Opinion piece: High Court ruling on donations …McCloy & Ors v State of NSW

 

Opinion piece: High Court ruling on donations

 

The High Court yesterday McCloy & Ors v State of NSW, in which property developer and Former Mayor of Newcastle was seeking to challenge the validity of state bans on developer donations to political parties. r0_0_1200_675_w1200_h678_fmax

The court supported the bans, finding that developer money was a valid corruption risk and one that it was appropriate for the state to regulate.

The full decision is here: McCloy & Ors v State of NSW 

David’s opinion piece on the subject was published in the Newcastle Herald: 

THE High Court has not only dealt a final blow to the political aspirations of some sections of the developer lobby, but has it also reset the entire debate on the kind of corruption that most afflicts our politics.

In the 1970s, when Bob Askin was NSW Liberal Premier, corruption was a pretty simple affair.

Those who wanted a favour from the planning authorities or the police delivered a bundle of cash and the politicians delivered.

In the 1980s the story continued, with Labor’s Corrective Services Minister Rex “Buckets” Jackson eventually going to jail because he was caught releasing those prisoners who paid him for the pleasure.

This kind of corruption is known as “quid pro quo” corruption. It’s where money is handed over for a very specific outcome – to approve a specific development, ignore an illegal betting syndicate or release a well-connected mate.

From the days of the Rum Corps it has been one of the traditional ways of gaining political influence in this state.

It hasn’t disappeared by any means, but it is no longer the main way that money buys politicians.

Now the money doesn’t usually change hands for a specific outcome. We have largely moved beyond “quid pro quo” corruption to what the High Court has described this week as a “more subtle kind of corruption” known as “clientelism”. It is where “officeholders will decide issues not on the merits or the desires of their constituencies, but according to the wishes of those who have made large financial contributions valued by the officeholder”.

This kind of “patron-client” corruption comes about when a politician, or a political party, becomes so dependent on the financial support of a wealthy patron that they “compromise the expectation, fundamental to representative democracy, that public power will be exercised in the public interest”.

Through the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries, we have seen developers accused of delivering thousands of dollars to politicians and political parties.

By being able to deliver funds, business figures can gain influence, become patrons, and any politicians allegedly paid become their clients.

So too with the mining industry. The mining industry with the profits it makes from extracting coal, coal seam gas, iron ore and other minerals is able to deliver one of the largest flows of funds to political parties. There’s no specific quid pro quo from this money, what it buys is a relationship and, over time, a dependency.

Why should this corporate investment in democracy worry ordinary citizens?

The High Court has set out the issue in its usual terse and direct manner.

As the court said: “The particular concern is that reliance by political candidates on private patronage may, over time, become so necessary as to sap the vitality, as well as the integrity, of the political branches of government.”

So if the people of Newcastle are wondering why it doesn’t have a container port, why their passenger rail services take a back seat to the interests of moving coal from mine to port and why some well-connected developers gained access to local politicians while they got fobbed-off with a standard letter, the High Court has given part of the answer in my opinion.

If your only power is a single vote, then you are nobody’s patron.

If you can’t stump up the cash for a two-week TV ad blitz then you aren’t going to get too many well-placed clients.

By maintaining the prohibition on developer donations the High Court has kept in place one small, but important, bulwark against corruption in this state.

However, the court has also highlighted just how entrenched and hard to eradicate the more subtle form of “client-patron” corruption has become.

When the cash and the favours aren’t directly connected, then it’s much harder to put your finger on the corruption.

Again the High Court said it well: “Unlike straight cash-for-votes transactions, such corruption is neither easily detected nor practical to criminalise. The best means of prevention is to identify and to remove the temptation.”

Which is why the prohibition on developer donations should be just the start. It is well and truly time that politicians at every level of government supported laws that prohibit all for-profit corporations, and the organisations that represent them, from donating to politics. When patronage, profits and politics combine the end result is a corrupted democracy.

Elected representatives should be beholden to no-one apart from their electorate. This will only happen when we change the law.

What’s stopping this happening is not the High Court, it is the collective purchasing power of corporate patrons across Australia.

WHO IS WHITEHAVEN COAL?

 

leard

 

Who is Whitehaven Coal?

 

VIEW VIDEO:   https://youtu.be/MU3ybrs3VuU

Whitehaven Coal is a publicly listed company who operate 5 open cut (Canyon (formerly Whitehaven), Tarrawonga, Werris Creek, Rocglen (formerly Belmont) and Sunnyside) and 1 underground (Narrabri).

Whitehave Coal are constructing the Maules Creek Coal Mine in the Leard State Forest.

Major Shareholders:

16.62% Farrallon Capital Management LLC and associates
7.08% FRC Whitehaven Holdings BV (based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
6.77% Fritz Kundrun (an Investment Professional who deals in coal and other mining. Co-founder of American Metals and Coal International)
5.97% Hans Mende (Co-founder and President of American Metals and Coal International)
5.82% Martua Sitorus (Indonesia’s fourth richest man who started business in the palm oil trade)
5.02% Deutsche Bank AG
5.01% Prudential PLC

Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Project and ICAC

Nathan Tinkler, disgraced businessman and founder of Aston Coal 2, has been interviewed by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

He was questioned about alleged illegal political donations made at the time that the government were considering the planning application of the Maules Creek Mine. At the time, Aston Coal 2 was overseeing the Maules Creek project. Aston Coal 2 was fined in 2013 because two of its directors had made reportable political donations which were not disclosed during the assessment of the Maules Creek planning application.

Whitehaven Coal and disgraced businessman Nathan Tinkler’s Aston Resources (parent company of Aston Coal 2) merged in 2012.

Whitehaven Coal Limited (WHC.AX)

Share price graph: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=WHC.AX

Whitehaven Coal and the Courts

  •  June 2014 – the NSW Land and Environment Court considers an application by NSW EDO contending that the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for Maules Creek was invalidly approved by the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment (NSW DPE)

EPA-mickey-mouse2-1024x573-1

SOURCE:  GOOGLE FOR FRONTLINEACTION.ORG/WHITEHAVEN COAL  (the link is insecure)
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MARK VAILLE … CAREER … AND WHITEHAVEN COAL

Mark Vaile (TM).jpg

 

MARK VAILLE
As Trade Minister, Vaile was involved in the negotiation of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which was opposed by some traditional National Party constituencies such as the sugar industry.
There was much controversy over the intellectual property chapter of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The chapter contains elements modelled on the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 1998 (US) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 (US) In December 2003, Trade Minister Mark Vaile pledged to defend the copyright term in Australia: “It is a very important issue, particularly in terms of cost to libraries, educational institutions and the like here in Australia.” …
There was also much criticism of the adoption of a US-style technological protection measures – particularly as the High Court of Australia was considering the matter of Stevens v Sony. There was also controversy over the evergreening of pharmaceutical drug patents and access to essential medicines under the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
During 2005 he also conducted negotiations for the proposed Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.

Mark Vaile

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The Honourable
Mark Vaile
AO
Mark Vaile (TM).jpg
12th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
6 July 2005 – 3 December 2007
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by John Anderson
Succeeded by Julia Gillard
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Elections: 2007
In office
6 July 2005 – 3 December 2007
Deputy Warren Truss
Preceded by John Anderson
Succeeded by Warren Truss
Minister for Transport and Regional Development
In office
25 September 1997 – 21 October 1998
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by John Sharp
Succeeded by John Anderson
In office
29 September 2006 – 3 December 2007
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Warren Truss
Succeeded by Anthony Albanese
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
In office
21 October 1998 – 19 July 1999
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by John Anderson
Succeeded by Warren Truss
Minister for Trade and Investment
In office
20 July 1999 – 19 September 2006
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Tim Fischer
Succeeded by Warren Truss
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Lyne
In office
13 March 1993 – 30 July 2008
Preceded by Bruce Cowan
Succeeded by Rob Oakeshott
Personal details
Born Mark Anthony James Vaile
18 April 1956 (age 62)
SydneyNew South Wales
Nationality Australian
Political party National Party of Australia
Children 3
Residence Taree, New South Wales

Mark Anthony James Vaile AO (born 18 April 1956) is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and former leader of the National Party of Australia. Vaile is currently a non-executive director of a number of public listed corporations.

Early life

Vaile was born in Sydney and worked as a farm machinery retailer and stock and station and real estate agent before entering politics. He was a member of the Greater Taree City Council 1985–93, including three years as Deputy Mayor.[1]

Parliamentary career

Vaile was a member of the Australian House of Representatives between March 1993 and July 2008, representing the Division of LyneNew South Wales. In his first bid for the seat, in the 1993 election, Vaile led over the Liberals by only 233 votes on the third count, despite the seat’s long history as a National stronghold. Labor had taken a large first-count lead which it held for most of the night, but Vaile won after Liberal preferences flowed overwhelmingly to him. However, had 120 votes gone the other way, the Liberals would have taken the seat.[3] Vaile was able to revert the seat to its traditional status as a safe National seat in 1996, and he would go on to hold the seat without serious difficulty from then onward.

He was Assistant National Party Whip 1994–96 and National Party Whip 1996–97. In 1997 he was appointed Minister for Transport and Regional Development, and in 1998 he became Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. In July 1999, following the resignation of Tim Fischer and the election of John Anderson as National Party leader, he was elected the party’s Deputy Leader and became Minister for Trade. When John Anderson resigned in 2005, Vaile was elected Leader unopposed. On 6 July 2005 he was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister.[1]

As Trade Minister, Vaile was involved in the negotiation of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which was opposed by some traditional National Party constituencies such as the sugar industry.

There was much controversy over the intellectual property chapter of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The chapter contains elements modelled on the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 1998 (US) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 (US) In December 2003, Trade Minister Mark Vaile pledged to defend the copyright term in Australia: “It is a very important issue, particularly in terms of cost to libraries, educational institutions and the like here in Australia.” Two months later, Australia agreed to a copyright term extension, as part of the deal with the United States. There was also much criticism of the adoption of a US-style technological protection measures – particularly as the High Court of Australia was considering the matter of Stevens v Sony. There was also controversy over the evergreening of pharmaceutical drug patents and access to essential medicines under the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

During 2005 he also conducted negotiations for the proposed Australia-China Free Trade Agreement. In late 2005 he had an operation to remove a malignant melanoma from his back.[4]

Since Vaile took on the leadership of the Nationals in 2005, there were increasing suggestions for Vaile to take on a domestic portfolio as the trade portfolio requires frequent overseas travel. Throughout 2006, Vaile’s position in the trade portfolio came under increasing scrutiny due to his handling of the AWB kickbacks scandal and Australia’s worsening trade performance. He also faced the difficult task of placating his back bench, with Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce having crossed the floor on more than one occasion. On 24 September 2006 he switched portfolios with deputy Nationals leader Warren Truss and became Minister for Transport and Regional Services. His new position had a greater focus on regional Australia, the Nationals party’s main constituency.

Following the coalition’s defeat at the 2007 federal election, Vaile resigned his position as Nationals leader and moved to the backbench.[5][6] On 19 July 2008 Vaile announced his forthcoming resignation from Parliament; he submitted it on 30 July.[7] The ensuing by-election was won by independent Rob Oakeshott, the former state member for Port Macquarie and a former Vaile staffer.[8][9]

 

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WHITEHAVEN COAL EYEING OFF EXPANSION OF CONTROVERSIAL MAULES CREEK

WHITEHAVEN COAL EYEING OFF EXPANSION OF CONTROVERSIAL MAULES CREEK
By Thom Mitchell on May 22, 2016 Environment
A coal mine already at the centre of protracted controversy appears to be weighing up its options for an expansion of operations. Thom Mitchell reports.
Mining company Whitehaven Coal appears to be quietly feeling out the prospects of an expansion of its Maules Creek mine, which has already proved so controversial it’s led to the arrest of more than 450 activists involved in a years-long campaign to shut the operation down.

The company is understood to be carrying out a drilling program on land to the north of its existing project, which is two years into an approved operation that will see the critically endangered Leard State Forest knocked down.

The project was so polarising its development was plagued by the first blockade of a coal mine in Australian history. In 2014, Whitehaven Coal’s environmental plans briefly became the subject of a criminal investigation, which was later dropped.

The land which is now subject to exploration was purchased as part of an environmental ‘offset’ package, required by government as a sort of ecological compensation for the destruction of the Leard State Forest. The company says it will not explore or mine for coal on land that’s legally protected under these arrangements.

The destruction of the Leard Forest has been controversial because it is home to more than 30 endangered species. Much of it will be bulldozed, blown up, and excavated to make way for the Maules creek mine, which was originally the brainchild of failed coal speculator Nathan Tinkler.

The Department of Environment has told New Matilda that Whitehaven “has not informed the Department of any intended exploration activities in the approved biodiversity offset areas for the mine”. The Department of Resources and Energy said that despite the exploration license covering the farmland now being explored having expired in February, Whitehaven Coal was still entitled to prospect there.

(IMAGE: Graphics submitted to the State Government before 2012 approval. Shows Maules Creek and Boggabri Mines.)
(IMAGE: Graphics submitted to the State Government before 2012 approval. Shows Maules Creek and Boggabri Mines.)

The company said it “has discussed, and will continue to discuss, its program of approved exploration activity within its authorisation boundary openly with the local community through the auspices of the Community Consultation Committee”. 

The minutes of the latest meeting of that Committee, in March, reference the drilling program. The Community Consultative Committee itself, however, has proved controversial in the past. For more than a year, Whitehaven Coal failed to fill the role of an environmental representative on the committee, which the government required as a biodiversity oversight mechanism.

As New Matilda reported in 2014, this was not done. Minutes falsely suggested conservation group Greening Australia was acting as an Environmental Representative, and Whitehaven Coal was later fined for the breach.

The Independent Chair of the Committee, John Turner, who oversaw the false minutes, has also proved a controversial figure. A former Deputy Leader of the New South Wales National Party and Shadow Mining Minister, he was in the news again this week.

As New Matilda reported, Labor and the Greens have demanded he resign from his new position as Administrator of one of the state’s recently convened super councils, citing concerns his ties with the coal industry are too close.

While the exploration program, and how it might affect legally protected offset areas, has stoked concern, it’s clear a series of environmental and other planning processes would need to be cleared before the land now being explored could be mined, and the Maules Creek mine expanded.

In response to questions put this week, the company said it “[will not]conduct exploration activity or mining activity on areas of land reserved as offsets, full stop”. The properties Whitehaven Coal purchased to provide offsets were bought as whole farms, and only fragments of those property lots have been set aside as offset areas required by the mine’s conditions of approval.

The tenement that Whitehaven is now exploring is known as A346. It’s depicted visually in dark blue, in the map below. The areas legally required to be preserved as ‘environmental offsets,’ to compensate for the destruction of the Leard Forest, are shown in light green.

(MAP: Daniel Lee, Environmental Engineer.)
(MAP: Daniel Lee, Environmental Engineer.)

According to the Department of Energy and Resources, Whitehaven is permitted to carry out “low intensity exploration and environmental monitoring activities that do not disturb land” on the A46 tenement. “More intensive activity requires additional environmental assessment and approval,” a spokesperson said.

In order to actually mine the tenement, the company would be required to submit a series of further plans to government. At this stage, it is simply engaged in a process of gauging the quantity and quality of coal beneath that land.

The company declined to comment on the suggestion, but it may be that Whitehaven Coal is searching for a substitute for resources that were ripped out from under it by a Federal Government approval condition in 2013.

As New Matilda has previously reported, freedom of information documents show that the company implored the government not to go ahead with a condition requiring it to maintain a Biodiversity Corridor through the centre of the Leard State Forest.

In a closed-door submission, Whitehaven Coal said that the 250 metre buffer-zone, which is designed to allow wildlife to travel across what was once the Leard Forest, between land offsets to the North and South, would be “a material risk to the project’s success”.

In the documents obtained by New Matilda, Whitehaven lays out “high level calculations, to quantify in dollar terms, the coal sterilisation that would occur”. The coal that can now not be mined as a result of the condition amounts to around 16 per cent of what the company had initially bargained on.

According to Whitehaven’s figures, 38.6 million tonnes of a total 240 million tonnes will be “sterilised” by the requirement. Between Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Mine and the neighbouring Boggabri Coal Mine – an Idemitsu Resources Project eating into the Leard Forest from the opposite end – the biodiversity corridor will come at a cost of $9.96 billion in lost revenue.

IMAGE: Thom Mitchell. A goanna in the Leard Forest.
IMAGE: Thom Mitchell. A goanna in the Leard Forest.

Plans from 2011 suggests the A346 tenement contains a ‘probable’ reserve of 40 million tonnes – or slightly more than what was sacrificed when the Federal Government required the biodiversity corridor as a condition of approval.

Coincidental though it may be, the figures are purely speculative. But the National Coordinator of Lock the Gate, Phil Laird, said the community deserves to know Whitehaven Coal’s plans. The Leard forest takes its name from Laird’s family, and he has always maintained the Maules Creek Mine should be an underground operation.

“The only way to get an inkling of their future plans is though the companies community “consultation” committees which appear to be run to minimise consultation,” Laird said. “The atmosphere is tense and the community reps feel bullied. Information is not available in a timely manner or in a electronic form that is usable to inform the community.”

The Environmental Representative on the Maules Creek Community Consultative Committee, botanist Dr Kerri Clarke, agreed with Laird, saying her experience has been “exactly that”.

Laird said that in reality New South Wales has “an approval system, not a planning system”. He’s concerned that the local farming community has been mislead if Whitehaven plans to mine more coal than was approved as part of the original Maules Creek project.

“The people who are affected by these mines should actually know what the long term game is, because we need to plan our futures. Companies actually know what they’re going to do – it’s just not discussed with us,” he said.

“The Planning Department… just wants to get an approval through, get the royalties flowing, and sort out the future extensions or adaptations later.”

In a statement to New Matilda, Whitehaven Coal said concerned persons should contact them.

“To the extent that any residual concerns might exist, community members can raise these with us directly via our community hotline or by coming to talk with us directly at our new permanent office that was opened on Tuesday in Gunnedah,” a spokesperson said.

https://newmatilda.com/shop/

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We’ve Been … Done Like a Dinner! More about Glencore, Idenitsu Resources, Vale and Yancoal …

WE’ve BEEN DONE LIKE A DINNER …
And why, we may well ask, do they need to be the boss of these new councils until September next year? Go figure.
Look at our own adminstrator, Mr John Turner; a former Shadow Mining Minister formerly associated with Whitehaven Coal (where our former Member and Deputy PM Mark Vaille made a comfortable landing).
New Matilda, the on-line news service, among others, also reports Mr Turner as having been renumerated by Glencore, Idenitsu Resources, Vale and Yancoal where he was an independent chair of at least six Community Consultative Committees.
His role was to act as an impartial ancillary between coal companies and communities.
And while it is the State government who will make final decisions, one can’t help but speculate on the hand picked administrators’ decisions after being anointed by the Baird Government.

We’ve Been … Done Like a Dinner!

July 8, 2016

Maybe the dust has settled after the council amalgamation, the election distractions, daily routines restored, but, let’s face it. Democracy is dented.

The bare faced brutality of butcher Baird’s slash and burn re-inventing of the state of NSW to bow down under his council mergers plan, which we now know goes back well into 2015, is staggering in its boldness and contempt of voters, especially those in regional and rural NSW.

Premier Baird’s forced amalgamation was planned with accounting institution KPMG well before it was ever mentioned publicly. The Baird government had engaged KPMG even before IPART had completed its report on the efficacy of any planned council amalgamations.

Greens MP David Shoebridge remains outraged at the Baird government; “It shows the entire process to be a farce, with the government having already decided which councils would merge and then working backwards to come up with some mythical savings figure to justify their decision. Even for the low standard of NSW politics, this stinks.’

Undemocratic

To add insult to injury, not only were the councils summarily and rudely dismissed with little warning and no small niceties, such as an email, or phone call, or a thanks very much, but the fact administrators, including eight former National party members and associates, were hand picked long before and helicoptered into place to do the Baird government’s bidding, seems pretty undemocratic.

Resumes had been circulating and selected people tapped on the shoulder long before we knew a thing about it. After all, you don’t suddenly dump a $300,000 job to take on the role of an administrator to a seething and furious council electorate who don’t want you, and where the majority never wanted the amalgamation in the first place. Some councils, co-operative to Baird, and with favoured status, were not forced to amalgamate.

Too long

And why, we may well ask, do they need to be the boss of these new councils until September next year? Go figure. Look at our own adminstrator, Mr John Turner; a former Shadow Mining Minister formerly associated with Whitehaven Coal (where our former Member and Deputy PM Mark Vaille made a comfortable landing). New Matilda, the on-line news service, among others, also reports Mr Turner as having been renumerated by Glencore, Idenitsu Resources, Vale and Yancoal where he was an independent chair of at least six Community Consultative Committees. His role was to act as an impartial ancillary between coal companies and communities. And while it is the State government who will make final decisions, one can’t help but speculate on the hand picked administrators’ decisions after being anointed by the Baird Government.

With the demise of Gloucester Council, by being absorbed into our new super council, Gloucester now has no dedicated advocate, like former Mayor John Rosenbaum, to help fight approval of the controversial coal mine, The Rocky Hill Project on Gloucester’s doorstep.

Who is going to fight for us? We need to encourage thinking, smart, socially aware candidates to represent us in a local council and in government. We have fourteen months to school up people to stand for council who are articulate, motivated by community and social concerns, and who will fight for our local area.

Change Needed

We need to change many things. Hopefully, brave local people with heart and brains, will come forward to represent us. It seems they are thin on the ground. But then, why would someone want to take on battling bureaucracy and vested interest groups and a government chasing dollars for big business, while ordinary people don’t seem to count? Never mind the maligned and neglected in our society.

The time has come to look after each other. Community does count.

DM

 

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ICAC, Baird and corruption par excellence

ICAC, Baird and corruption par excellence
Evan Jones 31 August 2016
Dr Evan Jones analyses the NSW Baird Government’s performance to date and finds incompetence, corruption and prolific abuse of power culminating with the latest ICAC scandal.
NSW PREMIER Mike Baird is a criminal.
Never has a government plundered the public domain so voraciously.
And who built the public domain in yesteryear?
Hardly radicals. Some “progressives” but mostly far-sighted conservatives.
Lunching with an ex-student who works in the State bureaucracy, I referred to my accumulated evidence that there is now firmly embedded in the Australian banking sector a culture of corruption. And that that culture is perpetuated with impunity.

 Evan Jones 

  
Image via mua.org.au

Dr Evan Jones analyses the NSW Baird Government’s performance to date and finds incompetence, corruption and prolific abuse of power culminating with the latest ICAC scandal. 

NSW PREMIER Mike Baird is a criminal.

Never has a government plundered the public domain so voraciously.

And who built the public domain in yesteryear? Hardly radicals. Some “progressives” but mostly far-sighted conservatives.

Lunching with an ex-student who works in the State bureaucracy, I referred to my accumulated evidence that there is now firmly embedded in the Australian banking sector a culture of corruption. And that that culture is perpetuated with impunity.

He noted, well what does that mean for a State now run by an ex-banker (and having an ex-banker as Treasury Secretary)? There may be a useful head for figures but to what ends is such talent directed?

Sky News Australia

@SkyNewsAust

.@mikebairdMP responding to ICAC report: ‘we have a zero tolerance level to corruption’

For corruption par excellence, there is the conveniently amended ICAC Act in 2015 ahead of “Operation Spicer” donations findings released yesterday. The amendment precludes corruption findings on donations law breaches – a counter-intuitive move since breaches of donations law are intrinsically corrupt. Absurdly, the amendent also means charges may only be laid against public officials — those running for office and party officials were placed outside this purview.

There is also the twovotesforbusiness. What the …? Alex Greenwich, MLA for Sydney, notes in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) the contempt held for the public by the instigators:

But business will now have two votes in the City of Sydney while residents only have one, because the government says business contributes more in rates and representation at the ballot box should be based on wealth.

The government’s other reasoning is that the average household has two people – so each business should have two votes. This really is clutching at straws. Resident voters do not represent their household, they represent themselves.

It is possible that these spivs copied this absurdity from the practises in the City of London — that unaccountable state within the state of the United Kingdom, but which dictates its interests to the latter’s government. Nicholas Shaxson’s masterly book Treasure Islands (ch.12) provides the background to this modern-day travesty.

The masses are finally revolting

In my decades of reading the Sydney Morning Herald never has a Premier been such a sustained object of outrage in the letters page.

And here is an SMH editorial lamenting Baird’s declining “popularity” with muffled criticism. A reader, Mark Horn, has it exactly right, 29 August:

The Herald criticises Mr Baird’s selling of his “difficult reforms”: “Tree clearing for the much-needed light rail … was handled poorly”; “Land grabs for WestConnex have created an impression of poor process”, “On council mergers … the government failed to sell the reforms efficiently”.

I suggest that in each case there are problems that go well beyond “handling”, “impressions” and “selling”. A focus on these marketing elements distracts attention from the substance of the issues.

The problem, says the editorial, is that Baird has failed to sell his agenda. What?

Tell it to the Haberfield home-owners who have been brutally dispossessed and whose carefully constructed domestic nirvana is gone forever.

Tell it to the women threatened by domestic violence who have failed to find sympathetic refuge. Oh, some of them are dead, murdered. Water off a duck’s back.

So much for Christian charity

 

When he was elected in March 2015, Baird claimed that the voters chose “hope over fear”.

Perhaps the voters had in mind too many rotten apples in Labor’s barrel. Whatever then, the voters are now terrified. Hope is long gone.

Baird has done one decent thing — the extension of the light rail service on the old goods line in Inner West Sydney from its temporary terminus at Lilifield to Dulwich Hill. The extended line has been successful beyond expectations.

Baird has also introduced lock-out laws to stem late night alcohol-fueled violence. Bizarrely, some Baird opponents see the lock-out laws as his most objectionable act.

Unlike many of my inner city comrades, I’m not with Baird on the blanket cancellation of the greyhound industry in NSW, with most National Party members playing dead, oblivious to their constituents. Why not go the whole hog and cancel horseracing? No more non-performing horses to the knackeries.

Everything, especially urban land, has its price

There’s the electricity infrastructure. There are the colonial sandstone edifices. There’s Bidura, the Children’s Court on Glebe Point Road (high rise on the way). There’s Long Bay Gaol, very nicely located for mega development, on the way.

The Powerhouse Museum. A scandal. Nothing to do with bringing good stuff to Parramatta at all. Parramatta as dumping ground? If Baird cares about cultural life in Parramatta he should issue a moratorium on high-rise immediately.

SaveGreyhoundRacing@SaveRacingGreys

@ShoebridgeMLC Thought you were celebrating Wenty Park being public space, but then you sold out and voted down the amendment.

John Dunmore Lang@JohnDunmoreLang

Like the Public Space our Newcastle Railway Land was promised by Baird to be, now selling off for high rise

There’s Sirius. All this stuff about brutalist architecture is just so much palaver. I love Sirius.

This from that monumental air-head (to put it kindly), Dominic Perrottet:

My own view of the Sirius building is that it’s about as sexy as the car park at my local supermarket.

Before Sirius comes down, the wretched UTS tower should be an object of attention.

Pirrottet, as previously posited, is a joke and dangerous. Sirius is being pulled down because of the per square metre hyper-value currently being flushed down the toilet on public housing tenants.

The key element neatly hidden by the Baird wreckers is that Sirius was compensation to the local community for the earlier destruction of its habitat and community. As letter writer Adrian Bell noted, SMH on 16 August:

The excellent series of articles by Elizabeth Farrelly documents the vandal-like and rapacious destruction of Sydney’s and NSW’s heritage and historical culture, such as the Sirius building, for transitory cash returns to private interests. … perhaps some small credit should be offered to its main instigator, the NSW Minister for Planning and Environment at the time, Paul Landa MLA.

Landa decided the existing tenants had the right to remain where they had grown up for generations. Thus the Sirius was built as much as a social statement of value as an architectural project.

Public housing. No public housing site or proposal is safe. Serco, that appalling firm, and pushed by that appalling ex-Greiner functionary, Gary Sturgess, is on the prowl. Prisoners, asylum seekers, public housing tenants — what’s the difference? Money for jam in managing and manipulating human suffering.

Warren Ross@RoosterRoss

@ABCthedrum Gary Sturgess and Baird’s great idea to give public housing management to Serco so they can put rent defaulters straight in gaol

Then there’s the public schools fiasco. UltimoHomebush. Schools are placed stupidly where there should be more high rise. Let our children eat cake. The private schools, stashed with taxpayer cash, are ready and waiting (unless your kids are of the problematic kind).

But the ultimate crime is the mooted privatisation of the Land & Property Unit. Labor’s privatisationof the State Lottery was crazy. This idea is diabolically criminal. And stupid beyond belief. Why is the business community not beating down Baird’s door to tell him to lay off this asset of fundamental significance to commercial and personal security.

Technical and further education …

There’s the dismantling of TAFE. What a scandal.

In a chance encounter with an another ex-student, now in Premier & Cabinet, said fellow claimed that TAFE was inefficient.

Well, that’s the nature of the beast. And one doesn’t cure inefficiency by hiking fees through the roof, cancelling courses and sacking swathes of teachers. And don’t talk about private for-profit colleges — well they’re a model of efficiency in the rip-off stakes.

Then there’s the mooted sacking of specialised teachers in prisons. Has Baird thought through the implications?

It’s an ideological thing. Nothing but ideology. As in every department.

David Shoebridge

@ShoebridgeMLC

Baird’s TAFE budget – even more cuts! All part of the move to privatise vocational education and training..

Fragmenting the (unionised) public railway system

By all means give the long-suffering North-Western Sydney population railway access. But a privatised cut-down Metro is not the way to go. And the pushing of a privatised Metro on a key section of the the Bankstown line, all for mega line-side high rise, is a disgrace. Truly whacko. The adverse “externalities”, supposedly a mainstream economics affectation, will be long with us.

I took the train from Redfern recently. No ticket-seller; no-one to ask advice, to be sociable. It was the end of an era. No paper tickets on any transport — the domain given over wholly to Opal(commercial-in-confidence). No consideration for those not integrated into the digital age. Buggar off, grannie — you’re past your use-by date.

I needed help recently at Central Railway on a weekend when taking a bus replacement to Wollongong. I live in Sydney, English is my native language and I have multiple degrees — and I can’t work it out. Central is now a forbidding place — in spite of an information counter (albeit with long lines). The hi-tech timetable panel is flawed. The platform indicators are often unreadable. The airport line is off the map. All vehicles for raising the panic index.

And what’s a mickey-mouse light rail doing in centre city? South-eastern suburban residents didn’t ask for it either. And we all lament the loss of the Alison Road trees for the sake of a private interest.

Behind the scenes and unarticulated, getting rid of (unionised) workers seems to be a major imperative for these piecemeal changes. And, of course, upping private company access to public services, the profits from which go straight overseas.

Michelle Pini@vmp9

Please retweet to help the voice of these rural communities to be heard. Forced NSW council mergers. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/rural-council-mergers-and-the-loss-of-democracy,8990#.VzgNvOw48Ww.twitter  @IndependentAus

NSW council mergers and the loss of democracy in rural Australia

The NSW Government’s compulsory council amalgamations are vehemently opposed by rural communities who fear the loss of their democratic voice, writes Glen Cooper.

independentaustralia.net

WestDisConnex and the council massacres

Then there’s WestConnex. Nuff said. Criminal.

As Greens MLC David Shoebridge has emphasised, a landmark piece of legislation was passed by the Wran Government in 1979 — the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The developer sector, with bipartisan connivance, has been pushing to emasculate the Act ever since. Baird has merely upped the pace.

Behind the quelling of dissent or resistance is the totalitarian destruction of local councils.

Baird has used as vehicle for council demolition, corrupt in itself, the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, IPART. Convenient for Baird, the man overseeing this rort is former federal bureaucrat Peter Boxall .

Following a stint in the ideologically-driven IMF, Boxall has a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, under some of the “driest” economists on the planet. For a man devoted to the virtues of the private sector and the “free market”, he has a remarkable affinity for taxpayer-funded occupations.

Perhaps tired of Canberra winters and now overseeing the regulation of utility pricing, Boxall opined that there was no longer any need for it in NSW, as the market was now desirably competitive.

This in June 2013:

We have formed the view that competition in the NSW retail electricity and gas markets now protects customers against market power by offering more choices and better price and service outcomes. We consider an effectively functioning competitive market offers customers the best protection from higher than efficient prices.

It can also deliver better customer outcomes in the long term, including better ‘value for money’ service through reduced costs and/or innovation. In short, competition is a superior way of driving these improvements compared to regulation.

Strange then that electric power utilities, cartel-like, took the regulator to court for the “onerous” terms dictated to them by the regulator, and have walked away in February 2016, courtesy of the Australian Competition Tribunal, with the imprimatur to raise their prices collectively. Competition? I don’t think so.

Strange also that domestic gas consumers, industrial/commercial as well as retail, find that they are facing higher prices than customers of gas exporters from Australia. What company would set up shop in Australia under these colonial-cringe conditions?

Having dispensed with the onerous task of regulating utility prices, Boxall could thus devote his energies to playing the front man for Baird’s agenda of dismantling the councils. The mantra has been that council amalgamations will generate much needed efficiencies. It was and is a lie. Nobody pushing council amalgamations believes it. Will Boxall get a performance bonus for his pains?

I love this letter in the SMH, 16 May, from Noelene Haslett, Tumbarumba Shire Councilor 2003-08:

Tumbarumba Council was deemed fit for the future, is the winner of the Bluett Award for excellence in council administration, has a community fully behind no amalgamation, and was recommended not to be merged by the consultant, and yet will be forced to amalgamate with a council over 80 kilometres away. Totally absurd.

Oh wait. Tumbarumba is not in a marginal electorate. Mike Baird, beware of the folk from the mountains. We will not be moved.

Efficiencies my arse. The problem, of course, with Chicago economics is that evidence is irrelevant. We have the theory, and it is true a priori.

Tweetermaan@Tweetermaan

Barangaroo: politics, property and players – it’s business as usual very Baird https://theconversation.com/barangaroo-politics-property-and-players-its-business-as-usual-10722  via @ConversationEDU

Barangaroo: politics, property and players – it’s business as usual

The redevelopment of Sydney’s Barangaroo into a $6 billion waterfront precinct has involved some of Australia’s most influential people – including former Prime Minister Paul Keating and businessman…

theconversation.com

Barangaroo

Then there’s Barangaroo. Apart from the diabolical aesthetics, truly criminal. It is staggering that O’Farrell and Baird got away with it.

In France, public officials and elected politicians are hauled before courts for this sort of thing. Indeed, the prosecution of such people (past President Nicolas Sarkozy as Exhibit A) is a major industry in France. Unfortunately, politics being politics, too many are given a minor fine and suspended sentence (peine avec sursis) but the principle is marvellous. Let’s import the practice here, and haul Baird before the courts.

Or haul Baird before ICAC? Baird and his Ministers are not personal beneficiaries but they are willfully handing over public assets and public funds for select private benefit.

The belated issuing of ICAC’s Spicer Report on the shenanigans associated with NSW Liberal Party election funding has Baird acknowledging “a very sad chapter” in NSW political history. But he wants to sweep it under the carpet as yesterday’s problem. He claims that his former colleagues have already paid “a very heavy price”.

Baird cares less about the principle than the fact that his colleagues and the Liberal Party machine were caught by ICAC’s investigations. Frankly, his ongoing sale of public assets and dismantling of public services, to date pursued under veneer of legitimacy, does much greater long term harm than does the electoral funding rorting — though the latter may see his undoing.

Thadias Crump@ThadiasC

They have not started paying yet. But they will! http://fb.me/2eEqBUoyU 

Baird says NSW Liberal MPs paid ‘heavy price’ over ICAC inquiry

A damaging report by the state’s corruption watchdog ends former NSW police minister Mike Gallacher’s ambitions to return to the frontbench

abc.net.au

Dismiss Baird post-haste

To save the public domain from any more pillage, Baird needs to be dismissed post-haste. The survival of the commonweal can’t wait for an election (and a biased media that will accompany it).

I admit to being converted to bringing in the NSW Governor to do the job. After all, David Hurleymust be looking for something to do. His military training must have him itching for action. Can I suggest that he declare war on Mike Baird?

Of course I have been previously totally opposed to the precedent cases. We all know about Gough Whitlam. But there’s also the maverick NSW Premier Jack Lang, dismissed by the then Governor in May 1932. Another political coup, like that which brought down Whitlam.

At the risk of being called unprincipled, I think it’s time to re-activate the measure. These are desperate times.

With due deference to Gough:

“Well may we say ‘God save Mike Baird’, because nothing will save the State on his watch.” 

Dr Evan Jones is a retired political economist. 

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CHINESE GOVERNMENT CAUGHT BRIBING THE LIBERAL PARTY, LABOR PARTY AND JULIE BISHOP!

‘THERE is a lot of debate at the moment regarding foreign ownership, particularly by the Chinese, of Australian assets but the real issue is foreign ownership of the decisions that Australian politicians make.
They say the hardest thing about solving any problem is knowing what the real problem is, and in this case the real problem is foreign donations to the Liberal Party and Labor Party for favours which are bribes.
If the donation issue is solved I suspect the foreign ownership problem will be solved quickly as well as the politicians will no longer have an incentive to do what the Chinese say. …
When foreign nations like China donate to the Liberal Party and Labor Party they are also helping to facilitate corruption in Australia for their own benefit but which also results in the Australian public ending up with a corrupt government.’

CHINESE GOVERNMENT CAUGHT BRIBING THE LIBERAL PARTY, LABOR PARTY AND JULIE BISHOP

A stick of dynamite was lit on Friday (26-8-16) with revelations that Chinese businessman with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have donated $500,000 to the Western Australian Liberal Party. The question that Julie Bishop needs to answer is did she ask for the $500,000 donation when she was overseas in China on government business? If the answer is no then what exactly was her involvement with the donation as it is clearly directed at her and the decisions she may or may not make as Foreign Minister? …

SOURCE:

https://kangaroocourtofaustralia.com/2016/08/28/chinese-government-caught-bribing-the-liberal-party-labor-party-and-julie-bishop/

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NICK KALDAS returns to audit corruption risks in NSW planning system …

HOWEVER … IT WOULD APPEAR CORRUPTION IN PLANNING GOES BEYOND THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEVEL …  hm …

CAAN has more material to add to the “Corruption” Category!

You may wish to also view these categories in our Website:

-Compulsory Acquisition and Land Amalgamation

-Value Capture

-Developers Buy Access in NSW

 

Nick Kaldas returns to audit corruption risks in NSW planning system

The former deputy commissioner of the NSW Police, Nick Kaldas, will conduct an audit into corruption risks in the state’s planning system, following a string of high-profile scandals.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has handed Mr Kaldas a broad brief to scrutinise risks in the system and “make recommendations in relation to the decision-making governance” of state and local agencies.

The appointment of Mr Kaldas, who is to report at the end of November, comes on the back of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into the conduct of councillors and senior staff at the former Canterbury Council.

“This is about building a planning system that people can have faith and confidence in,” Mr Roberts said.

“We want to be held up around the world, that if you want a robust, strong and transparent planning system, have a look at NSW,” he said.

 

The terms of the review to be conducted by Mr Kaldas, who has also served as the Director of Internal Oversight at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East, require him to assess whether there are government issues that “risk the integrity of the system”. He is also charged with examining whether there are aspects of interstate or overseas systems that could be incorporated in NSW.

RELATED ARTICLE

Mr Kaldas’ review is the latest in a number of anti-corruption measures adopted by the state government. One policy, championed by Mr Roberts, has been to strip councils of the ability to decide on development applications.

That function has been vested in mandatory Local Planning Panels, which enforce planning controls adopted by councillors.

One of the issues at the former Canterbury Council was that though the council used a local panel, known as an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, that body was empowered only to make recommendations.

On occasions, councillors voted to approve developments against the recommendation of the council’s IHAP. The corruption inquiry is addressing whether Liberal councillor Michael Hawatt and Labor’s Pierre Azzi had financial stakes in the developments on which they were voting.

The Canterbury inquiry, known as Operation Dasha, also claimed the political career of parliamentary secretary Daryl Maguire, who was caught on tape with Mr Hawatt attempting to secure commissions in property transactions for large “clients”.

'Crystal clear' message Wagga MP must go: Constance

REPLAY

‘Crystal clear’ message Wagga MP must go: Constance

View Source for video links

 

Daryl Maguire quit the Liberal party after it was revealed at ICAC that he had tried broker deals for a “mega big” client with a former Canterbury councillor.

But Canterbury is not the only council to have been embroiled in corruption scandals. A string of decisions at Auburn council prompted an inquiry under the Local Government Act, which concluded that multiple planning decisions lacked merit.

ICAC also this year submitted briefs of evidence against senior staff at the former Botany Council.

Mr Roberts said another anti-corruption measure would be securing updated local environment plans to determine the shape of development in local areas.

“The best way to prevent corrupt rezoning is to have strong local strategic plans,” Mr Roberts said. The government has promised councils $2.5 million to update their LEPs.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts says he wants to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts says he wants to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime.Photo: AAP

If LEPs were updated, councillors would be under pressure to explain deviations from those plans.

Mr Roberts said NSW already had a strong planning system but this latest audit was about “strengthening it even further”.

“We want to make sure that the planning system is proofed against organised crime and that’s why having Kaldas in will further ensure we are that exemplary,” the Minister said.

“This is the legacy that I want to leave and this government wants to leave,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Kaldas is also to hand a draft report to the Planning Secretary by the end of September.

SOURCE:  https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/nick-kaldas-returns-to-audit-corruption-risks-in-nsw-planning-system-20180727-p4zu0m.html

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“SIR LUNCHALOT” IAN MACDONALD’S JAILHOUSE BLUES … JULY 2018

 

 

‘Sir Lunchalot’ Ian Macdonald’s jailhouse blues

By Kate McClymont

28 July 2018

“My husband is innocent and should not be in jail let alone be trucked all over the state to ensure maximum harm comes to his mental state and mine,” complained the wife of the now-jailed former Labor minister Ian Macdonald.

Anita Gylseth last month sent a blistering email to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, her deputy John Barilaro and a number of NSW cabinet ministers complaining about the location of the jails to which her husband had been sent and the inconvenience it had caused Macdonald’s family.

Former minister Ian Macdonald is taken into custody following a court hearing in May 2017.  (View SMH Link)

She complained about Macdonald previously being in Cooma “which is a nine-hour round trip or if I stayed overnight the cost of accommodation was added to the hefty fuel bill.”

She also complained about his recent transfer to Junee prison in the Riverina “as our family unit is already in disarray with the outcome of the ICAC media driven trial”.

In June 2017, Ms Gylseth’s husband, the former mining minister, was jailed for a maximum of 10 years for criminal misconduct for giving a lucrative coal exploration licence to former union boss John Maitland, who was also jailed.

On the same day she emailed the Premier, Ms Gylseth also emailed senior Labor MPs imploring them to help her battle to establish a royal commission on what she suggested was a witch hunt led by former senior Liberals and the ICAC that, she claims, led to her husband’s wrongful conviction.

Junee Correctional Centre.  (View SMH Link)

Photo: Paul Harris

“Please take up the cause for me as I can no longer bear the nightmare that Barry O’Farrell and Chris Hartcher and Brad Hazard (sic) & [Mike] Baird have created for me and my family,” Ms Gylseth emailed the Labor politicians on June 23.

In her email to the Liberal MPs, Ms Gylseth complained about her husband’s annual colonoscopy and his hernia operation, which she claimed was overdue, as well as her husband being transferred to various prisons which were inconveniently located from her home in the Blue Mountains.

“I received a call from Ian yesterday at 3pm telling me in a most distressed state that he was calling from Silverwater Correctional Centre and that he was being moved to Junee. Ian has chosen non association as he has been threatened by other inmates. He would reconsider this if there was somewhere with low association that was close to his family,” Ms Gylseth wrote in her email.

A noticeable absentee on the list of nine senior Labor politicians emailed by Ms Gylseth was Opposition Leader Luke Foley.

In 2013, Mr Foley told the ICAC that Macdonald was known as “Eddie Obeid’s left testicle”. This was a reference to Macdonald’s former close ally who has been jailed over an unrelated matter.

In his evidence to the ICAC, Mr Foley said that as a party official in 2006 he had done his best to remove Macdonald from Parliament.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley tried to remove Ian Macdonald from Parliament.

Photo: Brook Mitchell  (View SMH Link)

“I formed the view that he had lost his moral compass and was not fit for office,” Mr Foley told the corruption watchdog.

Four years after Mr Foley’s unsuccessful efforts to get Macdonald to quit Parliament, his career imploded.

In 2010, the rorting of the public purse by Macdonald, who had become known as “Sir Lunchalot”, came to an end when the Herald revealed taxpayers had contributed $6000 worth of meals and airfares while Macdonald honeymooned in Rome with his third wife, Ms Gylseth, in 2008.

He had also failed to declare free business-class airfare upgrades with Emirates Airlines worth at least $14,700 soon after he made a decision benefiting the owners of the airline and others in the thoroughbred industry.

As primary industries minister, Macdonald had allowed the multibillion-dollar thoroughbred industry to continue breeding operations in the Hunter Valley during the equine influenza outbreak in 2007.

Macdonald later complained to the ICAC that his financial stress had been exacerbated by adverse media stories which included that Ms Gylseth received a six-figure payout when she left her job in her husband’s department.

It had previously been revealed Ms Gylseth received a handsome pay rise when she moved from her husband’s ministerial staff to a $110,000-a-year executive job within the department over which he presided.

SOURCE:  https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/lunchalot-ian-macdonald-anita-gylseth-jail-20180727-p4zu2g.html

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Australia a ‘place of choice’ for money laundering due to lack of regulation: ANZ

 

FURTHER ….

 DESPITE International bodies like the FINANCIAL TASK FORCE and TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL having slammed Australia’s lack of action on forcing lawyers, real estate agents and accountants to report suspicious transactions.

NOW the Law Council of Australia opposes the extension of the laws; the excuse proffered that lawyers were heavily regulated and questioned the cost of imposing an extra layer of regulation

DESPITE the huge cost to Australians with a whole Cohort locked out of the housing market … a market now captivated by foreign buyers particularly from China.

WITH the destruction of where we live …

PERHAPS a deflation in the market would create opportunities for Australian FHBs?

(Recall earlier this year the Turnbull Govt had formed yet another committee to examine this issue despite the legislation having been shelved for a decade!!)

WILL the Sydney house price drop in fact open up the Black Money Market?

Australia a ‘place of choice’ for money laundering due to lack of regulation: ANZ

Updated

ANZ Bank says a lack of political will has seen successive Australian governments fail to extend money laundering laws to cover lawyers, real estate agents and accountants.

Key points:

  • Australia’s anti-money laundering law does not cover real estate agents, lawyers and accountants
  • The lack of regulation makes Australia an attractive target for money launderers, says ANZ
  • Real estate and law bodies have raised concerns over cost of new legislation

Australia’s hot property market is an attractive haven for criminals, with estimates that billions of dollars of dirty money is being laundered through residential property.

Australia’s anti-money laundering law does not cover real estate agents, lawyers and accountants, despite promises when the law was enacted in 2006 that the legislation would be widened.

ANZ’s head of financial crime, Guy Boyd, is scathing of the failure of subsequent governments to extend the legislation.

“There’s been probably a lack of political will and that’s probably been driven by some very vocal opposition from those industry sectors,” Mr Boyd told the Business in an interview.

Money laundering occurs when criminals channel money from illegal assets or activities into legal assets such as a trust fund or by buying property in an attempt to “clean” the money.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan defended Australia’s anti-money laundering regime.

“We do have very robust arrangements in Australia, including for property, but we are looking at how we can improve those arrangements,” Mr Keenan said at a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday.

Australian real estate ‘attractive destination’ for money laundering

Australia’s anti-money laundering (AML) legislation covers organisations including banks and money changers.

Mr Keenan said industry consultation on extending the laws was continuing.

International bodies like the Financial Action Task Force and Transparency International have slammed Australia’s lack of action on forcing lawyers, real estate agents and accountants to report suspicious transactions.

Mr Boyd said the lack of regulation makes Australia an attractive target for money launderers.

“I think Australian real estate is obviously an attractive destination for capital, both legitimate and illegitimate,” he said.

“I wouldn’t know if I would call it a haven but certainly it is a place of choice for illegitimate money.”

AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial crimes regulator, said in a report two years ago that the laundering of illicit funds through real estate was “an established money laundering method in Australia”.

It said around $1 billion in suspicious transactions came from Chinese investors into Australian property in 2015-16.

Australia’s housing market has been targeted by money launderers from countries including Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and China.

Dudley House, student accommodation in inner city Melbourne, was bought at a significantly inflated value by Malaysian officials.

Thomson Reuters financial crimes analyst Nathan Lynch said the lack of regulation covering gatekeepers like lawyers makes Australian property a weak link for criminals.

“The money flows to the path of least resistance and in reality that is the property sector,” Mr Lynch said.

Real estate, law bodies raise concerns about extending laws

The Law Council of Australia opposes the extension of the laws.

Executive board member Konrad de Kerloy said lawyers were already heavily regulated and the implementation of new AML laws would fall on professionals in rural and regional Australia.

“Whilst no lawyers want to be involved in wittingly or unwittingly in money laundering, the question is really, does the cost justify the imposition of an extra layer of regulation on lawyers?” Mr Konrad said.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia is also concerned about the cost of new legislation.

President Malcolm Gunning said the institute supports changes to AML laws but said real estate agents will need training to bring them up to speed.

“The Real Estate Institutes are not opposed to it, but the concern is the responsibility that goes with it and the education that is required to be able to enact that,” he told the Business in an interview.

“Real estate agents aren’t lawyers, they don’t study the law in depth, so if we are to be gatekeepers as with the conveyancers and say, necessarily the accountants and the advisers, then we need to be better educated.”

AML laws in New Zealand overtaken Australia

New Zealand was left heavily exposed by the Panama Papers, but the country has now overtaken Australia and passed laws that require gatekeepers to report suspicious deals.

New Zealand lawyer and anti-money laundering expert Gary Hughes said the legal industry had accepted that new AML laws were needed.

“In New Zealand, people are concerned about it in the professions, lawyers and accountants, but there is sort of a grudging resignation that this needs to happen and it’s really how can we implement it in the right way,” Mr Hughes said

ANZ’s Mr Boyd said Australia could learn from New Zealand.

“In New Zealand their company registry is free to access, it’s quite good information — contrast that with Australia, you have to pay, the quality of the information is questionable,” he said.

However, Mr Lynch from Thomson Reuters warned if AML laws are widened then property prices could be hurt by fewer big deals.

“Failing to crack down on laundering through property and lawyers and accountants and other groups that aren’t regulated
and should be regulated, it distorts the entire market,” he said.

“Prices can really go up high when you are allowing this to happen, and then the problem is when you introduce laws to tackle it you can get a deflation in the market.

“Costa del Sol in Spain is a good example of that happening.”

If the laws are passed, AUSTRAC faces another challenge.

It will see the number of organisations it has to monitor jump from 14,000 to more than 120,000 regulated entities.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, money-and-monetary-policy, government-and-politics, fraud-and-corporate-crime, law-crime-and-justice, australia

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