WHY does the Morrison Coalition Government not root out and stop all property money laundering instead? Cough … cough …
WHEN only as recently as October 2018 the Morrison Coalition Government exempted the Real Estate Gatekeepers from the Second Tranche of the AML Laws … disgraceful!
-hence the resurge of buyers from China and Hong Kong …locking out our FHBs
(Real Estate Agents, Lawyers, Accountants and Conveyancers = Gatekeepers)
AND the other issue of hidden political cash donations … ?
NOW not only the Real Estate Gatekeepers have been flourishing in money laundering but it emerges Funeral Directors too … apart from Tradies, and some notorious ‘ethnic’ communities who launder in our Real Estate …
WHY pick on ‘Pensioners’? ... What are they doing with wads of $10,000 in cash anyway?
ON another level, is the Government moving ahead with negative rates, and making customers pay the banks to hold their money?
Ban on $10,000 cash purchases set to become law despite concerns
A controversial bill to ban cash payments over $10,000 and impose two-year jail sentences on those caught using cash above that limit is poised to pass Federal Parliament despite bitter divisions within both major parties.
The Morrison government is set to win support from Labor to legislate the controversial crackdown, which is likely to be opposed by the entire Senate crossbench from the Greens to One Nation.
*The proposal has been criticised by tradespeople, pensioners and some ethnic communities, with government MPs reporting a fierce backlash from within their own branches over the laws.
*Some Labor MPs have also expressed reservations over the laws, aimed at cracking down on crime syndicates that launder money through the black-market economy.
But the opposition will likely vote in favour of the laws when a Senate committee inquiry hands down a recommendation that the bill be supported on Friday.
Assistant Minister Michael Sukkar has moved to quell unrest among the Coalition party room over the bill in the face of a torrent of criticism from backbench MPs as well as party members who believe the crackdown on cash is a breach of the government’s stated belief in the free market.
Mr Sukkar said the laws were a recommendation from the government’s Black Economy Taskforce as a way to stop criminal gangs using large cash purchases of cars, houses and jewellery to launder their gains from illegal activities.
“The key focus of the bill isreducing the ease with which organised crime gangs can operate throughout the country,” Mr Sukkar said.
Government sources told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald they were prepared to call the bluff of Coalition senators and the “tin foil hat brigade” who might cross the floor on the issue.
A video recording of Mr Frydenberg being asked about the cash ban at a Liberal Party function in Brisbane last week shows the Treasurer pressed on what the government hoped to achieve from the move.
He said the government was acting on recommendations of its own black economy task force.
“This was really to go to the heart of the issue of ensuring there’s less of a black economy and more of an economy sticking to the right rules,” he said.
The Greens have told supporters it is also opposed to the ban, drawing on some of the internal criticisms made by rank-and-file members of the Liberal Party.
“The bill is a case of the cure being worse than the disease,” the Greens have told supporters in emails seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
“The bill would criminalise the use of legal tender. In doing so, the bill challenges the freedoms that hard currency provides and lays a path towards further restrictions on the use of cash and even negative interest rates.”
While the Australian Tax Office wants to stamp out the “black economy” by curbing large cash payments, critics said the cost would be far greater than the benefits if Australians were banned from using more than $10,000 in cash.
Rank-and-file Liberal Party members have expressed privacy concerns over the new laws while those also against the change include the Housing Industry Association, NSW Farmers, the Australian Dental Association and big retail groups that say customers like to save cash to make big payments.
No mention of the second tranche of Anti-Money Laundering Laws being shelved more than 13 years ago ... and then the Morrison Government exempting the Real Estate Gatekeepers (real estate agents, lawyers and accountants) from the second tranche in October 2018 …. Soft!
Why not tell it how it is?
What about real estate, the reports are there, why was it overlooked … seriously? At least its had top billing today, 20 February 2020.
One of the Mosman houses owned by the mysterious Bo Zhang. Sam Mooy
Australia a safe haven for illicit funds, but Cayman Islands the world’s worst
Australia continues to host significant quantities of illicit funds from outside the country and is not doing enough to counter money laundering and tax avoidance, according to the 2020 Financial Secrecy Index.
The Tax Justice Network’s index, released every two years, rates countries based on financial transparency
Cayman Islands ranked as the world’s biggest contributor to financial secrecy, followed by the US and Switzerland
Despite its relatively low ranking at number 48, Australia hosts significant quantities of illicit funds from outside the country
The Tax Justice Network’s index, (TJN)released every two years, rates countries based on financial transparency.
The Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) ranks each country based on how intensely the country’s legal and financial system allows wealthy individuals and criminals to hide and launder money extracted from around the world.
*The Cayman Islands ranked as the world’s biggest contributor to financial secrecy, as a result of the once-notorious tax haven increasing the volume of financial services it provides to non-residents.
The report also noted major risks emanating from Cayman’s hedge fund industry, which uses companies, trusts and limited partnerships that are “cloaked in secrecy”.
In second place was the United States, overtaking Switzerland (now ranked third).
Australia is ranked at 48th position in this year’s index, four places down from its 2018 position.
Despite its relatively low ranking, the report said, “Australia undoubtedly hosts significant quantities of illicit funds from outside the country”.
Australian banks under scrutiny for money laundering
Australia’s big banks have come under scrutiny for failing to detect money laundering and other crimes.
More than 23 million transactions are alleged to have breached anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws, and the bank is facing the prospect of fines that may total more than $1 billion.
Post the Panama Papers, in 2017 Treasury undertook consultation on setting up a beneficial ownership register that would out the people behind secret shell companies.
“There has been no public movement on the register, with the Government continuing to say it is under consideration,” the report said, urging swift action.
*TJN also called on the Federal Government to extend anti-money laundering provisions to real estate agents, dealers, lawyers, accountants and others.
*The government drafted laws in 2007 that would have done so, but those laws were never implemented.
Top 10 worst offenders
British Virgin Islands
United Arab Emirates
Australia was ranked 48th on the 2020 Financial Secrecy Index. (Source: Tax Justice Network).
Calls for Government to do more to fight tax avoidance
*To better counter tax avoidance, the report called on the Federal Government to make public country-by-country reports provided to tax authorities.
These reports, which detail taxes a company pays in each jurisdiction it operates, have been kept secret since they were introduced some years ago as part of the OECD and G20’s base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project that aims to stamp out tax evasion.
“None of the information is made publicly available, which is a major shortcoming given that civil society plays an important part in scrutinising corporate tax behaviour,” the report said.
*The report did note Australian authorities had some success in fighting tax avoidance, through various taskforces and stronger laws such as the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL) and Diverted Profits Tax (DPT).
The ATO has previously said MAAL has resulted in companies booking an additional $7 billion in sales in Australia every year, thus resulting in a higher tax take.
While companies such as Facebook and Google have already restructured their operations due to MAAL, and pay more tax here, the law only applies to sale contracts managed by sales teams in Australia.
*The ATO does not require tech giants to disclose the revenue they book overseas from local clients, meaning authorities have not been able to stop the legal practice of collectively billions of dollars in advertising revenuebeing channelled via low-tax countries like Singapore.
Clark Gascoigne, the interim executive director of the US-based Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, said financial secrecy remains a major problem.
“Financial secrecy enables crimes like human trafficking, tax evasion, and corruption both at home and abroad,” Mr Gascoigne said.
TJN’s report said the United Kingdom (ranked 12th on the index) increased its secrecy score more than any other country by extending its network of satellite jurisdictions to which the country outsources some of its secrecy activity.
*It is often referred to as the “UK spider’s web” — a network of overseas territories and crown dependencies where the UK has full powers to impose or veto lawmaking, and where powers to appoint key government officials rest with the British Crown.
“The UK’s spider’s web included some of the highest-ranking jurisdictions on the Financial Secrecy Index, including Cayman (ranked 1st), the British Virgin Islands, which ranked 9th and Guernsey, which ranked 11th,” the report said.
*A director and founder of the Tax Justice Network, John Christensen, said UK’s surge up the index raised “serious concerns about the UK’s post-Brexit strategy to turn the City of London into a ‘Singapore-on-Thames'”.
TJN‘s report did have some good news. It said financial secrecy around the world is decreasing as a result of some recent transparency reforms.
On average, countries on the index reduced their contribution to global financial secrecy by 7 per cent.
Liz Nelson, a director at the Tax Justice Network, said despite some positive reforms by countries, progress on country-by-country reporting remains slow.
This, she said, had left unchecked the “rampant tax abuse that disproportionally undercuts the people who start out with [fewer] opportunities in life to begin with”.
“The OECD currently has a once-in-a-century opportunity to reform an international tax system that has allowed financial secrecy to flourish,” Ms Nelson added.
TJN’s analysis is ‘misleading’
A number of groups have disputed the TJN’s analysis.
*According to the TJN itself, a higher rank on the index “does not necessarily mean a jurisdiction is more secretive”, but rather that the jurisdiction plays a bigger role globally in enabling secretive banking, anonymous shell company ownership, anonymous real estate ownership or other forms of financial secrecy“.
It said a highly secretive jurisdiction that provides little to no financial services to non-residents, such as Samoa (ranked 86th), will rank belowa moderately secretive jurisdiction that is a major world player, such as Japan (ranked 7th).
But Cayman Finance, the association representing financial services firms in that country, said the report contained “misleading and inaccurate information”.
“The Cayman Islands would not be highly ranked on any secrecy index that is objective, transparent, and based on standards established by global standard setting bodies,” Cayman Finance said in a statement.
“The Cayman Islands, particularly its financial services industry, has been recognised for decades as a strong international partner in combatting corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing and tax evasion.”
The United Kingdom’s Treasury also disputed the findings, telling The Guardian that it did not recognise the basis of TJN’s assessment and that “we have been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of the greater drive for transparency”.
The NSW government is considering a plan to dissolve its troubled property development arm Landcom in order to address the politically sensitive task of removing its chief executive, John Brogden, a longstanding friend of the Premier.
The plan, to either dissolve the state-owned corporation or place it under the auspices of the NSW Planning Department, is being considered in part over concerns about a torrid culture at the agency, but also because of the “Brogden problem”, as some officials have begun to term it.
Mr Brogden is a former leader of the NSW Liberal Party and a friend of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. He was appointed to the $600,000-a-year job in May 2018 following a competitive recruitment process, having previously served as the agency’s acting chief executive for seven months. Questions were initially raised about his appointment because he was chosen above a preferred candidate put forward by the minister overseeing Landcom at the time, Anthony Roberts.
The multi-billion-dollar organisation, which employs approximately 163 people, has experienced turmoil on a number of fronts, including sustained bullying allegations made against its chair, Suzanne Jones, and the loss of 33 staff over a two-year period. Another executive accused of bullying was paid a substantial amount of money to leave the organisation. Some of these issues predated Mr Brogden’s appointment.
Landcom’s role is to manage crown land for the NSW government and develop housing projects with a social and economic benefit to the state. Another priority is to address housing affordability and issues of supply throughout NSW.
The plan to dissolve the agency is being welcomed in some quarters as an opportunity to reform the agency’s culture under a new leadership and, separately, enable a soft exit for Mr Brogden.
Neither Landcom nor Mr Brogden responded to a request for comment.
“She can’t afford to have him go rogue,” a source said, referring to Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Brogden. A second source remarked: “What can they do? He’s a former Liberal leader.”
The Australian has been told that, separately, the NSW government is considering a plan to wind down the Sydney Olympic Park Authority over its alleged mismanagement of the Sydney Opal Tower crisis just before Christmas 2018.
The authority manages 430ha of parkland, seven sporting venues and a business district in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, which attracts more than 14 million visitors each year and is home to about 230 businesses.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is understood to be supportive of the plan to dissolve both agencies, but said in a statement that no changes had been made by the government.
SOPA chairman John Fahey, a former NSW premier and party elder, is understood to be lobbying the government to save the organisation. The Premier did not respond to requests for comment.
Labor planning spokesman Adam Searle said Landcom should not be dissolved in order to solve an awkward political problem.
“If the government has a problem with the management of an agency, it should address the problem head on,” he said.
He described the corporation as a “vital development agency” that could stimulate the housing market during times of downturn.
STATE POLITICAL REPORTERYoni Bashan is The Australian’s NSW political correspondent. He began his career at The Sunday Telegraph and has won multiple awards for crime writing and specialist investigations. In 2014 he was seconded on a… Read more
The Electrical Trades Union has accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian of either deliberately lying to the public or being grossly incompetent after she used a live television interview to falsely claim that electricity distributor Ausgrid had increased its workforce during the past five years.When challenged on Seven’s Sunrise program about the impact of staffing cuts at Ausgrid on the lengthy blackouts impacting tens of thousands of homes and businesses, Ms Berejiklian claimed that: “There’s actually more full time staff today than there was five years ago in that organisation”.According to Ausgrid’s own figures, the company had a full time equivalent workforce of 5,713 in the 2012/13 financial year, which was reduced to 5,390 by the 2014 financial year. In the past five years that number has been cut by a third, dropping to 3504 in June 2019.Ausgrid chief operating officer Trevor Armstrong also admitted the scale of staffing cuts, telling ABC radio that in the order of 5,000 jobs have been lost across the entire NSW electricity network.
Staffing levels at Ausgrid have fallen below minimum legal levels, which is hindering the electricity supplier’s efforts to restore power across NSW, the industry’s union says.
Under the terms of its privatisation Ausgrid must have at least 3,570 full-time staff
Ausgrid says its levels are still above the legal requirement when contractors are counted
More than 20,000 homes and businesses remain without power following storms
A leaked internal document, obtained by the ABC, shows Ausgrid’s total number of staff as of December 2019 was 3,238 — 10 per cent below the minimum legal requirement.
Under the terms of its partial privatisation by the NSW Government in 2015, Ausgrid is legally required to maintain at least 3,570 full-time equivalent staff.
Electrical Trades Union Secretary Justin Page said it was clear staffing levels were inadequate and were affecting Ausgrid’s ability to restore power supplies after last week’s storms.
“Ausgrid does not have the resources to adequately restore power when these natural weather events occur,” he said.
“These distribution workers have been working for months now trying to restore power through fires, floods, storms, under-resourced and working long hard hours and frustrated that they can’t provide the service that they used to provide to the community to restore power quickly.”
Ausgrid’s chief operating officer Trevor Armstrong said staff numbers were above the legal requirement and the leaked document did not account for long-term contractors employed for more than 12 months.
@Ausgrid When will someone be back to finish this job in Beacon Hill. The tree was removed Monday, and the lines were replaced. We were promised power back Monday night. But it wasn’t. And no one has returned to complete the job. Leaving wires taped to a pole. Please advise.
He said Ausgrid’s latest staff levels, as reported to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in February were actually 3,950.
Mr Armstrong also disputed suggestions Ausgrid was inadequately staffed to respond to the storm.
“No good business would resource up to the level required to meet this sort of natural disaster,” he said.
“That’s why we have sharing arrangements in place throughout the country for electrical resources in this time of need, which we’ve put in place.”
Ausgrid said almost 19,000 homes and businesses were still without power in Sydney and the Central Coast.
It has enlisted additional crews from Energy Queensland and around 150 staff from the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW to help restore services.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was appropriate for Ausgrid to call in extra resources.
“This was a once-in-30-year event,” she said.
“As soon as the Government was made aware that Ausgrid was struggling we’ve made sure those extra people have gone in and we’re making sure that power is restored as soon as possible.”
Ausgrid said it hoped to have power restored to all of its customers by Sunday.
About 50 Endeavour Energy customers in the Hawkesbury area are still without power but the company said it hoped to have their services restored by this evening.
Labor’s shadow minister for climate change and energy Adam Searle said Ms Berejiklian made a commitment in law that Ausgrid would maintain minimum staffing levels to ensure proper service to the community.
“This is nothing short of a scandal. These documents have shown that Ausgrid has cut more staff than they were allowed to.
“No wonder Ausgrid has struggled to reconnect communities across the network to communities in need.”
NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean said the storm was one of the biggest to hit the network in 20 years with more than 180 poles and 1,000 cables down.
“I want to apologise to those that are still without power and let them know that we’re doing everything possible to get them on,” he said.
“As soon as Ausgrid asked us for additional resources I responded immediately.”
A whistleblower and former employee of ClubsNSW has claimed that money laundering through poker machines is rife in pubs and clubs across the country.
A ClubsNSW board document obtained by the ABC shows up to 95 per cent of clubs have not been complying with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said in Parliament that the clubs were “operating illegally”
ClubsNSW says it is helping smaller clubs to meet the requirements, while larger clubs are being “proactive”
In an exclusive interview with the ABC, Troy Stolz, a former ClubsNSW anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance (AML/CTF) compliance auditor, said that the scale of the problem was both “massive” and “alarming”.
“The crooks are going [into pubs and clubs] with their drug money and putting it in the machines and the crooks are cleaning it,” he said.
In a speech to Federal Parliament earlier today, independent MP Andrew Wilkie said up to95 per cent of clubs in New South Wales were “operating illegally” by not complying with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.
“No-one is doing anything about it,” he said.
Mr Wilkie said the “alarming information” came from a 2019 ClubsNSW board paper provided to him by a whistleblower.
Mr Wilkie requested leave to table the ClubsNSW board document in Parliament, but leave was not granted.
“Deputy Speaker … they’re running a protection racket for the gambling industry,” he called out after the decision.
Mr Stolz, who worked for ClubsNSW for nine years and left his job in September last year, told the ABC he was the source of the leaked document.
ClubsNSW represents over 1,000 RSL, sporting and other clubs in the state, which has around half of Australia’s poker machines.
A ClubsNSW spokesperson described today’s speech as “more anti-club hysteria from Andrew Wilkie”.
“If Andrew Wilkie has evidence of a licensed venue not meeting its AML/CTF obligations then he should raise the matter with AUSTRAC so the regulator can properly investigate,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Stolz explained how low and mid-tier drug operations were exploiting club pokies rooms, by depositing large sums of cash into poker machines, playing for a short period of time, then withdrawing the laundered money.
“With criminal organisations or individuals exploiting clubs and pubs … they’re willing to lose 20-30 per cent of what they want to clean at the end of the day to get that winning cheque or that piece of paper that validates where they’ve got that money from,” he said.
An estimated 770 clubs in NSW have more than 15 poker machines and are therefore considered “full reporting entities” under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.
These clubs are required to make reports for transactions over $10,000 to the regulator AUSTRAC.
Mr Stolz said that most launderers worked just below the threshold for what might raise suspicions for large transactions.
“These criminals know that the limit is $10,000. So they will structure their transactions to go under the radar so they might go in and do say $5,500, take part cheque, part cash,” he said.
Mr Stolz said it can be labour intensive to launder money in this way but that clubs are ‘untouched’ by authorities compared to the banks.
“To clean the money from your drug sales, you send out someone — a uni student — working for you, in a day and give them 50 or 100 different venues to do. And you’ve got a team of 10. It’s quite easy to clean a lot of that money,” he said.
‘The whole industry is at risk’
Part of Mr Stolz’s former job involved advising and training staff from member clubs on what the law required them to do to prevent money-laundering, particularly around poker machines.
He said the understanding of these issues at the individual club level was “still very primitive”.
“The whole industry is at risk,” he said.
“The gaming machines are a perfect opportunity for launderers to get into venues — you’re relying on staff to be diligent, trained and the systems [to be] in place to pick up any abnormal behaviour.”
ClubsNSW should ‘enhance’ training, board paper says
The internal ClubsNSW document recommended that the association should “enhance” its training to member clubs in this area.
Clubs that pay around $30,000 per year for what’s called ClubSAFE premium membership get the top training package included with its membership.
Smaller clubs that could not afford premium membership get minimal training and must pay for additional training courses.
While ClubsNSW enjoys the benefits of not-for-profit status, the board paper quoted by Mr Wilkie refers to the importance of ClubsNSW making a profit out of its services — such as anti-money laundering training — that the organisation provides to member clubs.
A ClubsNSW spokesperson said they had identified the challenges for “low-risk” smaller clubs “given that many of these venues are community-run operations with a small number of paid staff”.
Moreover, ClubsNSW said its larger member clubs were taking a “proactive approach … and had appropriately minimised their risk of falling victim to money laundering practices”.
“ClubsNSW takes this issue very seriously, as do our members, with thousands of club employees completing AML/CTF training in the past 18 months alone.”
Regulator could do more
The Federal Government’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, is responsible for monitoring venues to make sure programs are in place which monitor transactions or identify customers.
Mr Stolz says that in 2016 he was told by AUSTRAC that 150 pubs and clubs had been ‘red flagged’ because they weren’t compliant, but in the last five years, no club had been issued a fine.
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Mr Stolz said AUSTRAC was not doing enough to enforce compliance in pubs and clubs.
“AUSTRAC essentially can come and pull the plug on your gaming machines”, he said.
“If we want to get down [on] crime and improve community standards, we should be addressing this issue. And it’s not hard at all. Governments should throw a little bit of money into AUSTRAC, give them some extra bodies and let them loose on the industry.”
A spokesperson from AUSTRAC said it assessed the compliance of several pubs and clubs in NSW in 2019.
“AUSTRAC engages closely with pubs and clubs and industry associations, including ClubsNSW, to help educate staff working in pubs and clubs so they know what to look out for,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Stolz is currently involved in a legal dispute with ClubsNSW, his former employer.
ClubsNSW did not comment on questions relating to Mr Stolz.
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The Pharmacy Guild of Australia donated more than $770,000 to political parties last financial year, ahead of the federal election – and ahead of the largely secret but sometimes volatile negotiations over the new Community Pharmacy Agreement that is due to come into effect in July.
The big political spend – more than triple the donations made in previous years – also comes at a time when pharmacists are looking to further push into primary care, despite opposition from doctors.
Last week,The New Daily reported that Queensland is just weeks away from allowing pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections, a move that doctors have called irresponsible because of the growing catastrophe of microbial resistance.
The Community Pharmacy Agreement – renegotiated every five years – determines how much money pharmacies are paid for dispensing medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and the sorts of services that can be accessed at the pharmacy.
The sixth agreement, set to expire in June, was worth $18.9 billion dollars to community pharmacies.
The guild isn’t the professional body for pharmacists – that’s the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. The guild is a straight-up lobby group representing the financial interests of pharmacy owners.
It has a successful history of riding herd on emerging policies that would have benefited consumers, but eaten into member profits. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the most powerful lobby group in Australia.
So what’s with the political donations?
The $773,800 donated by the guild to political parties in the last financial year was significantly higher than in previous years. Most of the money (more than $590,000) was a loser bet, going to the Labor Party, which was expected to win.
Two months out from the election – and directly addressing the new round of negotiations – the openly pugnacious guild president George Tambassis wrote to his members, declaring the guild wanted veto power over any government health policy that might affect pharmacies.
Mr Tambassis said the guild wanted “an express commitment that where, during the term of the seventh agreement, the Australian government proposes a health-related reform that may impact community pharmacy, any decision to proceed must be with written agreement of the guild”.
At the same time, the guild took out full-page ads in newspapers “to remind the government, ahead of the Federal Budget being handed down next week, that community pharmacy needs the government’s support”.
Why the foot stamping?
As outlined by Australian Doctor, this muscle-flexing was part of the guild’s response to murmurs that health ministers “were planning to allow patients to collect two months’ of prescription medicines per pharmacy visit rather than one.”
The proposal – from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee – would have benefited patients with stable, chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and glaucoma.
The guild’s Mr Tambassis complained that the government “intended to implement this measure without any consultation whatsoever with the guild”. Describing the policy as “catastrophic”, he warned such a move would lead to many lost jobs and drive pharmacies “to the wall”.
The wash-up? What appeared to be, on the face of it, a modest, sensible proposal has been put on hold.
Six months later, with the Coalition still in power, in a Sydney Morning Herald report, former chief of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Graeme Samuel accused governments of bowing to the Pharmacy Guild’s “political blackmail” at the expense of consumers, “calling for deregulation to open the sector to competition and deliver cheaper medicines.”
How much are we being slugged?
A 2017 report from Dr Stephen Duckett at The Grattan Institute concluded that Australia was paying $500 million a year too much for medications.
Dr Duckett wrote: “Australians on average pay five times the best international price for a group of seven commonly prescribed drugs. The price of the cholesterol medicine atorvastatin (Lipitor), the most prescribed drug in Australia, is about 1.5 times the best international price. In Australia, a box of 30 1mg tables of the breast cancer drug anastrozole (Arimidex) costs $19.20. In the UK it is just $2.45.
“The high price doesn’t just hit Australians in the hip pocket, it harms their health: in the past 12 months about 8 per cent of Australians didn’t get, or deferred getting, prescribed drugs because they couldn’t afford them.”
What the opposing parties say
In emails, the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners – both groups bitterly opposed to the Queensland antibiotic trial – confirmed to The New Daily that they do not give political donations.
A statement from RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said:
“We recognise that political donations create conflicts of interest. It is critical for the health of Australians and for our world-class healthcare system that our nation’s health policy is evidence based, and free from vested interests fuelled by political donations.
“We are deeply concerned that political donations can be used as a sweetener to push through policy changes that put financial gains ahead of patient care and safety.”
A statement from Greg Turnbull, for the Pharmacy Guild, said the guild “disputes the Duckett analysis. The PBS is the best subsidised medicine scheme in the world, delivering exceptional value to patients and to taxpayers.”
He said: “The Pharmacy Guild does not have a ‘strategy to protect pharmacy profits ahead of consumer interests’ as you so prejudicially put it.
“As for Graeme Samuel’s talk about cheaper medicines. The PBS price disclosure mechanism has delivered cheaper medicines for Australians for more than a decade. Currently a concession cardholder in Australia can be dispensed, for example, a $15,000 life-saving Hep C medicine for $6.50. How much cheaper does Graeme Samuel want that to be?”
Mr Turnbull declined to answer why the guild had tripled its political donations.
Coronavirus lockdown: Hundreds fear for Australian permanent residency outcomes
Danni Shen’s Australian dreams are on hold while she is stuck in China. Source: Supplied
Migration agents say they’ve been flooded with calls from Chinese nationals who are worried their Australian visas could expire or become invalid, while they’re locked out of the country.
UPDATED 7 FEBRUARY 2020
BY LUCY MURRAY, EMILY JANE SMITH
Lara Huanghadn’t been home for three years when she made the journey back to China to visit her parents for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, her timing couldn’t have been worse.
Days after she arrived, the coronavirus outbreak worsened and flights from mainland China to Australia were suspended. Now, Lara is at risk of jeopardising her chance at permanent residency.
Lara applied for permanent residency in the ACT under one of the government’s new regional skilled migration schemes after completing her studies in Canberra. Any holiday more than six weeks will affect her application.
“It is very stressful waiting … no-one knows when the travel ban is going to be cancelled,” Lara told SBS Dateline from China.
“I understand why the government has chosen to do this …. but all my plans are in Australia and suddenly that is just paused.”
As well as the six week limit, Lara needs to secure permanent work before her application is finalised. She has recently graduated and had interviews lined up for her return.
“I’ve had to tell all these potential employers ‘hey, I’m really sorry, I can’t come back and I don’t know when I can’,” she said.
“I hope there won’t be any discrimination about [the coronavirus] and I still have the same chance getting a job.
“My friend’s highschool kids are saying they are being bullied, other friends in share-houses were told not to use the common kitchen,” she said.Danni Shen (left) has been working toward Australian permanent residency for three years.Dateline
Lara is one of hundreds of hopeful permanent residents who are now in limbo in China.
Kirk Yan is the director of immigration service Newstars Education and Migration and is a migration agent. He said hundreds of people have contacted him for help since the travel restrictions were implemented last weekend.
“I’ve been working from the morning until 11 or 12 at night. I’m always trying to keep up to date with current announcements from the government, press releases and interviews.”
Kirk has five accounts on the popular Chinese social media site WeChat. He said each account receives hundreds of inquiries everyday.
“There is lots of uncertainty,” he said.
Kirk said the Department of Home Affairs is changing its policies which is making it difficult for people to plan.
“They are always asking me what is my advice and what I can do. But to be frank, I don’t have much of a clue myself. I don’t know what the best option is for them,” he said.
SBS Dateline requested comment from the department but did not receive a response.
To be a successful permanent resident in Australia, an applicant needs to achieve a certain number of points which can be earned with proof of stable work, completing education courses, and proof of living in that area. Being in China for an extended period of time puts an applicant at risk of missing-out on points.
Danni Shen is in northern China after returning to see family for New Year. She was already due back in Melbourne but was stuck in China after the travel ban.
Danni is enrolled in and paid for courses that will help her achieve permanent residency. Now her education, job and eventual permanent residency is at risk.
“If I can’t go back to the class then I don’t have attendance, so I can’t graduate,” she said.
If Danni doesn’t graduate her dreams to stay in Australia may be over.
“For three years I have worked to get PR, this right to be Australian.
“I might have to re-enrol in my classes which will be in another one year, but my visa expires in 2021.
“Already the migration process is hard for people, the points can be so high for lots of people, timing is important but lots of people are in a difficult position and they don’t know how to proceed.”
Kirk Yan is unsure if people can argue special circumstances.
“At the end of the day you have to meet the requirements of the [Department of Home Affairs],” he said.
“So many people have been affected by the travel ban and I haven’t seen the Home Affairs or Border Force making any suggestions they would give any special circumstances.”
CAAN SOLUTIONS to be shared with Scott Morrison, Treasurer!
WE THANK ‘THE FIFTH ESTATE’ for holding this Flash Forum last night: we conveyed the following:
THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT should immediately introduce the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation to be applied to the property sector professionals as applied to the banking sector:
-to eradicate the Daigou (Proxy onshore) from purchasing both new and established property for foreign buyers
(Refer to Transparency International, a Global Watchdog, and the reports of Investigative Journalist Michael West)
-the foreign buyer/investor also takes advantage of the Australian negative gearing and capital gains benefits!
THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT should immediately reverse the FIRB Ruling Change of 2008/09:
-that allows developers to sell (up to) 100 per cent of new homes off the plan to foreign buyers
AS for any suggestion it cannot be 100 per cent sell-off to overseas buyers, why therefore did the Developer Lobby exert pressure on the government of the day (2008) to lift the sell-off of new homes to foreign buyers from 50 per cent to 100 per cent?
DESPITE this ruling change it has been reported that only 11 per cent of residential homes are bought by foreign buyers. That does not add up!
Enter the DAIGOU; the onshore Proxy buyer who can buy new and established homes for overseas buyers thus the true percentage is hidden!
Nor would a Vancouver like Tax affect a property purchased through a Daigou!
Add to the mix A BIG AUSTRALIA POLICY with 200,000 migrating to Sydney and Melbourne annually.
-1.3 million visa holders here in Australia all need accommodation!
– significant investment $5M; investor stream with the investment of $1.5 M in property or a business to gain a Residency Visa; hence the house price rise in Sydney to $1.5 M near the best schools
-Guardian visa for both a 6 year old student and the guardian allowing them to each buy 1, 2 or more new homes or an established home; student and 457 visas and others
STAMP DUTY absorbs a high percentage of the average annual wage; obviously it needs to be pared back!
-Stamp Duty as a percentage of the wage was 38% now it is 79% for Sydney
-Melbourne stamp duty fee now represents 81% of the annual average wage
THE HOUSING SUPPLY IS NOT MEETING THE FOREIGN DEMAND!
-with the introduction of the Medium-Density Housing Code of the Greater Sydney Commission will (up to) 100 per cent of this new housing also be built and sold to foreign buyers due to the FIRB ruling change still current?
For various articles to back up what we say about the housing affordability crisis please scroll down CAAN NOTES: