Archive for March 2019

Slipper risks losing $157,000 a year over fraud claims

Could lose pension … Mr Slipper.THE former speaker Peter Slipper risks losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits if he is convicted of using his government Cabcharge card to tour restaurants and wineries.
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When he retires, Mr Slipper can expect a yearly pension of about $157,000 for the rest of his life. But if found guilty of the alleged fraud, he is likely to lose everything besides a refund of his superannuation contributions (without interest).

Mr Slipper’s retirement package is especially lucrative because of his long service – 23 years as an MP – and his occupation of highly paid roles, including Speaker of the House of Representatives, where he earned an annual salary of $371,463.

The threat to his entitlements gives him an incentive to resign before he faces court next month, if he fears a guilty verdict and wants to protect his pension.

There is little precedent for Mr Slipper’s predicament but legal experts and public servants familiar with politicians’ entitlements said an early resignation would likely protect his lucrative pension package in the event of a later conviction, although they could provide no guarantee.

If he remains in Parliament and is convicted, he will lose much of his entitlements regardless of how severe any sentence is.

Mr Slipper has been accused of using a taxpayer-funded hire car to tour half a dozen of Canberra’s finest wineries.

The summons document, released on Tuesday by the ACT Magistrates Court, alleges that on three occasions in 2010, Mr Slipper took a hire car to visit wineries including the top-rated Clonakilla winery, well known for its $100-a-bottle shiraz viognier. The trips described in the document – including journeys within Canberra – cost $1194.

Mr Slipper has not responded to calls and emails. But he has described earlier accusations of Cabcharge fraud as a ”complete fabrication”.

He has employed Brisbane lawyer Peter Russo, who defended Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef when he was wrongly accused by the Commonwealth of assisting a terrorist organisation. Mr Russo would not comment on the case.

If convicted, Mr Slipper will have to resign as an MP because his offence is ”punishable under the law of the Commonwealth … by imprisonment for one year or longer”, according to section 44 of the Constitution.

The former Speaker faces a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. But even if he is sentenced to less than a year in prison he would still be forced to resign because his alleged offence carries a maximum sentence of longer than one year, said Anne Twomey, a constitutional law expert at the University of Sydney.

If Mr Slipper is forced to resign because of a conviction the Constitution says he is entitled to ”a refund of his [superannuation] contributions, but to no other benefit”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Super fund is giving up on cigarettes

THE superannuation fund for health and community services workers has become the latest fund to dump its investments in tobacco.
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The chief executive of the Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA), Anne-Marie Corboy, confirmed the fund had started removing tobacco investments from its portfolios, following a decision by the fund’s board late last year.

Ms Corboy said she expected the fund, which has more than 750,000 members, to have sold all tobacco investments by April.

She said for more than a decade the fund had allowed members to put together tobacco-free portfolios, and had excluded tobacco from its ethical investment option since early last year.

She said less than $35 million of the $20 billion managed by the fund was invested in tobacco.

Anne Jones, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, welcomed the move.

”If a health fund invests in the tobacco industry, they are part of the tobacco industry,” she said. ”It’s clearly unethical and I’m glad they’ve made the right decision.”

HESTA’s decision comes as the Future Fund weighs what to do with its tobacco investments, worth more than $200 million. The Future Fund chairman, David Gonski, told a Senate hearing in October the fund had not set out to invest in cigarette makers, but had acquired its shares through investments in fund managers, which often had a mandate to own top-performing stocks.

Ms Jones called on the Future Fund to dump its stake in tobacco, arguing it was hypocritical for Australia to try to stamp out smoking domestically while profiting from it abroad.

In November, the NSW government announced it would dump more than $200 million in tobacco investments.

First State Super, which has more than 770,000 members and more than $32 billion in funds under management, announced that in July it had disposed of all tobacco investments. UniSuper, which manages superannuation for higher education workers, was one of the first funds to get out of tobacco.

The Victorian government’s investment management organisation, the Victorian Funds Management Corporation, has more than $100 million invested in tobacco, and has said it has no intention of getting rid of these investments.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

The Planner: Kids

Climbing the spider-rope frame at Putney Park.BRASSERIE BREAD HOLIDAY BAKING
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Keep your youngsters occupied at bread-making classes while you relax at the cafe next door. Artisan bakery Brasserie Bread is holding classes for children aged five to 14 during the school holidays. Mini-masterchefs will get to take their baked goods home (if they last that long). Visit the Bakery Cafe for a coffee and pastry while you wait. Classes last for 90 minutes. Until January 25, various times, Brasserie Bread Sydney, 1737 Botany Road, Banksmeadow, $40 a child, 1300 966 845, brasseriebread杭州夜网m.au.

GREAT AUSSIE INVENTIONS QUIZ SHOW

Learn the story behind some of Australia’s most iconic inventions in a fun-filled family show that reveals the secrets behind everyday items. There’s a Wallace & Gromit bonus round of questions and a grand prize. The show is free with museum entry. For ages six and over. Until January 28, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, adults $12, children (four-15) $6, family $30, 9217 0111, powerhousemuseum杭州夜网m.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

The largest collection of treasures to visit Australia from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is on display at the Australian Museum. Children might not care too much about the artefacts on display, but they’ll enjoy the workshops and activities. Alexander’s life story has been turned into a play. Children can make their own mosaic or special treasure and can spend a night at the museum and discover the wonders of the ancient world during the Heroes and Heroines Sleepover. There are special programs for under-fives and free family storytime sessions. Check the website for dates, times and costs. Australian Museum, 6 College Street, city, 9320 6000, australianmuseum杭州夜网.au.

PUTNEY PARK PLAYGROUND

Pack a picnic and head to the playground at Putney Park beside the Parramatta River. There’s a giant tube slide and waterplay area with two wading pools, as well as open grassy spaces and a traditional playground. Older children will have fun on the spider-rope climbing frame suspended over a giant sandpit. There are also barbecue facilities, shaded picnic tables and often a mobile kiosk that serves ice-creams, sandwiches and coffee. Open daily 7am-8pm, Pellisier Road, Putney, free, 9952 8222, ryde.nsw.gov.au.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

In praise of Taronga Zoo

Baby Tasmanian devils at Taronga Zoo.The Prime Minister’s Sydney residence is Kirribilli House. It’s a top spot, with gardens rolling down to the north shore of the harbour. It’s somehow fitting, though, that a couple of giraffes and some Asian elephants have better views of the fireworks on New Year’s Eve than any PM. That’s how cool Taronga Zoo is.
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Obviously, the idea of carting animals from their natural habitats and sticking them in a cage is not cool. That’s not how this zoo works.

Having been chased by a lion in Zimbabwe (well, I ran – if he’d actually chased, he may well have caught me), charged by a rhino in South Africa and mooned by a baboon in Botswana, I have occasionally been all for putting a barrier between me and them.

But the environment has to ensure the spirit of the wild animal is retained. Taronga is a conservation park where animal welfare is key. What’s more, it’s fun. From the moment you jump from ferry to cable car, it’s an exotic ride. It can be a long haul through the park and it’s not a flat track, so be prepared for some lugging if you have small kids.

There’s no value in me listing the animal options here. Just be aware that the lions and tigers know full well they are star attractions and therefore do nothing but lie around looking self-important.

If you’re further down the food chain, like a meerkat, you really put on a show.

Even further down the food chain, humans regularly perform at the zoo. As daggy as it seems, a night in the zoo under the stars as Bjorn Again (whose career has lasted about three times longer than Abba, whose music they play) and others burble away is memorable. You can even prove that you’re tougher than the newly soft Mike Tyson, who refused to get close to a koala. Wimp.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Airport will reach capacity 20 years early, study says

Counting down … Sydney Airport.SUPPORTERS of a second Sydney airport received a boost after financial analysts found that Sydney Airport will reach full capacity shortly after 2025 – two decades earlier than the airport management’s own forecast.
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The Commonwealth Bank analysts, Andre Fromyhr and Matt Crowe, assessed how long it would be before the airport was unable to handle more planes and passengers without building a new runway or terminal.

They concluded it could be soon after 2025, much earlier than the airport management’s prediction of 2045.

”By our passenger forecasts, Sydney will reach 61 per cent more passenger volume in 2025,” the analysts said.

”With no major investment, this would match Beijing [Airport’s] current utilisation. Beijing is running at 99 per cent of its ‘design capacity’.”

Their assessment is broadly in line with a joint federal and state study released in March last year, which predicted that Sydney Airport would be at capacity by about 2020.

The analysts’ conclusion has added weight to calls for urgent action to be taken on choosing a site for a second airport in the Sydney basin.

The federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, said the analysts’ report ”confirms what our joint study with the NSW government said – that Sydney needs a second airport sooner rather than later”. The shadow federal treasurer, Joe Hockey, who has long backed a second airport, was unavailable for comment but tweeted early on Wednesday: ”Sydney int’l airport. The slowest and most clumsy passenger wait in the western world.” A spokesman said Mr Hockey was on holiday and had been picking up family from the airport.

But Sydney Airport said the Commonwealth Bank analysts’ conclusion was based on a ”flawed assessment”, and ignored the fact it constantly invested in boosting its capacity.

Also, it did not take into account the fact aviation was becoming more efficient, which had allowed the airport to boost passenger numbers by 40 per cent since 2000 with virtually no rise in aircraft movements, the spokeswoman said.

Although the Transport and Tourism Forum believes it would make sense to build an airport at Badgerys Creek, its chief executive, John Lee, said regulation was limiting Sydney Airport’s ability to boost its capacity. ”There are other levers available to government to examine, like the [flight] movement cap,” he said. ”It is like having a three-lane highway and only opening one-and-a-half during the peak hours.”

Sydney Business Chamber’s executive director, Patricia Forsythe, agreed political constraints meant Sydney Airport was significantly underutilised. ”Its capacity to support Sydney for a long period of time would be enhanced if we were able to get a better utilisation of the airport,” she said.

However, she reiterated the chamber’s support for a second airport in western Sydney, which it believes should be located at Badgerys Creek.

A spokesman for Barry O’Farrell said the Premier’s views on the airport were well known ”but ultimately this is an issue for the Commonwealth”. Mr O’Farrell, who has opposed a second airport in Sydney, has proposed increasing the cap on flights at the existing airport.

A study commissioned by Mr Albanese into an alternative site for an airport at Wilton, more than 80 kilometres from the city centre, is due to be released early this year.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.