FATF caves as Australia keeps propping up property market with black money

THIS is what is behind …

… …. ….

… … …

why GENS X Y Z are poorer … and locked out of the Real Estate Market!

BECAUSE our corrupt little grubment have allowed black money to be awash in our Real Estate market … as foreign buyers particularly from China fly in and launder their black money in Australian Real Estate with a ‘Permanent Resident Visa’ thrown in …

Our Youth having to compete in the jobs market with Visa workers ready and willing to be exploited … with the lowest wages growth for 60 years … and insecure work … because the Visa workers too are seeking a ‘PR Visa’ …

ANTHONY QUINN, founder of Arctic Intelligence said:

“There is zero political will to regulate lawyers, accountants or the real estate sector in Australia, where a Chinese political donor has allegedly squirrelled away a $1.2bn property portfolio in Australia,”

FATF caves as Australia keeps propping up property market with black money

Nathan Lynch

by Nathan Lynch — 20 November 2019 — BusinessFeaturedGovernment

FATF caves as Australia keeps propping up property market with black money

Money laundering in Australia (photo courtesy abc.net.au and Alistair Krole)

Welcome to the dark side of the Great Australian Dream, an investigation by Nathan Lynch. 

Facetiously referred to as the Lucky Country for its ability to ship off endless boatloads of minerals, surfing the waves of economic good fortune with a “she’ll be right” swagger. But there’s another more important driver of the 30-year Australian economic miraclecredit growth, real estate and the business of providing a secure home for international flight capital.

*Unfortunately, the latter business model clashes with Australia’s international commitment to stamp out money laundering and terrorism financing through the gatekeeper professions. Most of the major international money laundering schemes that have been uncovered rely on lawyers, accountants or real estate agents.

*After 13 years of empty bipartisan promises about “Tranche 2” AML/CTF laws, the deeper question needs to be asked: does Australia really have the political fortitude to dam those rivers of illicit money?

Or is our economic model too precarious, and our democracy too feeble, to risk taking some juice out of the politically sacred property market?

*For 30 years, the fortunate citizens of Australia, the lucky country, have enjoyed an unending wave of economic growth, powered and juiced along by resources, credit and the once-in-a-century property market.

*On the other hand, this has created a bipartisan political paralysis where governments are loathe to go anywhere near the sacred cow of house prices. At a state government level, meanwhile, house price growth means billions of extra dollars in rising stamp duty receipts.

*The policy failure on “Tranche 2” of the AML/CTF regime over the past 13 years indicates Australia is willing to subjugate all other interests to the inflation of its property market. It will do this even if it means forcing homebuyers to bid at auction against international criminals, drug dealers buying with powder-coated cash or terrorism financiers.*

This was all due to come to a dramatic head this month, with international assessors from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) coming to Australia to conduct a scathing review of the country’s sclerotic AML/CTF reform program. This was being viewed in the financial crime compliance sector as the moment of reckoning for Australia. Falling foul of the FATF obligations can lead to a country being greylisted, which is what happened to Iceland at the most recent plenary meeting in Orlando.

Countries that are struggling to overhaul their laws against insurmountable odds, such as Pakistan, have a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads in the form of FATF blacklisting. This would choke the country’s access to international development loans and increase the cost of doing international business. The FATF has ways of making countries act.

*But Australia is indeed the Lucky Country. Thomson Reuters has revealed today that the FATF has cancelled its mutual evaluation follow-up program indefinitely while a “strategic review” takes place. In a stroke of extremely good fortune, the review of Australia’s Tranche 2 failures has been put on ice.*

The decision has also sparked claims that the standard-setter has become overtly politicised and buckled to pressure from major backers, including Australia, the United States and China.

Enhanced oversight

Australia is already on an enhanced follow-up remediation program over its 13-year failure to pass laws to cover lawyers, real estate agents, accountants and high-value goods dealers.

The controversial decision to suspend the review comes as Australia was preparing for a disastrous on-site visit this month, culminating in FATF’s five-yearly follow-up report. Australia was one of the first jurisdictions to receive a fourth-round evaluation in 2015. This meant it would be the first country to face a follow-up visit while being in breach of all three recommendations on designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs).

*Australia, the United States and China have all received fourth-round evaluations that highlighted their failure to regulate DNFBP professions.

Recommendations 22, 23 and 28 cover the so-called gatekeeper professions. The United States and China, however, are still several years away from receiving their follow-up assessments.

In 2018, FATF published the first follow-up report on Australia’s technical compliance with the 40 recommendations; Australia has been rated as “non-compliant” or “partially compliant” on 14 of them.

“On this basis, Australia will remain in enhanced follow-up. According to the enhanced follow-up process, Australia will continue to report back to the FATF on progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures,” the 2018 review said.

The second report, incorporating this month’s crucial on-site component, was due to tackle the issue of effectiveness.

Political backlash

A FATF spokesman in Paris said the review process for Australia had been running in the background for the past four years. FATF decided to suspend all the follow-up reviews, starting with Australia’s, in October.

“The FATF has decided to temporarily pause the start of all scheduled follow-up assessments pending the outcomes of the strategic review of FATF currently underway. The FATF plenary will discuss aspects of this review at its next meeting in February 2020. New dates for the start of follow-up assessments, including for Australia, are still to be finalised,” the spokesman said.

Financial crime officials sharply criticised FATF’s decision to suspend the Australian review at such a crucial time. They have also raised concerns FATF will water down the assessment methodology before re-starting with the Australian review.

“The FATF says it wants to pause the start of all follow-up assessments. But Australia’s assessment wasn’t starting — it was almost completed. This decision sends a terrible message for an organisation whose reputation hinges on being politically impartial. The perception is that Australia has made empty promises to the FATF, with impunity, for over a decade,” said Bill Majcher, a financial crime consultant in Hong Kong.

FATF has been very strict with countries such as Pakistan, which is facing a possible blacklisting, and Iceland, which was grey-listed at the most recent plenary meeting.

Australia is already on ‘enhanced follow-up’ over its non-existent Tranche 2 laws. All of its neighbours have moved ahead on this. New Zealand was well behind Australia but managed to pass its own laws for DNFBPs in 2017,” Majcher said.

“It raises a serious question: what does it take for a FATF founding member like Australia to face a grey-listing, like some of the non-members?”

Financial inaction, in action

Australian compliance practitioners are scratching around for explanations as to why a country with a leading financial intelligence unit (FIU) would disregard its FATF obligations. The Home Affairs Department has continually missed the deadlines in its reform timetable following a 2014 statutory review of the AML/CTF Act.

Anthony Quinn, founder of Arctic Intelligence in Sydney, said the AML/CTF community had been watching the Australian review closely. It was crucial FATF showed it was politically impartial and there were consequences for ignoring it — and not just for weaker countries and non-members, he said.

“If there is a plausible reason for the Financial Inaction Task Force to postpone then I would love to hear it. Australia has addressed less than 10 of 84 recommendations since 2015, as set out in the country’s Statutory Review timetable. This clearly demonstrates that Australia is unfazed by international criticism by the FATF,” he said.

Quinn questioned the sincerity of the Australian government’s public statements on its commitment to tackling financial crime.

Deeper malaise

*Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens senator from Tasmania, said the failure to move on AML/CTF commitments reflected a deeper political malaise.

“The FATF’s abandoning of the review of Australia’s anti-money laundering laws is an indictment on this government. Australia is one of a handful of countries where lawyers, accountants and real estate agents are still exempt,” he said.

“We’ve had 13 years of inaction, from both Liberal and Labor governments, on the fabled Tranche 2 of the AML/CTF Act. Billions of dollars in hot money has washed through Australia’s property market in that time.”

Whish-Wilson said the Greens would consider introducing a private member’s bill if the government fails to act. The Greens aim to explore these issues, as part of a broader “black economy” review, if the government’s proposed cash limit legislation enters parliament. The controversial laws are under consultation.

“I suspect that donations from developers and investors go a long way towards explaining why successive governments haven’t acted. There are simply too many people making too much money and wielding too much influence,” Whish-Wilson said.

Tough on terrorists, easy on facilitators

The failure to address the money laundering risk in Australia’s gatekeeper professions comes amid a heightened international concern over terrorism financing risks. Earlier this month, Australia hosted the second “No Money For Terror” conference in Melbourne, which featured senior government ministers from around the world who made a commitment to work together to choke the funding lifelines that fuel violent extremism.

“No one country, no matter how powerful, can defeat terrorism alone. The international community must continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against what is an increasingly complex and borderless threat,” Peter Dutton, Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs, said during an opening address.

Despite these high-level commitments, financial crime experts have warned that DNFBPs are commonly exploited in sophisticated, cross-border terrorism financing schemes.

Yehuda Shaffer, former head of Israel’s financial intelligence unit, said it was well established that DNFBPs pose a high threat for terrorism financing, which must be properly mitigated. Mossack Fonseca’s client base included 33 suspected financiers of terrorism, which indicates that TF-linked entities are seeking professional advice, he said.

“Much of the movement of funds by terrorist organisations and individuals is still undetected. But there is growing anecdotal evidence that they also rely on complex legal structures to hide the underlying beneficial owner,” he said.

“The Panama Papers show that OFAC-listed terror-related persons used complex structures to avoid sanctions. We have TF-related suspicious transaction reports regarding trusts mentioned in some of the FATF reports, such as the Cayman Islands. We have seen the Isle of Man criticised in its report for not understanding its terrorism financing DNFBP risks.”

Major financial centres, such as Australia, needed to ensure they are not being used as a source of terrorist funds or as a “pass through” jurisdiction, Shaffer said. They needed to harden their system to avoid the abuse of non-profit organisations and charities, legal entities and complex structures.

FATF has reaffirmed its official public position that Australia takes the agency’s demands regarding DNFBPs seriously.

“As a member of the FATF, Australia has committed to fully and effectively implement all of the FATF recommendations, including those that concern DNFBPs,” the spokesman said.

The Department of Home Affairs, meanwhile, said it was still committed to the Tranche 2 reforms.

“The Morrison government is committed to continually improving Australia’s AML/CTF laws and working with industry to ensure that Australia’s financial system is hardened against criminals and terrorists, without placing undue burden on industry,” a spokesman said.

Thirteen years on, however, Australia’s promises and the FATF’s assurances are starting ring a little hollow among the financial intelligence community.

“There is zero political will to regulate lawyers, accountants or the real estate sector in Australia, where a Chinese political donor has allegedly squirrelled away a $1.2bn property portfolio in Australia,” Quinn said.

——————-PREVIOUSWater Barons: Gina Rinehart pitches cattle against sawfish

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Lynch

Nathan Lynch is the Asia-Pacific Bureau Chief, Financial Crime and Risk at Thomson Reuters.

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SCOMO … and his defining moment

FROM ‘The Saturday Paper’ …

Morrison’s darkest speech yet

Recently, Scott Morrison described his plans for a ban on environmental groups lobbying businesses. The speech he gave has been called a defining moment in his prime ministership. Mike Seccombe on why this is important and what it says about Morrison’s “ordinary bloke” mask.

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/morrisons-darkest-speech-yet/id1461999702?i=1000456488872

If you’re having trouble listening to the show, visit How to listen, call our subscriptions department on 1800 077 514 or email help@7ampodcast.com.au.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: "A responsible and sensible government does not run the country as if it is constantly at Defcon 1."

Photo: SMH

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Tasmania’s growing reputation with Chinese farmers a double-edged sword

IT appears the FIRB, the governments and Jan Davis have overlooked the fact that with foreign buyers of our farmlands that younger Australian farmers cannot compete with foreign State-owned companies, and are being robbed of the opportunity to enter or expand because they do not have sufficient equity to sustainably acquire land.

RELATED ARTICLE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/11/20/opinion-why-the-government-should-start-buying-up-farmland/

nationally Chinese investors own 9,169,000 hectares

QUESTION the benefits for Australia …. is it the case our ‘very good products’ are to be exported to China and elsewhere as we Australians will have no choice but to consume inferior imported products?

CHINESE vertical integration is underway in Tasmania … as with VDL Farms at Woolnorth in Tasmania’s far north west owned by Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu …

Mr Lu has recently purchased new machinery from CHINA for VDL Farms

Tasmania’s growing reputation with Chinese farmers a double-edged sword

By Manika Dadson

20 NOVEMBER 2019

A man and a woman in an olive grove

PHOTO: Helen Huang and Kelvin Xu run Cradle Coast Olives. (ABC News: Manika Dadson.)

RELATED STORY: Has Australia’s smallest state been left ‘vulnerable’ in its dealings with China?

RELATED STORY: Melbourne mansion among $17.3m worth of property seized in Chinese money laundering probe

RELATED STORY: Australia’s largest dairy VDL in turmoil again as staff raise animal welfare concerns

Helen Huang and her husband Kelvin moved to Tasmania a year ago to manage an olive oil business.

Key points:

  • In the five years since President Xi Jinping’s visit large Tasmanian agricultural businesses have been bought by Chinese investments
  • Most people who work on foreign-owned farms in the state are Tasmanian
  • The former chief executive of VDL farms has called on the Federal Government to better regulate foreign investors and hold them to account

Their olive orchard, which is near Ulverstone in the state’s north west, was bought by their Chinese friend from a Tasmanian couple earlier this year.

The pair spend most of their time maintaining the 400 olive trees, picking and pressing the olives and packing their homegrown olive oil to send around the world.

“Three quarters of the oil we send back to China and one quarter we sell locally,” Mrs Huang said.

Since President Xi Jinping visited Tasmania five years ago, six cherry orchards and the state’s largest dairy farm have fallen into Chinese hands.

Just last week, the Federal Government greenlit the sale of baby formula maker Bellamy’s, headquartered in Tasmania’s north, to Chinese dairy giant China Mengniu.

CAAN: Pathetic …. ‘the company must keep its headquarters in Australia for at least a decade, and it continues to invest $12 million in local processing facilities in Victoria.’

*“Because Tasmania has very fresh air, they have very nice water and I think that’s why they produce a very good product,” Mrs Huang said.

*”It’s very popular because the middle part of China is getting more healthy food.”

A woman standing beside bottles of olive oil

PHOTO: Helen Huang says Tasmanian produce is popular in China. (ABC News: Manika Dadson)

The country is Tasmania’s biggest international export market, and the Tasmanian Government wants to strengthen that partnership further in the next five years through its trade strategy.

*But the foreign investment has also created community angst.

*Promises made by Chinese investors in the state’s far north west have not been delivered, and last month the Australian Federal Police seized 1,200 hectares of farm land at Musselroe Bay in the state’s north east amid allegations of money laundering by Chinese nationals. *

Locals not willing to ‘get the cheque book out’

A woman sits at her computer

PHOTO: Jan Davis says farmers have the right to take the highest offer for their land. (ABC News: Manika Dadson.)

Agricultural consultant Jan Davis, who is also the former boss of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, said Australians should not be surprised that foreign investors were buying land when many Australians were not willing to spend the money.

“It’s a reflection of the fact to some extent that Australian people don’t value their food and their farmers the way that other people do,” Ms Davis said.

Has Tasmania been left vulnerable in its dealings with China?

Since Xi Jinping’s 2014 visit, China has become Tasmania’s biggest trading partner and a major source of tourism. But experts warn the state must tread carefully.

“Others are prepared to pay to have the security of our land, our water and our food far more than we are prepared to pay.

“We talk about this being ‘our’ land, but it actually belongs to individuals and they should have the right to sell it to whoever offers them the best deal … if Australians want to buy it, get the cheque book out,” she said.

There is no publicly available figure for how much land Chinese investors own in Tasmania, but nationally the figure is 9,169,000 hectares.

UK residents own 10,239,000 hectares of Australian land, with the bulk of foreign-owned land Tasmania in the state’s far north west and on the west coast.

Foreign investors creating local jobs

A farmer stands with cows

PHOTO: Chris Brown is a north west dairy farmer. (ABC News: Manika Dadson)

Chris Brown is one of thousands of Tasmanians earning a living because of foreign investors.

Mr Brown is a sharefarmer — a farmer who lives and works on land owned by someone else and shares in the profits —at VDL Farms at Woolnorth in Tasmania’s far north west, which is owned by Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu.

The Browns run and milk about 1,000 dairy cows on 400 hectares of Mr Lu’s land and take a 32 per cent share in the farm’s profits.

“My personal opinion is that sharefarming’s better … the more we earn, the more they earn, so it goes up like that,” Mr Brown said.

“We just supply all the labour and machinery and pay a third of feed costs and supplement.

“When we first started we had ambitions of having our own farm. We had a small farm at [nearby] Irishtown — 150 acres — but we’ve just sold that and we’re more comfortable down here.”

Man smiling in a field with cows

PHOTO: Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said it was important that foreign-owned farms employed local people. (ABC News: Manika Dadson.)

Mr Brown is not concerned that the land his family has farmed on for 28 years is foreign owned.

“It’s never been Australian owned anyway, so it was Kiwis before this and now China,” he said.

Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said the most people who worked on foreign-owned farms in the region were Tasmanians.

“I’d much rather it be owned by Australians but as long as the land is being farmed by Australian people, I think that is the important thing,” he said.

Former VDL CEO calls for more scrutiny

Mr Lu’s ownership of VDL Farms has come under fire on multiple occasions since he purchased the dairy in 2016 for $280 million due to his company Moon Lake not acting on promises it made to the Foreign Investment Review Board when the sale was first approved.

Moon Lake pledged to employ an additional 95 staff and invest $100 million into VDL Farms.

Chinese businessman Lu Xianfeng.

PHOTO: Chinese businessman Lu Xianfeng owns the Van Diemen’s Land Company. (ABC News)

Mr Lu has previously admitted those promises have not been fulfilled, but he did not respond to the ABC’s enquires for comment for this story.

*Evan Rolley, who resigned from his role as VDL Farms chief executive last year, is calling on the Federal Government to take more responsibility.

“Where a foreign investment is being contemplated for a project or a proposal, then if undertakings are given that form the basis of that foreign investment, they must be enforceable,” Mr Rolley said.

“There needs to be a method of enforcing those undertakings so the benefits that a government sees flowing to a regional community are in fact delivered.”

Mr Rolley said based on what was promised initially by Moon Lake, the right decision was made to approve the sale.

“What has been a failure has been a way of ensuring that that was delivered and if not delivered, penalties applied,” Mr Rolley said.

For VDL chief Evan Rolley November 2019

PHOTO: Evan Rolley resigned from his role as VDL Farms chief executive last year. (ABC News: Manika Dadson.)

Ms Davis agreed more needed to be done to monitor foreign investors.

“What we need to do is work harder and to ensure that everybody understands what the rules are and that our regulators, where the rules are important, are given the sufficient resourcing to be able to police properly,” she said.

“[But] without the investment that we’re seeing, not just for Tasmania but nationally in agriculture, we would not be able to compete with the influx of imported products from other countries.”

The ABC understands Mr Lu has recently purchased new machinery from China to help improve VDL Farms.

The Federal Government has been contacted for comment.

Cows in single file walking along a road

PHOTO: VDL Farm dairy cows walk along a road at a north-west property. (ABC News: Manika Dadson)

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-20/china-interest-in-tasmania-farms-double-edged-sword/11707472

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Opinion: WHY the Government should start Buying Up FARMLAND!

CURRENTLY our farmlands are being purchased by foreign interests … to ensure their food security simultaneously diminishing that of Australia’s … and robbing younger Australian farmers of the opportunity to enter or expand because they do not have sufficient equity to sustainably acquire land.

Our Farmlands … Australia’s Rural Infrastructure

YEARS ago we had a campaign to ‘Buy Back the Farm’ ….

Disband the FIRB!

Opinion: Why the government should start buying up farmland

Peter Mailler

25 Apr 2019

News

Peter Mailler

 Peter MaillerAa

Opinion

There is an absence of any clear leadership or direction articulating a drought strategy in the face of ongoing and deepening drought over a large portion of the Australian agricultural landscape.

There are immediate issues facing the sector that must be addressed and there is a need for long term mechanisms to provide structural support to the sector.

There is a balancing act that recognises the strategic national importance of ensuring the agricultural sector is viable and attracts and retains investment and human capital. It is not the role of government to ensure the success of every farm business, but it is essential that the sector is structurally capable of sustaining successful businesses.

Succession strategy vital 

Overlying drought and the sector generally is the need for an industry succession strategy. Succession is a growing, sector wide problem with an increasing average age of producers and a declining number of enterprises. The general decline in the sector suggests that there is a need for significant structural adjustment to achieve this essential succession.

The problem requires a considered response to industry succession that helps retiring and/or unviable farmers exit the industry and provides a sustainable longer-term entry pathway for new or expanding farmers. It would be sensible if this strategy was applicable over more than one generation of farmers.

It is clear that there are many farms for sale at this time, either listed or not. It is also apparent that there are not nearly as many willing and/or able buyers. Some corporate/sovereign investors are active in the market still, but have a select criteria that they are looking for and this means there is a large portion of farm land that does not have a suitable buyer which has undermined the liquidity in the market.

The result is that older and/or unviable farmers are forced to stay on the land or meet the market in an increasingly depressed environment. Meanwhile younger farmers who wish to enter or expand often do not have sufficient equity to sustainably acquire land.

There is compelling evidence that structural adjustment of agricultural tenancies is now necessary.

Throughout Australian agricultural history there has barely been a generation that has not been subject to some form of structural adjustment by both state and federal governments. Regardless of your view on government intervention, it has shaped the industry to date. It is unlikely that the next generation of producers can achieve the necessary structural adjustment without assistance and it is ludicrous to suggest the government has no role now when government intervention has been deemed so essential previously.

The Australian government/s (state, federal or both) should enter the market and start buying farm land with a view to leasing it back to suitable young farmers. There are a range of reasons why they should do this, some of which are outlined below:

  • Agricultural land is a perpetual asset of the nation and in effect this generation only ever really borrows it from future generations, therefore there is a compelling justification to hold agricultural land in trust for future generations.
  • Typically, Australian land prices only reflect the value of one generation of tenure and so the perpetual value of agricultural production from the land is not reflected in the current asset market value.
  • If governments buy back farms these assets sit on the balance sheet to offset the expenditure or any borrowing initiated to execute the purchases. Given support to agriculture is inevitable, it is a better fiscal strategy for government to buy land than to simply pay producers to farm.
  • Crown land of this type should then be made available to agricultural aspirants in a lease tenure. Lease tenure should be coupled with management conditions linked to society’s expectations on biodiversity and sustainability. Reflecting the greater level of ecoservice delivered on this tenure, rents should be very low. This is a crucial component in reducing emissions and mitigating long term impacts of climate change and weather volatility.
  • Historically, Crown Leases have been deemed to be bankable security, so government owned land potentially underwrites agricultural tenancy for young farmers who should then be able to undertake long term and very stable tenancies, which they cannot currently do on a private ownership basis.
  • Government borrowing costs are significantly lower than commercial agriculture borrowing costs. As a result the government could provide profitable lease tenure to provide a sound investment for taxpayers in agricultural land and still provide more affordable tenure for young farmers.
  • The timely intervention in the agricultural land market would provide a floor in the land price that would in turn stabilise the operating environment for existing land holders and potentially mitigate the risk perceived by banks in a depreciating agricultural land market.
  • This is a critical step in averting a massive write down in the wealth of the agricultural sector particularly in the broadacre industries.
  • It is clear that foreign sovereign investors are seeking to underwrite their future food security and it is essential that Australian governments recognise that the fundamentals that drive those investment decisions cannot be matched by Australian farmers. Therefore it is necessary to mitigate the investment pressure to provide suitable pathways for young farmers to enter the industry not only in this generation, but on an ongoing basis.
  • The government has a better justification for interfering in agricultural production systems through vegetation laws, etc…. only if it mitigates either the cost of, or the inherent risk created by, the intervention. Buying and affordably leasing back farm land is a tangible and responsible way to mitigate cost and risk perpetually.
  • Government land purchases will create some liquidity in the farm land market and create some competition for assets that are otherwise stranded. This provides an exit strategy for older and perhaps less productive farmers that will in turn be replaced by more productive participants.

This proposal is only one strategy that potentially buys some time for Australian agriculture. I stress it is only one possible tool in a much needed arsenal to resolve the underlying problems that are impinging on long term agricultural viability.

Peter Mailler is a grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border. He is the Australian Democrats’ lead NSW senate candidate.

Related reading:Keep the bastards honest: Peter Mailler to run for Australian Democrats

SOURCE: https://www.farmonline.com.au/story/6089629/why-the-government-should-start-buying-up-farmland/

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China has become Tasmania’s biggest trading partner, but has the state been left ‘vulnerable’?

By state political reporter Emily Baker and Annah Fromberg

18 NOVEMBER 2019

Xi Jinping and pats a Tasmanian devil behind held by his wife. Behind is an entourage including interpreter Charles Qin

PHOTO: Tasmania offered a great photo opportunity for Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, experts say. (Supplied: Chin Communications)

RELATED STORY: China is building Antarctic bases inside Australia’s claim. We don’t know why

RELATED STORY: Australia struggling to contain Chinese political interference, US warns

The warning couldn’t have been more stark: ignore the opportunities in Asia and living standards in Tasmania will likely decline.

The state was already ranked Australia’s worst economic performer when the 2013 Labor government was urged by Australian National University researchers to pursue stronger ties with the emerging economies of China or India.

With limited resources at its disposal, Lara Giddings’ cabinet decided to focus on China.

“In China, we could see there was this growing middle class, and they’re the people who are visiting now,” the former premier said.

China is now Tasmania’s greatest source of international students and a major source of international visitation.

It also accounts for one-third of the state’s total international exports — a relationship valued at $1 billion.EMBED: Export partners

But analysts are warning the state must tread carefully.

Multiple experts told the ABC the Chinese Communist Party could use the state as a pawn in its quest for greater influence over Australian politics and as a launching point for its ambitious military plans over Antarctica.

Tasmania-China connection goes back to 1980s

The state’s relationship with Chinese governments can be traced back to former Labor premier Doug Lowe — the first Tasmanian leader to visit the country.

He signed a memorandum of understanding with the governor of the Fujian Province aimed at developing a sister-state relationship when he travelled there in 1980.

The connection would prove important.

Ties strengthened under another Labor premier, Jim Bacon, who built a friendship with Fujian’s later leader, Xi Jinping, now China’s President.

“I’m sure that is the very reason why President Xi was here [in Tasmania] five years ago,” Mr Lowe said.

Doug Lowe, sits at a desk, smiling, while in China in 1980.

PHOTO: Former Labor Premier Doug Lowe was the first state leader to visit China. (Supplied)

“I’m sure were it not for his role at that time, and our sister-state relationship, that wouldn’t have occurred and we wouldn’t have had the presence of mind for President Xi that we have.”

University of Tasmania China expert Mark Harrison said it was clear Mr Xi had a genuine interest in Tasmania ahead of his November 2014 visit, but said it was not solely sentimental.

Dr Harrison said Tasmania offered clear opportunities in trade and Antarctica and provided good media coverage to help bolster his relatively new leadership.

“Tasmania offered a lot of photo opportunities. It was part of his consolidation of political authority in the Chinese system, so it was useful to him for those reasons,” Dr Harrison said.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Alex Joske agreed.

“Certainly China is interested in exploring and pursuing greater economic relationships with countries and local governments around the world, but it also ties these engagements together with strategic and political interest,” he said.

Tasmania, in turn, was broadcast to an attentive Chinese audience.

Within a year of Mr Xi’s visit, according to Tasmanian government documents, cherry exports went up 46 per cent, apples 281 per cent, tourism expenditure 24 per cent, Chinese tourist numbers 38 per cent and salmon exports 5,217 per cent.EMBED: China visitors

States ‘vulnerable to influence and manipulation’

Mr Xi’s visit led to what was billed as the largest security operation Tasmania had ever seen.

State and federal police collaborated to ensure his tour went smoothly, and the Chinese Government was reported to have vetted Chinese-Tasmanians who wanted to see him.

But the ABC can reveal the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation — the spy agency charged with blocking foreign interference — did not brief state Premier Will Hodgman or his team ahead of the visit.

In the years since, the Tasmanian Government has signed memoranda of understanding with Chinese businesses and government departments related to scientific collaborations, tourism and Antarctic exploration.

Supporters wave Chinese flags for President Xi Jinping in Hobart

PHOTO: Supporters turned out to welcome Mr Xi as he drove past Hobart’s Cenotaph. (ABC News: Jane Ryan)

In 2016, Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, who earlier this year was stripped of his permanent residency and had his bid for citizenship rejecteddonated $30,000 to the Tasmanian Liberal Party.

A Chinese Communist Party-linked group, the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, hosted its Tasmanian branch launch in the state’s Parliament in 2017.

And last year, a former member of that group’s board, Yongbei Tang, ran for the Hobart City Council.

She strenuously denied links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr Joske said the Tasmanian Government needed to better manage public conversations about potential risks around foreign interference.

“There has been a very weak response to well-founded allegations of Chinese Communist Party interference in Tasmania that doesn’t bode well for deepening relations with China,” Mr Joske said.

Mr Joske said it was important the Commonwealth Government worked with the states to coordinate a national security response.

“States don’t have expertise in foreign policy, intelligence work or security, and this makes them quite vulnerable to influence and manipulation in these areas,” he said.

Mr Hodgman stressed he had received briefings from bureaucrats within his own department, as well as the federal Foreign Affairs department and the Australian Federal Police.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman stands in his office.

PHOTO: Will Hodgman says he has seen no evidence of Chinese interference. (ABC News: Ellen Coulter)

He said it was up to security agencies to manage their briefings.

“What the national security agents do obviously is a matter for them and I’ll be guided by them and it’s their judgement as to what they may or may not brief me or any other Tasmanian officials on,” Mr Hodgman said.

Security agencies are now understood to be involved in ongoing discussions with the Tasmanian Government about its relationship with China.

Mr Hodgman said he had seen no evidence of Chinese Communist Party interference in Tasmania.

“Those who live in our state and in our country will, of course, also appreciate our cultural values, and they’ll understand, as well, while we have important trade relationships, while we want to strengthen the connections between our state and China, we do so in the context of what Tasmanians believe and our value set.”

But Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor believes China cannot be considered a good friend to have while it is accused of human rights abuses.

In September, a video purportedly showing dozens of Uyghur men blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs at a train station in the north-west region of Xinjiang.

“Just be careful,” Ms O’Connor said.

“We’re dealing here with a totalitarian regime which is irrational, paranoid, misogynist, and apparently hellbent on some sort of global domination.”

Antarctica the ‘strategic new frontier’

PlayGIF34.4 MBSettingsGIF: China will have five Antarctic bases by 2022

In the background of Mr Xi’s 2014 visit and an influx of Chinese tourists, Tasmania has been a strong beneficiary of China’s rapid expansion of its interests in Antarctica.

Tasmania is China’s Antarctic gateway and resupply port, with the state’s businesses supplying about 11 tonnes of produce for each visit as well as a range of Antarctic equipment.

As well as celebrating the maiden voyage of its new icebreaker — the Xue Long 2, which docked in Hobart ahead of its maiden voyage to Antarctica two weeks ago — China is building its fifth Antarctic base in Terra Nova Bay on the Ross Sea, which is expected to be operational in 2022.

Nengye Liu, a Chinese law lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said China’s ambitions in Antarctica were multifaceted.

“It’s a mix of national pride that China can go to very far away part of the world,” Dr Liu said.

“Also it has a scientific interest and a geopolitical interest as a growing power, the second largest economy in the world.

“I think China sees the polar regions — Arctic, Antarctica — also the deep seabed and outer space as … the strategic new frontier where they should have a say in the development of the governance regime.”

Chinese flag onboard vessel

PHOTO: Academics are wary of China’s rapid expansion in Antarctica. (ABC: 7.30)

But some academics are wary of China’s rapid expansion in Antarctica and whether it can be trusted to be a proper custodian.

Earlier this month China and Russia again voted against Australia’s bid to have areas of the east Antarctic region declared a marine sanctuary.

Don Rothwell, an international law expert from Australia’s National University, said China’s intentions in Antarctica were unclear.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity about how it’s expanding its footprint on Antarctica and ultimately what it’s ambitions are,” Professor Rothwell said.

Dr Liu said Tasmania had a pivotal role to play in monitoring China going forward, but added it was a “delicate balance”.

“On the one hand, maintain Hobart and Tasmania’s role [as] a pivotal, gateway city, but on the other hard it should also keep a close eye on what Chinese expeditioners are doing.”

‘Business wouldn’t grow if we didn’t take a chance in China’

Mr Hodgman said he believed the state was getting the balance right in talking about China.

“There’s no doubt many people across the globe and particularly in the Australian community and here in Tasmania have concerns about the Chinese Government, its past record and perhaps more importantly what it does into the future,” he said.

“[But] China is our largest trading partner, it’s our first billion-dollar export trading partner, about one-third of our export trade, and many visitors come from China to our state to support our tourism industry.”

Dr Harrison said the state seemed to better balancing the rhetoric around China.

“The State Government is clearly in a different place to where it was in 2014, and that’s a broadly good thing,” he said.

Mr Lowe said building Tasmania’s relationship with China was one of his proudest achievements, as did Ms Giddings.

“Business wouldn’t grow, jobs would not be created here in Tasmania if we didn’t take a chance in China and other parts of the Asian region,” Ms Giddings said.

“The reality is a small population of 500,000-plus people, we don’t have a big enough local economy to grow.”

Tourists take photos from the Wineglass Bay lookout

PHOTO: Within a year of Mr Xi’s visit, Chinese tourists numbers increased 38 per cent. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)

NSW to FEDS: cough-up Infrastructure funds

NSW to feds: cough-up infrastructure funds

By Unconventional Economist in Australian budget

November 19, 2019 | 3 comments

The NSW Government has demanded the federal government commit and bring forward funding for shovel-ready infrastructure projects in Sydney:

In the letter dated November 7 sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the NSW leaders have asked the Commonwealth to bring forward crucial funding to assist the state in getting the Sydney Metro West and the Sydney Metro Greater West moving.

The Daily Telegraph revealed last week that the State Government currently faces a $30 billion funding shortfall to build the mammoth infrastructure pipeline it has announced into the future.

“We appreciate the Commonwealth Government’s funding for projects such as the Pacific Highway and WestConnex,” extracts of the letter provided to The Daily Telegraph state.

“But in the context of the scale of the task, we are asking the Commonwealth Government to commit further funding and bring forward funding for NSW infrastructure projects.”

The NSW Government is justified in demanding greater funding.

It is the federal government that has chosen to force-feed Sydney with migrants, which will see Sydney’s population almost double over the next half-century:

Therefore, the federal government should pick-up the cost, especially given it receives 80% of Australia’s tax revenue, and gains the most from mass immigration via increased personal and company taxes.

The states, by contrast, are left carrying the cost of infrastructure and services to support population growth (think roads, public transport, schools and hospitals).

Analysis by the Grattan Institute in 2014 showed that “unprecedented infrastructure spending by states and territories” since the escalation of population growth from 2004 is “largely responsible for a $106 billion decline in their finances since 2006“, and that “after a threefold increase in capital spending over the last 10 years, states are paying 3 per cent more of their revenues in interest and depreciation”.

Separately, Grattan executive director, John Daley, recently noted that “state governments were struggling to deal with rapid population growth in their major cities and the quality of life of residents – represented by the rapid growth in house prices in recent decades – was suffering”.

To date, the states have ‘managed’ these costs by shoving massive infrastructure spending off balance sheet, including through privatising assets via budget tricks like Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). In the process, this has created substantial hidden costs for residents – effectively private taxes – via things like tolls and user pays charges.

Infrastructure provision has also failed miserably to keep pace with population growth, as explicitly noted by Infrastructure Australia in December, resulting in crushed living standards.

Until the federal government is directly exposed to the costs of mass immigration – by bearing the costs of economic and social infrastructure – then it will continue to run the program at a turbo-charged rate.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Australia’s income depression deepens

The collapse in Australia’s household incomes has been well documented on Macro Business …

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is file-20190529-126280-ux7t2a.jpg

Photo: The Conversation

Australia’s income depression deepens

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 19, 2019 | 16 comments

The collapse in Australia’s household incomes has been well documented on this site, including:

1. Real Average compensation per employee, which has fallen 2.9% since March 2012:

2. Quarterly real per capita household disposable income, which has fallen by 1.6% in the seven years to June 2017:

Today, I want to turn to the annual State Accounts, which were released last Friday by the ABS, and shows that nominal gross household income per capita rose by just 1.1% in the year to June 2019, which was a deterioration on the prior year and way below the early-1990s recession:

Annual growth in nominal gross household income per capita has averaged 4.0% growth since 1992, which highlights just how much things have changed.

When adjusted for capital city CPI, the situation is obviously much worse, with real gross household income per capita falling by 0.5% and sliding for four consecutive years:

In fact, as shown below, real gross household income per capita is lower today than it was in June 2012 – down 2.0% over the past six years:

*The situation is no better at the state level, with all mainland states except QLD experiencing falling real gross household income per capita:

*This is yet more evidence of the income recession afflicting Australia’s household sector. And it is broad-based and long-lasting. Indeed, as H&H pointed last week, it about to overhaul the US Great Depression experience:

That’s what happens when scum runs your country.

Photo: The Conversation

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Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/11/australias-income-depression-deepens/

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Memo to Recessionberg: mass immigration is destroying productivity

Financial Review: Ageing Population is economic timebomb.

LVO explains where they have gone wrong … and why we have been crushed!

Memo to Recessionberg: mass immigration is destroying productivity

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 19, 2019 | 9 comments

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has penned an op-ed in the AFR championing the “three P’s” of 1) boosting productivity; 2) raising workforce participation; and 3) increasing the population via immigration, to see off the nation’s ageing population:

As a nation, we need to effectively leverage the three P’s – population, participation and productivity – to meet this challenge.

When it comes to workforce participation, we are at record highs and the participation rate for those aged 65 and over has increased from 12.3 per cent to 14.6 per cent over the past five years.

The participation rate for this cohort was less than 6 per cent 20 years ago.

However, with Australians in work currently undertaking 80 per cent of their training before the age of 21, this will have to change if we want to continue to see more Australians stay engaged in work for longer.

When it comes to population, our migration program has served us well. With the median age of migrants being 20 to 25, or 10 years less than that of the broader population, immigration has helped to soften the economic impacts of an ageing population.

Productivity is, however, one area where we must do better. Tracking at less than half the long-term average, our focus is on deregulation, skills, industrial relations and other micro-economic reforms to improve service delivery.

LVO:

Boosting productivity is by far the most important driver of rising living standards over the long-term, since it allows more goods/services to be produced (consumed) from less effort.

Raising labour force participation can also raise living standards.

However, working more hours (increasing participation) can mean that less time is available for other pursuits, such as relaxing or meeting-up with friends.

So while working more will, other things equal, raise incomes and GDP, it can also take away from the other pleasures in life, reducing its benefit.

By contrast, population growth’s impact on living standards is highly questionable. While it certainly does raise headline GDP (more inputs equals more outputs), there are significant doubts over whether it raises per capita GDP, while also placing greater pressure on the environment, pre-existing infrastructure and housing, and Australia’s fixed endowment of mineral resources.

*In fact, there are strong reasons to believe that Australia’s mass immigration program is crushing the nation’s productivity.

*First, Australia’s mass immigration model is crush-loading our major cities, stifling productivity through rising congestion costs, as well as encouraging growth in low productivity people-servicing industries and debt creation, rather than higher productivity tradables.

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*The infrastructure investment required to keep pace with population growth is also much higher cost than in the past, due to diseconomies of scale (e.g. tunnelling and land buy-backs), alongside government corruption in infrastructure selection.

Allowing employers to pluck cheap migrants in lieu of granting wage rises to local workers also discourages companies from innovating and adopting labour saving technologies, while also preventing creative destruction by enabling low productivity companies to remain in business.

Indeed, Australia’s productivity slump has occurred alongside the massive lift in immigration from the early-2003, which speaks volumes:

Of course, there are other drivers of Australia’s sluggish productivity growth.

Australia’s ghastly energy policy (especially around LNG exports) has sent Australian power prices through the roof, raising input costs, making Australian industry uncompetitive, and forcing higher productivity firms in tradable industries to close.

*Third, Australia’s tax system encourages speculation and investment into non-productive housing, and has also helped bias bank lending towards housing over businesses.

Fourth, Australia’s economy is ruled by oligopolies and rent-seekers, whom bend the political decision-making process at their whim.

*Currently, there is no economic plan other than to flood Australia with hundreds-of-thousands of extra people each year to stoke overall economic growth (but not growth per person), to support big business (e.g. the property industry), and to prevent Australia from going into recession (despite growth and income per person stagnating).

Meanwhile, productivity and individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion costs, declining housing affordability, paying more for infrastructure (e.g. toll roads and water desalination), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity.

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper, cloud and outdoor

Josh Frydendberg and his cronies are part of the problem.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. 

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/11/memo-to-recessionberg-mass-immigration-is-destroying-productivity/#comments

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A Crisis of Quality: The Disconnect Between Design and Delivery

‘ … unfortunate processes of D&C procurement and squeezed design programmes have undermined the spirit of communication and teamwork …

District authorities are starting to tighten up “regulations” to get better outcomes for environmental sustainability.

The city of Sydney” is leading the way, and without a doubt we will see these initiatives roll into state and federal regulations.

RELATED ARTICLE ON ‘DESIGN AND CONSTRUCT’: FOUR CORNERS: CRACKING UP

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/08/20/things-fall-apart/

A Crisis of Quality: The Disconnect Between Design and Delivery

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To improve quality and sustainability, the industry now has no choice but to overhaul its design and procurement strategies.

As an architect working on large-scale projects internationally, I’ve seen a number of adverse practices introduced over the past decades.

Two in particular stand out as disproportionately negative influences on design and construction quality: the practice of shrinking design programmes, budgets and scope, and the rise in popularity of inappropriate procurement methodologies.

It’s no secret that decisions made early in the design process are easily implemented, and the later you leave them, the harder it becomes.

True cost savings—without the negative side effects on quality—are in fact made by proper collaboration between the design team and contractor at the outset of a project to embed value engineering, innovation and sustainability into the very bones of a new construction.

Despite this obvious logic, we’re seeing design budgets and scope squeezed, alongside the rise in popularity of design and construct (D&C) procurement, with an associated decline in quality.

Design squeeze: a false economy

When you minimise consultant fees, you naturally constrain the scope of their services. This reduction in design scope leads to less research, less innovation and off-the-shelf vanilla solutions.

They might be quick to document, but they are not necessarily the best solution for the site or brief, with all outcomes potentially affectedarchitectural, structural, services, sustainability and construction.

Clients risk a potentially massive compromise in a holistic design outcome by not getting the right input at the right time—all for a saving in consultant fees that is negligible in the overall picture of the development cost.

This is a false economy when you consider the lifetime costs of building maintenance, servicing and energy use, all of which can have an exponentially negative effect on the asset. And the rapidly growing need to build in sustainability practices cannot be achieved within a reduced design programme.

D&C contracts inappropriate for complex projects

Procurement strategy has a substantial impact on project outcomes, with D&C contracts being particularly contentious, since tenderers typically compete on price. Usually the lowest price wins the contract.

But as we all know, you get what you pay for.

Certainly, this style of contract has its place in simple industrial structures. But at some point the industry started applying the model to more complex projects, which is where it has fallen apart conceptually and in practice.

The process hands a more or less developed design over to tenderers who are then invited to essentially “value engineer” the design and submit their best price.

I sympathise with D&C contractors, who typically have no choice when pricing a job.

In a fierce marketplace, all contractors will put a lot of money and effort into landing projects, and with the contract price as the overarching evaluation criterion, they are forced to be highly competitive to win work.

So in the four to six weeks they have to gather trade prices, of course they look at ways to value engineer, perhaps by lightening the structure, simplifying the mechanical and engineering design, finding cheaper alternatives for finishes and so on.

The only way to get to the lowest price is to cheapen everything. But this has nothing to do with value.

The broken piece of logic of the D&C approach is that the surest way to actually get the best results – including robust value engineering – is through the effort of a good design team combined with early contractor involvement.

A better strategy: early contractor involvement

Projects that achieve great outcomes across all aspects of a development are those that begin with broad collaboration across all consultants and stakeholders—including the contractor.

The benefits the design team and contractor can deliver are manifold, with superior buildings that perform on highly desirable criteria, such as:

  • Lower lifetime energy costs – always an advantage to building owners and tenants.
  • Lower building maintenance costs.
  • Lifetime adaptability.
  • Easier to market and let tenancies.
  • Good environmental credentials.
  • Longevity.

With the architect coordinating the engineers’ and other specialists’ input, and the contractor consulting on the practicalities of construction, you have a formula for success.

The design team do not get disconnected from the building delivery and the contractor participates actively in the design process. All stakeholders are involved throughout the process, and key information does not get lost in translation.

It should be obvious that all of this requires the willingness to collaborate, but the unfortunate processes of D&C procurement and squeezed design programmes have undermined the spirit of communication and teamwork. Both contractors and designers need to relearn to work together.

The impact of sustainability regulations

*District authorities are starting to tighten up regulations to get better outcomes for environmental sustainability.

*The city of Sydney is leading the way, and without a doubt we will see these initiatives roll into state and federal regulations.

There will be no choice for developers and building owners but to have specialist involvement from the outset of a project and follow through to completion, covering the entire lifecycle of a development.

We don’t have to wait for the National Construction Code to be rewritten; we have the tools and the knowledge to design and deliver quality, sustainable architecture. We just need to refocus the process.


Sven Ollmann is studio principal for Warren and Mahoney’s Sydney office. With over 25 years’ experience working at the forefront of sustainable design across Europe and Australia, Sven has an impressive career portfolio including Sydney’s Deutsche Bank Place for Foster + Partners and Frankfurt’s acclaimed Commerzbank building.


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