Monday 23rd of April 2018

budget butchery — offal and porkies, a speciality...

blood and guts


Joe Hockey to put reasonableness to testSydney Morning Herald columnist


Undoubtedly, the headline is strong, "Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access", yet it is the publication as a whole that will have to be assessed by the court. 

In the meantime, unlike the members of the North Sydney Forum, there's been no privileged government access for Fairfax journalists. The Australian Financial Review reported that PM Abbott's press secretary Jane McMillan told ministerial flack merchants not to give any special assistance to reporters from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Hockey told the Q&A viewers on Monday night: "I would urge you not to believe everything you read in The Sydney Morning Herald and for good reason." 

Fairfax will just have to bend over and take the cuts. 

It should be said that in England a leveraged case structured like Hockey's would not get to first base. Here the plaintiff is suing three separate publishers, The Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times and each of their platforms, print, tablet and online. That's nine separate claims for substantially the same story, seeking up to nine separate awards of damages. 

That's not on in England, where only one pick at the cherry is permissible. Of course, in the USA a case from a leading politician would not even get out the front door of a lawyer's office. 

Frankly, it is regrettable that a politician, with the absolute privilege of the echo chamber of parliament, runs to the court to assert his reputation. It's almost as embarrassing as journalists suing for defamation.  

Richard Ackland is the publisher of the Gazette of Law & Journalism. Twitter @JustinianNews

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a thought for starving children and take the sponsorship...

starving kids


Government backbencher George Christensen says he has received a death threat following comments he made about the federal budget and has accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of "fanning this violence".

Labor has called on the Prime Minister to immediately force the Liberal National MP to apologise for the "offensive" comments and said threats of violence were never acceptable.

Mr Christensen says he has referred the threat to the Australian Federal Police.


Mr Christensen, the LNP member for Dawson, stirred up anger on social media on Thursday when he tweeted that Australians complaining about the federal budget should get some perspective and do a "tour of Asia and live like locals".

The tweet, coupled with an image of an impoverished child from Cambodia, prompted an immediate backlash. from Twitter users.

Australia is on the verge of signing a memorandum of understanding with the South-East Asian nation to send refugees to resettle there from Nauru.

Mr Christensen's comments about Asia stand alongside a budget that rips $7.8 billion from foreign aid over five years.


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Meanwhile at not-starving Francesgate:

Is Tony Abbott ‘in serious contempt of the House of Representatives’ by not declaring his daughter’s scholarship? Tax specialist Bill Mavropoulos analyses the facts and legislation to conclude he probably is.

FRANCES ABBOTT is probably a lovely girl. I have nothing against her personally, but receiving that scholarship and job is wrong.

Most journalists covering this story have stated that the rules may allow the non-disclosure of this scholarship but ethically it should have still been declared.

These journalists’ rely upon a statement the Prime Minister made as follows:

‘The clerk of the House has further advised that there are no obvious provisions in the Members’ interests that would require the declaration of such a scholarship nor is there any reference in the more detailed notes provided to members for their guidance in making declarations that such scholarships need to be declared.’

If I was this clerk’s boss I would fire him/her for that comment, along with the journalists covering this story and I’ll tell you why.

The issue

The issue concerns a Tony Abbott, not his daughter so much.

Tony’s daughter Frances Abbott received a scholarship valued at around $60,000 from a Sydney Design College the Whitehouse Institute of Design.

The Chairman of the Design College is Les Taylor who has admitted to providing a personal recommendation on behalf of Frances Abbott. Les Taylor, a prominent barrister, was a donor to the Liberal Party at the relevant time. The Whitehouse Institute of Design purports to not ordinarily offer scholarships to gain a place into the bachelor of design.

Measures within the 2014-15 Budget impact upon this institution.


The parliamentary rule

Standing Order 216 establishes a ‘Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interest’ at the commencement of each Parliament. Members are required to declare ‘Registrable interests’ to it in accordance with a Resolution of the House made on 9 October 1984 as amended, which is included as an appendix to the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. Relevantly, a member is required under the resolution to make the following disclosures:

1.Registration of Members’ interests

a.within 28 days of making and subscribing an oath or affirmation as a Member of the House of Representatives each Member shall provide to the Registrar of Members’ Interests, a statement of:


ii. the registrable interests of which the Member is aware (a) of the Member’s spouse and (b) of any children who are wholly or mainly dependent on the Member for support, in accordance with resolutions adopted by the House and in a form determined by the Committee of Members' Interests or by the Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests from time to time, and shall also notify any alteration of those interests to the Registrar within 28 days of that alteration occurring...

The definition of a ‘Registrable interests’ includes the following:

  1. Registrable interests

That the statement of a Member’s registrable interests to be provided by a Member shall include the registrable interests of which the Member is aware (l) of the Member’s spouse and (2) of any children who are wholly or mainly dependent on the Member for support, and shall cover the following matters:


  1. the nature of any other assets (excluding household and personal effects) each valued at over $7,500;


  •        any other interests where a conflict of interest with a Member’s public duties could

       foreseeably arise or be seen to arise.

Analysis of whether a breach of the rule has occurred

The Prime Minister has made public statements through a spokesperson to the media that:

Mr Abbott confirmed through a spokeswoman on Wednesday that his daughter had received the scholarship, but said he was not required to disclose it as it did not constitute a gift.

She said Frances Abbott was awarded a scholarship from the institute in 2011 ‘‘based on her application and art portfolio’’.

‘‘Under the Statement of Registrable Interests, a scholarship is not a gift, it is an award based on merit and disclosure is not required,’’ the spokeswoman said in a statement.

‘‘If alternative advice is provided, Mr Abbott will meet the amended requirements.’’

The Spokesperson for the Tony Abbott is referring to the following item that is also a ‘Registrable interests’ under the Resolution:

(k) gifts valued at more than $750 received from official sources, or at more than $300 where received from other than official sources provided that a gift received by a Member, the Member’s spouse or dependent children from family members or personal friends in a purely personal capacity need not be registered unless the Member judges that an appearance of conflict of interest may be seen to exist...

However, with respect, the spokesperson is incorrect, because this is not the only definition of a ‘registrable interest’ provided under the relevant resolution or the disclosure form Parliamentarians fill out. This fact would be well known to members of parliament, but not so well known to the average man on the street — unless, of course, they wade through the rules of Parliament on the APH website.

A scholarship is an award that waives a student’s liability for tuition fees charged for attending an educational institution by that institution or another party not otherwise affiliated with the student. This award leads to the student not having to make the payment in question from another source.

In other words, a scholarship is the provision of a future economic benefit because of the past event of  granting that award. The definition of an asset from the ‘Framework for the Preparation and Presentation of Financial Statements’issued by the Australian Accounting Standards Board is as follows:

‘An asset is a resource controlled by the entity as a result of past events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the entity.’

This means that on the grant of the scholarship of over $7,500 by Whitehouse Institute of Design to Frances Abbott is a ‘registrable interest’ fitting the description under 2.i., which was quoted from the Resolution as follows:

‘… any other assets (excluding household and personal effects) each valued at over $7,500.’

Clearly, a scholarship is not a household item or personal effect. It is also presumably not in dispute that Frances Abbott was, at the relevant time, a dependent of Tony Abbott — as acknowledged by the Tony Abbott through other disclosures he has made on his register of ‘registrable interests’.



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In regard to starving kids in asia...

cover science

COVER A woman carries her son as she begs for money at a red light in Shanghai, China. Researchers are struggling to understand the causes and consequences of a rapid rise in inequality in many countries. See page 818.
Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria


Meanwhile in France, the sick are treated with respect:

french ambos...

In Australia, the causes and consequences of a rapid rise in inequality is presently fuelled by Tony lying about budget emergency... Tony lies about education, health, disability, Aboriginal affairs, taxes and many more areas of government, including sciences and arts. Tony is an idiot. 

a loss to the SMH...


Richard Ackland says he has ended 20 years as a columnist for Fairfax Media after the Sydney Morning Herald asked him to choose between writing for a rival publication, the Saturday Paper, and the Herald.

Ackland, a legal affairs specialist and publisher of law journals, broke the news in a tweet:

Wretched business. Sacked as @smh columnist for having the impertinence to write for @SatPaper

His legal affairs, society and media column has been published every Friday in the Herald for 14 years, and he is one of the paper’s most influential and popular progressive writers.

“Yes, I was sacked,” Ackland told Guardian Australia. “I can’t think of another word. They are terminating my arrangement.”

In a statement on the Sydney Morning Herald website, the editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir, said Ackland had been “an outstanding columnist for the SMH for nearly two decades".

“I have not sacked him," Goodsir said. "He has made his own decision.

“I have been negotiating with Richard for a few months on a contract which would have allowed him to undertake alternative commissions – but obviously with my prior approval and in circumstances where his role as a long-standing SMH columnist were properly credited.

“I have wished Richard well with the Saturday Paper – while still encouraging him to pitch his ideas, as a freelancer, to our op-ed pages and all other relevant sections of the newsroom.

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With the loss of Richard Ackland, the SMH is nearly sinking like the Titanic... The Telegraph though is floating like the proverbial turd... Lucky, the Saturday Paper is here, like a life-raft to proper printed news and current affairs, on paper... The ether is still battling it out...

Richard was also a presenter of Media Watch, ABC TV... Despite a raspy voice, he was doing a far better job than... Let's say he was doing a great job... he knows the undercurrents far better than anyone else...