms to be scolded over the “unhelpful” Big Four coverage by one of his more dutiful news reporters.

O’Neill herself is not taking anything for granted. This is not a Royal Commission and large financial institutions have “given the bird” to past inquiries, lied and refused to co-operate with documentary evidence. She expects a battle.

Five of the ten-person Committee are Liberal MPs, four are from Labor and there is one Green. The Committee chair, young Liberal Senator James Patterson, is a member of the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs and unlikely to do Deborah O’Neill any favours. Another, Andrew Bragg is ex EY, one of the Big Four. Another, Jason Falinski, has already been hosing down expectations via the Financial Review that the Inquiry will find anything of significance.

The Liberal faction, say sources, is expected to “drop ASIC in it”, that is run the line that the embattled corporate regulator the Australian Securities & Investments Commission is to blame for any deficiencies in the accounting regime. The Committee itself was reformed after the Election, newly composed with O’Neill replaced as deputy chair by South Australian MP Steve Georganas.

Greens’ senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who is big on corporate malfeasance, is likely to take the fight up to the Big Four. O’Neill herself has experience, having presided in four Corporations Committee hearings. But the power and money behind the opposing forces are formidable.

Part of the reason the Inquiry was not struck down by a vote on the floor on August 1 was that the Liberals were somewhat wedged by findings in the last Parliament that there were big problems with audit standards in Australia.

“For some time, the PJC on Corporations and Financial services has been reporting on the quality, or more accurately lack of quality of auditing in Australia,” she says. “This issue should have been dealt with in the Terms of Reference of the Banking Royal Commission.

“The Liberal-National Government failed Australians and our financial sector when they chose to exclude audit from the scrutiny of the Hayne Banking Royal Commission. I am concerned about the potential conflict of interest of these companies originally designed exclusively for audit who now offer extensive consultancy services.

“When auditors secure less than 25% of their income through auditing work, the question needs to be asked – what impact does their consultancy work, which is unregulated, have over their capacity to audit independently?”

Here is another snapshot of the fee-fest. The chart below shows fees by Big Four firm from 2012 to 2018. Defence consulting is in red and all other departments blue.

Total revenue is $3.7 billion, according to analysis done for by data expert Greg Bean. In the 313 days before  Deborah O’Neill announced her inquiry Big Four revenue rose by $600 million. Collectively therefore, they make around $700 million a year for providing advice to the Federal Government alone.

Big4 v All Other. Source: Greg Bean

Previously, the four firms had been taking 60% of their revenue out of the cash cow which is DoD. Defence spending went ballistic in the year after Tony Abbott became prime minister. Though things have tapered off slightly. In 2018, they took 50% out of DoD and so far this year have only taken 44% of total fees out of DoD.

Meanwhile, as pointed out for three years by this website, audit standards in Australia are poor, marked by persistent failures to adhere to Australian Accounting Standards (AASB) which means – as the Corporations Act requires companies to comply with AASB – that Australia’s largest companies are routinely breaking the law.

The regulatory establishment is entirely captive. There were even recent revelations that Bill Edge, the chairman of the government’s audit body, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), was taking payments from his old firm PwC. Yet the firms have so infiltrated government that they have become “beyond regulation”.

Last week, the Committee met without representation from Labor and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed to an extension of the submissions deadline from September to October 28. The Big Four are stacked with former political operatives of both major persuasions such as ex union boss Paul Howes who is now a partner of KPMG. They will not be needy of external advice on how to filibuster.

If they manage to kill the inquiry, or at least neuter it, the Big Four will buy another few years of unrestrained growth at the expense of government (which is increasingly outsourced to them), taxpayers and stakeholders in the companies which they purport to be guarding.

In the long run however it is an untenable situation to have an oligopoly of four auditors “guarding” the biggest institutions in the world, advising them how to dodge tax while advising government on tax policy and literally taking over the business of government via their consulting divisions.

A key factor in the outcome therefore will be media, which has yet almost entirely ignored these things. In its defence, the Big Four play a suave media game. Yet the spate of global document leaks such as Panama Papers, LuxLeaks and Paradise Papers, while focussing on celebrity tax avoiders, has ignored the Big Four perpetrators.

Worse, the myriad files remain locked in a document trove controlled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as it grows stale and beyond the access of the public. For now, the Big Four has covered all bases. The Senator from Copacabana Beach, and her colleagues, surely have their work cut out.

Who Guards the Guards? Big Four prepare for war as beach-side senator brings corporate inquiry

Senator Deborah O’Neill. Photo: ABC




Malaysian scammers abuse Australia’s electronic visa system

Malaysian scammers abuse Australia’s electronic visa system

Malaysian scammers abuse Australia’s electronic visa system

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

October 23, 2019 | 3 comments

Another report has emerged highlighting how Malaysians are manipulating Australia’s electronic travel authority (ETA) visa system to stay long-term in Australia:

Australia’s population of 64,600 lapsed visa holders is more than triple the size of last year’s refugee intake, newly released Immigration data has revealed.

Malaysian visa overstayers were the most highly represented, with around 9,440 living in the country in June 30 last year…

The data shows the vast majority of visa overstayers were on tourist visas – an estimated 47,000 – followed by student visas at around 10,000…

The data also breaks down the length of overstays, with around 12,000 people staying in the country without a visa for more than 20 years…

Malaysians are the biggest group in the visa overstay data, beating much more populous countries like China, India and the United States.

Many high-profile Malaysians, including members of parliament, were educated in Australia under the Colombo Plan…

Those highly educated, low-risk Malaysians have led to the country receiving a ‘low-risk’ visa rating from Immigration, which makes it easy for them to get visas with minimal vetting…

Malaysia is covered by the Electronic Travel Authority, which means their tourist visas are essentially approved automatically…

The ABC last month also revealed that 33,000 Malaysians have exploited Australia’s ETA system over recent years in order to travel to Australia to then submit fraudulent applications for asylum:

High Commissioner Andrew Goledzinowski said 33,000 Malaysians had applied for asylum in Australia in recent years…

“Many who overstay then apply for refugee status…. They are doing it because they know we are a generous country”…

“From the information we have, the large number [applying for asylum] is due to the fact that Malaysians are taking advantage of Australia’s immigration laws to enable them to stay longer in an unlawful manner,” said a statement from Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs…

“Everybody [in Malaysia] has got this idea that it’s so easy to get asylum in Australia,” [James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania] said.

The issue has even garnered attention from the Malaysian Government:

The Malaysian government this week acknowledged Malaysians seeking to earn money in Australia were scamming the country’s protection visa system by the thousands each year…

Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya told parliament there were few disincentives for workers to try their luck because it was so cheap to apply for a protection visa.

The worst that could happen was they would be sent home at Australia’s expense…

The obvious policy solution to stop this rorting is to suspend Malaysia from the ETA system.

Australia’s visa system is being badly undermined by tens-of-thousands of Malaysians making bogus claims for asylum, as well as working illegally.

This is clogging up the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), as noted by Senate Estimates yesterday:

Top five countries for refugee appeals in 2018-19:

  • Malaysia (5858)
  • China (1561)
  • Vietnam (465)
  • India (227)
  • Pakistan (178)

“In the last three years, certainly Malaysia has been the dominant country, it has represented more than half of the protection lodgements,” AAT official Sobet Haddad told the committee.

This fake refugee influx is also costing Australian taxpayers dearly, given each migrant and refugee case reviewed by the AAT costs between $2137 and $3036 to review.

As long as Malaysia remains on the ETA system, the pathway to exploitation will remain wide open.






-information emerging about the scale of the potential financial costs of combustible cladding

the voices of the people impacted; their lived experience needs to be brought into the discussion

residents concerns about the range of other defects; lack of waterproofing and water ingress

laundry list of defects in apartments has caused residents emotional and financial stress

-zip consumer protection for home owners biggest expense

NSW not one cent from the state government to help property owners unlike Victoria

a problem created by bad government, by deregulation and privatisation

IS this the community price to be paid for political donations … bribes?

Apartment owners fear for ‘suicidal’ neighbours as combustible cladding crisis takes its toll

7.30 By Tracy Bowden and Kirsten Robb

23 OCTOBER 2019

An apartment building corridor with a danger construction site sign beside a door.

PHOTO: Reconstruction work inside a Melbourne apartment building damaged by a combustible cladding fire in 2018. (ABC News: James Oaten)

RELATED STORY: Majority of new apartments worth less than purchase price, data shows

RELATED STORY: Apartments could be the crack in the housing market recovery

RELATED STORY: Victoria’s $600m cladding fix ‘could risk a blowout’ and cost billions

Owners of apartments affected by the cladding crisis in Victoria have told researchers of the emotional toll it has taken on them.

Key points:

  • Apartment owners affected by combustible cladding are experiencing financial stress
  • Some apartments have been deemed almost uninsurable or the owners have seen massive increases in premiums
  • There are concerns some affected owners may be suicidal

To cope with the financial stress, some owners have delayed their retirement, while others have borrowed money to cover massive increases in insurance premiums.

Others have told of their concerns for neighbours who may be at risk of suicide because of the impact of the issue.

The information comes from research undertaken by the RMIT’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management, conducted by Dr Trivess Moore and Dr David Oswald.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

*”There is information emerging about the scale of the potential financial costs of combustible cladding,” Dr Moore told 7.30.

*”But what we haven’t yet heard is the social impact.

*”It’s not just the financial effect we need to address — we need to bring the voices of the people impacted and their lived experience into this discussion.

*”We have had reports from some of the interviewees that they are concerned that some neighbours they know may be suicidal because of this issue.”

*Dr Moore said residents also spoke of their concern about the range of other defects in apartments, including a lack of waterproofing and water ingress.

Follow this story to get email or text alerts from ABC News when there is a future article following this storyline.

Follow this story

‘Things need to change’

A man wearing a blue shirt points to a big crack in a retaining wall.

PHOTO: Craig Fitch is facing major repairs to the development his apartment is in. (ABC News: James Oaten)

Residents of a Frankston South building affected by combustible cladding said the issue, as well as a laundry list of other defects in their complex, had caused them major emotional and financial stress.

“I think this has probably been the worst 10 months of my life, putting up with this,” owner Kerry Ould told 7.30.

“You buy the biggest thing of your life and you have got zip consumer protection. Nothing.

“You have to fight.”

A legacy of defects

The apartment building crisis isn’t just a Sydney problem. How bad could it be in your state?

Another owner, Craig Fitch, decided to speak out about the flaws despite being aware that identifying his building could affect its resale value.

“Things need to change,” he said.

“Sometimes you need to think a little less about yourself and try and get an overall result for the whole of Victoria really.”

Mr Fitch and the other owners at the Frankston South complex will be among the first to benefit from a Victorian Government scheme which pays for the removal of combustible cladding on the building.

But they still face millions of dollars in repairs on other building defects and are now suing the builder to recover costs arising from the disastrous development.

“I’ve worked with lots and lots of good tradesmen and good builders and they shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush but they need to weed them out,” Mr Fitch said.

“The regulator just needs to get better and get rid of the rubbish out of the industry.”

Governments’ cladding responses mixed

Orange flames spread up a multi-storey apartment complex.

PHOTO: Cladding of a multi-storey Melbourne apartment complex on fire in February 2019. (Twitter: Bekah Jayne)

The Victorian government has put $600 million towards a project to identify and replace dangerous cladding and has vowed to pursue dodgy builders who installed it.

*Other states are less advanced, with concerns raised around the delay in action on the issue in NSW.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge has been particularly vocal.

“In New South Wales, there’s not one cent that’s come forward from the state government to help property owners,” he told 7.30.

*”There’s no public register, we don’t even have a set of guidelines to identify what property owners need to do to make their properties safe.

*”This is a problem created by bad government, by deregulation and privatisation. And that’s why I believe government has to be part of the solution.”

*Mr Shoebridge said the NSW government was refusing to make a register of affected buildings public.

“I find it astounding,” he said.

“We’re two and a half years post that tragedy in Grenfell and we still don’t have a public register in New South Wales, we still don’t have a comprehensive system to identify buildings at risk of flammable cladding.”

The NSW government has previously advised councils to cite a terror risk to keep flammable cladding locations secret from the public. Many owners also fear the potential hit to the value of their investment, if its cladding status is made public.

Residents in 37 apartment complexes across Sydney have been advised remediation work to remove some or all of the combustible cladding on their buildings will need to take place.

NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the government was approaching this issue “practically and diligently”.

“We have prioritised high-rise residential buildings for assessment with local councils, who are making every effort to see assessments done as soon as possible,” he told 7.30 in a statement.

“Every day we clear more buildings and learn more about the buildings requiring remediation work.

“I want to make it clear, residents are not in any immediate danger as a result of living in one of these buildings. Extra fire safety measures have been put in place to protect residents until buildings can be cleared or remediated.”

‘There’s thousands of cases out there’

Roscon general manager Sahil Bhasin stands in front of an apartment building with his hands in his pockets.

PHOTO: Roscon general manager Sahil Bhasin said replacing cladding was a huge expense to builders. (ABC News)

*7.30 has heard from dozens of Australians who have been hit with huge bills from major building defects, who say they had little to no consumer protection in buying their biggest asset.

“We are seeing more and more defects. And that’s due to the products that are being used,” said Sahil Bhasin, general manager of Roscon, a business that conducts defect reports.

“There’s thousands of cases out there, however they just aren’t publicised in the media, that’s the problem, because they don’t result in people being displaced.

“However, when you look at commercial buildings, when you look at factories and you look at domestic dwellings that aren’t complete, there are thousands of cases out there.”




Chinese billionaire HUANG XIANGMO says ‘dark forces’ behind his $141m tax bill


THIS guy is critical of our robust laws … what about looking at those in nearby provinces?

WHAT about rules of evidence, disclosure, independence of the law and the judicial system?

IF there were reasons to believe the ATO got it wrong, why doesn’t he and his company produce the goods and prove it?

SEARCH CAAN WEBSITE to find out more about Huang Xiangmo … his connections to the CCP, Political Donations to the Major Parties … and more …

Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo says ‘dark forces’ behind his $141m tax bill

By Kevin Nguyen

23 OCTOBER 2019

man in suit and glasses walking

PHOTO: Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo is currently embroiled in two major scandals. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo ‘dramatically’ increased money transfers overseas after ATO audit

RELATED STORY: Former Labor boss rejects suggests Chinese billionaire visited office to drop off cash

RELATED STORY: ‘Watershed moment’: NSW Labor announces independent review into the party

The Chinese billionaire at the centre of a political corruption inquiry has launched a scathing attack on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which is pursuing him in court for $141 million.

Property developer Huang Xiangmo published a lengthy statement on his personal website accusing the ATO of being motivated by “unknown dark forces”.

He also claimed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the media, of conspiring against him.

Mr Huang said his treatment was akin to attacks by “White Supremacists”.

“The ATO is believed to be a professional government agency with some integrity but it really pains and saddens me that it has now surrendered itself to the pressure of some unknown dark forces, almost allowing itself to become a tool for political persecution against me,” he wrote.

The ATO had last month successfully launched a bid in the Federal Court to freeze his assets, which included a mansion in the upmarket suburb of Mosman, which was purchased for $12.8 million in his wife’s name.

They accuse him of “grossly understating” his income and transferring more than $47 million out of Australia to avoid paying taxes.

Follow this story to get email or text alerts from ABC News when there is a future article following this storyline. Follow this story

Mr Huang said the ATO had “deliberately concealed from the court and the public” information which gave the impression he was moving money out of the country.

“These funds were actually normal working capital recently transferred into Australia from abroad, instead of the amount already parked in my Australian accounts,” he said.

A spokesperson for the ATO said the agency could not comment on specific cases due to taxpayer confidentiality.

“However, the ATO administers the taxation and superannuation laws fairly, and taxation laws require the Commissioner of Taxation to administer taxation laws independently,” it said.

“The ATO operates under the common law principle of natural justice, to act fairly and without perceived or actual bias.”

The spokesperson said any person dissatisfied with their assessment could seek an external review.

woman at the podium with her lips pursed

PHOTO: Kaila Murnain resigned as the NSW Labor General Secretary after the ICAC hearings. (AAP: Jeremy Ng)

Mr Huang also lashed out at ASIO for cancelling his permanent residency in December on the advice of security agencies.

He said in his statement also denied he had ever been a spy or an “agent of influence” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

CAAN: SEARCH for more about Huang Xiangmo … agent of influence for the CCP on our Website

Last month, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard evidence Mr Huang had given an illegal $100,000 cash donation to NSW Labor in an Aldi shopping bag.

Those allegations triggered the resignation of NSW Labor’s state secretary Kaila Murnain.

NSW Labor subsequently announced an independent review into party operations.

The ICAC is yet to deliver its findings in the inquiry but Mr Huang said his “name has been cleared”.

He said he hoped the commission would one day investigate corruption inside ATO and other “dark forces”.

“Such concerted effort, with its magnitude across and beyond, would be unexplainable without the involvement of a ‘deep state’,” he said.

ASIO told the ABC it had no comment about Mr Huang’s statement.




NSW builders would owe Duty of Care, be easier to sue for faulty work under proposed Laws

Will these new rules have holes in them big enough to drive a truck through?


RETROSPECTIVE means … looking back on or dealing with past events or situations.

SO therefore current owners … those who have purchased properties prior to these changes will not be covered by the new laws … thus deve-lopers have dodged a bullet …

BECAUSE … Quote …

‘ The changes will not be retrospective, so any owners of properties that experience issues in the future will not be covered by the new laws.

WILL all the Regulations … with DEREGULATION having taken place especially since 1993 in the Building Industry … be restored?

NSW builders would owe duty of care, be easier to sue for faulty work under proposed laws

By Antonette Collins

23 OCTOBER 2019

cracked wall and plaster next to door

PHOTO: The cracks in Opal Tower were partly because of incorrect installation of concrete panels. (Supplied: Weibo)

RELATED STORY: Apartment owners say Mascot Towers is on unstable ground due to ‘loss of soil’

RELATED STORY: ‘Absolute stupidity’: Opal Tower’s multi-million-dollar repair bill revealed

Home owners would be in a better position to take legal action against dodgy builders under new laws being introduced by the NSW Government.

Key points:

  • The building commissioner said the changes could be a “game-changer” and would help shore up the construction industry
  • The laws would mean builders must register their plans and a duty of care would be owed to owners
  • Penalties would be in excess of $100,000 for dodgy work

The proposed reforms come after the building disasters of Sydney’s Opal Tower and Mascot Towers, where major cracking pushed all owners out.

The tougher regulations would mean builders and designers are required to register plans for key elements like water-proofing to ensure they are carried out in compliance with building standards.

The new laws also state that a duty of care is owed by a person who carries out construction work, making it easier for home owners to sue their builder if things go wrong.

Building commissioner David Chandler said this will be the first in a series of legislative changes to help shore up the industry.

“We’ve got to stop making up construction in the field. So the first thing that we’re going to get here, is we’re going to get documentation that is completely, properly declared as being fit for construction,” he said.

“That’s a leap — that is huge. All of the designers out there acknowledge the fact that that’s a game-changer straight away.”

Renewed trust in ‘great Australian dream’

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the legislation would restore confidence among residential buyers.

Those that do the wrong thing, those who cut corners, hopefully they will be gone,” he said.

“This is the start of the process that industry has been calling for. We want to fix the problems right at the start.”

He said there would be significant penalties set out in the regulations, in excess of $100,000 for corporations and individuals.

“What we’re doing today is, we’re drawing a line in the sand to fix those problems right at the start so mums and dads who buy into residential apartments in Sydney, in NSW, will have confidence that their dream — the great Australian dream — is as the plans that have been declared in that building.”

The changes will not be retrospective, so any owners of properties that experience issues in the future will not be covered by the new laws.




MASCOT TOWERS On Unstable Ground due to ‘Loss of Soil’: Owners Say!

IT would appear that the longer ALAND, the Builder of neighbouring Peak Towers blocks access for the MASCOT TOWERS Engineers … the more attention they draw from the audience of SydneySiders concerned about defective developments … and unfair debt imposed upon the Mascot Towers residents …

ALAND’s reputation as a builder it would seem is sullied … how can they believe they can ride this out? How can they possibly recover?

Mascot Towers on unstable ground due to ‘loss of soil’, owners say

By Paige Cockburn and Nicole Chettle

23 OCTOBER 2019

An apartment block

PHOTO: Mascot Towers, in Sydney’s inner-south, has been empty since June. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

RELATED STORY: ‘Absolutely devastating’: Mascot Towers cracks getting bigger, report finds

RELATED STORY: Mascot Towers repair bill hits $20m as engineers close in on cause of cracking

The owners of Sydney’s troubled Mascot Towers claim new tests have revealed a “loss of soil” under the cracking apartment complex’s north east corner.

Key points:

  • The Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said new tests revealed the soil supporting the building has lost “bearing capacity”
  • *They claim engineers have been refused access to neighbouring apartment block Peak Towers where there were previous groundwater leaks
  • On Tuesday night the owners decided to pursue a commercial loan instead of raising money in special levies, which some could not afford

The 132-unit block was evacuated in June, and its Owners Corporation on Tuesday accused the developer of a neighbouring apartment complex, Peak Towers, of denying access to engineers as they try to determine the cause of the structural problems.

“Urgency has arisen following tests revealing a reduction in bearing capacity of soils at the north eastern corner of the building near the boundary of the Peak Towers development,” an Owners Corporation statement read.

Aland — the company that built Peak Towers — said it had not been shown the report the Owners Corporation was referring to.

The Owners Corporation urged Aland to do “the right thing” and allow them access to the building.

“If Aland is confident that Peak Towers is not of any cause for concern for Mascot Towers, then they should have no difficulty in allowing our engineers access to the site,” the statement read.

In a statement, Aland’s managing director Andrew Hrsto said his company had no control over access to Peak Towers.

A man stands in front of a brick wall holding a piece of brick.

PHOTO: Mario Pizzolato said cracks appeared in the wall of his business when Peak Towers was built in 2018. (ABC News: Emily Laurence)

A separate report released earlier this year found waterproofing systems used to excavate the basement of Peak Towers likely caused the “destabilisation” of land supporting Mascot Towers.

In a statement, Aland also said it had not been provided with the report that links the waterproofing systems to the compromised land and had only seen it “referred to in media reports”.

Patrick McGuire, the spokesperson for Mascot Towers’ Owners Corporation, said lack of access causes lengthy delays for displaced residents.

The Corporation also claimed Bayside Council records indicated Aland was pumping water out of the Peak Towers basement and discharging it into stormwater drains without approval.

The leaks in the waterproofing had now been filled with a cement-like grout compound, the Corporation said.

Follow this story to get email or text alerts from ABC News when there is a future article following this storyline.

Follow this story

Owners opt for loan due to financial stress

About 100 Mascot Towers owners attended an annual general meeting on Tuesday night and voted to rescind the $7 million special levy set up in August due to financial hardship.

Mr McGuire said a number of owners were unable to meet their financial obligations now or in the future.

Instead, the owners agreed on a commercial loan over 15 years which the ABC understands is for $10 million.

Cracks in the building industry

Cracks in the building industry

The cracks first appeared in the buildings. Now they have begun to spread across the finances of the construction industry, writes Ian Verrender.

Earlier this year the NSW Government launched an inquiry into building standards after a series of faults emerged in buildings across Sydney.

At Sydney’s Opal Tower, all residents were evacuated last December after cracks were seen across several levels of the 36-storey Olympic Park building.

Some owners have since launched a class action law suit against the State Government.

The Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said all engineering findings were being reported to newly appointed NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler — a role created by the State Government two months ago in response to concerns about construction standards in Sydney.

Aland has refused the ABC’s request for comment.

A man stands in front of a brick wall holding a piece of brick.




‘THERE WILL BE JOB LOSSES’: ABC Managing Director confirms staff to go following Budget Freeze

THE ABC had found $17 MILLION in savings to date … but as to the

government …

IS this how you silence your critics?

IS this a slow death for the national broadcaster … gradual strangulation?

IS this payback? Revenge for having the audacity to question the government’s agenda … that being so ideologically driven it is somehow not okay to seek answers that explain their ‘reasoning’ …

‘There will be job losses’: ABC managing director confirms staff to go following budget freeze

By political reporter Stephanie Dalzell

23 OCTOBER 2019

Two men and a woman wearing formal clothing sit in front of microphones in a wood panelled room.

PHOTO: ABC managing director David Anderson told Senate Estimates he could not say how many positions would be cut. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: ABC should sell Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane properties and move to regions, senator says

RELATED STORY: Ita Buttrose names ABC’s new managing director

RELATED STORY: Former ABC boss Michelle Guthrie gets $730,000 in out-of-court settlement

Some ABC staff will lose their jobs as the broadcaster deals with the Federal Government’s budget freeze, the national broadcaster’s boss has confirmed.

Key points:

  • Mr Anderson did not say how many staff or from where in the ABC the jobs would be cut
  • He told Senate Estimates consideration would be given to keeping regional and remote jobs
  • The Government has frozen the ABC’s budget for three years, at a cost of $83.7 million

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s managing director David Anderson made the comments in Senate Estimates on Tuesday night, under questioning about the impact of the Coalition’s budget decision.

“There will be job losses,” Mr Anderson said.

“It’s not something I can quantify at this point in time, there’s still more work to be done.

Some of it relates to people’s employment, some of it does not — efficiency comes in many forms.”

The Federal Government last year announced it would freeze the ABC’s annual funding at the same level for three years — a move that will cost the broadcaster $83.7 million.

Follow this story to get email or text alerts from ABC News when there is a future article following this storyline. Follow this story

The cut will be phased in over three years, starting with an almost $15 million cut in 2019-20, about $28 million in 2020-21 and just over $41 million in 2021-22.

Mr Anderson acknowledged it was a period of uncertainty for staff.

“For me to be able to say ‘yes I believe there will be staff losses’ — but not to be able to say how many, or where from — I certainly appreciate is quite uncertain,” he said.

Mr Anderson said the organisation had found $17 million in savings to-date but more work needed to be done.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to close that gap without losing staff.”

However, he told the committee consideration would be given to keeping jobs in regional and remote areas.

“One of our priorities for the future is certainly to remain as local as possible,” he said.

“Our role is to reflect the culture and community of the country back to itself.

“You struggle to do that unless you are local.”

Contact Stephanie Dalzell