Monday, 31 July 2017

Why doesn't the Turnbull Government do more to address domestic tax avoidance?

So why is it that the Turnbull Coalition Government, home to more than one millionaire, continues to allow a set of taxation rules which favour those with both wealth and high incomes over those with only average to low incomes and little to no wealth?

According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) – now underfunded, undermanned and demoralised – there is an issue with trusts being used for tax avoidance:

We focus on differences between distributable income of a trust and its net [taxable] income which provides opportunities for those receiving the economic benefit of trust distributions to avoid paying tax on them.

In other words; discretionary trusts are used by high-income earners to distribute investment income to beneficiaries on lower marginal tax rates, in the process reducing the overall amount of tax paid and current rules allow income to be diverted to other family members, such as stay-at-home mothers or fathers, or to dependents over the age of 18, such as children at university, college or Tafe.

Australian Finance Minister and Liberal Senator for Western Australia Mathias Cormann characterises proposals to alter taxation rates on trusts to minimise their use as tax avoidance vehicles as a “tax grab”. Well he would wouldn’t he, with so many political mates to defend.

As for collecting existing tax liabilities……

The ability to enforce payment obligations and pursue avoidance schemes has diminished since 2014 when first the Abbott Coalition Government and then later the Turnbull Coalition Government cut ATO staffing numbers.

The Community and Public Sector Union clearly told the Treasurer in 2017 that:

While the public is supportive of tackling corporate tax avoidance to raise revenue for public services, there are limits to what the ATO is able to do due to significant under resourcing. Despite a growing population and increased expectations from the community, ATO ongoing staffing levels have declined. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, Average Staffing Levels at the ATO fell by over 4,000 or by nearly a quarter. The audit team, responsible for enforcing the tax compliance of individuals and multinational companies, was hit particularly hard by these job cuts. While there was an increase in the 2016-17 Budget, it has not reversed the significant cuts experienced over the last few years.

Given the need for more, not less revenue, these previous cuts seem illogical. According to information provided to Senate Estimates by senior ATO staff, the return on investment over the last decade would be between 1:1 and 6:1, or simply put every dollar invested in ATO staff generates between $1 and $6 in revenue.[1] Some had previously estimated that the cuts could lead to a loss of nearly $1 billion in revenue.[2]

This disconnect between public expectations that tax avoidance should be tackled and what the ATO can actually do must be addressed by the Government. It should commit to an increase in base funding and staffing for the ATO if it is serious about tackling corporate tax avoidance and increasing revenue.

It seems that while the Turnbull Government talks about an ideal egalitarian society where inequality no longer exists, behind the scenes it is nobbling one of the mechanism’s available to government to ensure that there is a level playing field for all those with only earned incomes as well as those with earned incomes plus accumulated wealth.                                      
So when Turnbull & Co announced in May this year that it intends introducing a strong Diverted Profits Tax and establishing a Tax Avoidance Taskforce in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) one has to wonder if current staffing levels allow full investigation of multinationals operating in Australia or whether the taskforce (which has in fact existed since 2016) will be adequately resourced to look into multinational tax avoidance and the black economy as mooted.

One also has to wonder why in the face of widespread use of negative gearing of investment properties and capital gains tax arrangements to avoid paying an appropriate tax rate, the Turnbull Government also fails to reform the taxation system in these areas.

Oh, I forgot……………


1. Table 1: 45th Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia party representation

Source: Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), ‘2016 Federal Election Tally Room’

Pressure mounts on Turnbull and Berejiklian governments to stop Murray-Darling Basin water theft

25 July 2017

NSW Farmers’ President Derek Schoen’s statement on ABC Four Corners: “Pumping”

“ABC’s Four Corners episode last night raised a number of very distinct issues that all relate to water take in the Murray Darling Basin. One of the issues raised was illegal water take.

The overwhelming majority of farmers and irrigators do the right thing, however, strong regulatory enforcement is needed when it is proven that water has been taken against the rules, or tampering/disabling of metering equipment has occurred. This is theft from all other water users and it should not be tolerated.

Another issue raised on the program was the changes to the rules that were reflected in the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan, finalised in 2012. These rule changes have been the subject of discussion amongst NSW Farmers’ elected representatives during past months and years, and are something that we know causes significant angst amongst all of the water users within that Water Sharing Plan.

Where it is alleged that those rules were changed without true transparency for all water users- NSW Farmers fully supports an investigation into the process by which these rule changes were made. We call for this on the principle that these changes can have a significant impact on all water users, including stock and domestic water rights holders, and downstream users.

These decisions need to be made with full transparency and scientific backing. Rule changes also need to occur through the established processes of the local consultation committee during the appropriate review period. The agricultural community needs complete certainty that this will occur, always.”

NSW Farmers – Level 6, 35 Chandos Street St Leonards 2065

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Australian Government guide to when it is extinguishing our traditional freedoms, rights and privileges

In 2015 Australian Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis thoughtfully provided voters with a guide to assist them with analysing whether federal legislation rides roughshod over traditional rights, freedoms and privileges.

This guide can be found in the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 129, Traditional Rights and Freedoms— Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws:

The Terms of Reference, provided by the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, state that laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges should be understood to refer to laws that:

interfere with freedom of speech;
interfere with freedom of religion;
interfere with freedom of association;
interfere with freedom of movement;
interfere with vested property rights;
retrospectively change legal rights and obligations;
create offences with retrospective application;
alter criminal law practices based on the  principle of a fair trial;
reverse or shift the burden of proof;
exclude the right to claim the privilege against self-incrimination;
abrogate client legal privilege;
apply strict or absolute liability to all physical elements of a criminal offence;
permit an appeal from an acquittal;
deny procedural fairness to persons affected by the exercise of public power;
inappropriately delegate legislative power to the executive;
authorise the commission of a tort;
disregard common law protection of personal reputation;
give executive immunities a wide application;
restrict access to the courts; and
interfere with any other similar legal right, freedom or privilege

WARNING: Don’t attempt a drinking game with this list as you may succumb to acute alcohol poisoning before reaching the end.

Australia's future water security losing out in the water wars

ABC News, 24 July 2017:

Billions of litres of water purchased by taxpayers to save Australia's inland rivers is instead being harvested by some irrigators to boost cotton-growing operations, in a policy failure that threatens to undermine the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The pumping of this environmental water means taxpayers have in some cases been effectively subsidising already wealthy agricultural interests, including those of Webster Limited, a publicly-traded company which holds a $300 million water portfolio — the largest Australian-owned private holding in the country.

A Four Corners investigation has found that in the Barwon-Darling system — a critical link in the wider Murray-Darling Basin — NSW Government water extraction rules have given irrigators more reliable access to water than prior to 2012 when the Basin Plan was signed.

Long-time farmers' advocate Mal Peters, who chaired a Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) statutory committee examining the Barwon-Darling, described the rules as "bloody disgusting".

"It rendered the whole plan, in my mind, completely null and void because the amount of water that could be taken out was huge," he said.

University of New South Wales scientist Richard Kingsford said the revelation "goes against the whole tenet of the [Basin] Plan".

"Environmental water bought by taxpayers is going through pumps into storages to grow cotton, and to me that is the biggest problem that we've currently got," he said.

Between 2012 and June this year, more than 74 billion litres of environmental water has flowed into the Barwon-Darling system — including when the controversial 2012 extraction rules allowed irrigators to pump it.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is explicitly aware of these concerns.

In July last year, the MDBA board held private discussions on the problem.

Board member George Warne emailed minutes from this discussion to other board members, including Phillip Glyde, the MDBA chief executive.

His email, seen by Four Corners, described the policies in the Barwon-Darling as an issue which "appears to enable gaming of water extractions ... enabling much higher use of water".

The email also acknowledged "water use behaviours that effectively mine the E-flows that make it into the Barwon-Darling".

These "E-flows" are those that taxpayers had purchased through so-called "buybacks" to save the river system.

Since John Howard announced the Murray-Darling initiative, taxpayers have spent more than $3 billion on water buybacks.

Graziers and townspeople downstream who rely on the river have expressed anger and dismay at the extraction rules, claiming they have seen the river diminish since the new policies were introduced in 2012.

This is what the Murray-Darling Basin Authority states of itself:

With the enactment of the Water Act 2007, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) was established as an independent expertise-based statutory agency.

For the first time in the Basin's history, one Basin-wide institution is responsible for planning the Basin's water resources, with all planning decisions made in the interest of the Basin as a whole….

We are responsible for directing the sharing of the River Murray's water on behalf of the Basin states. The Murray–Darling Agreement, (a schedule of the Water Act 2007) spells out these arrangements.

Under the Agreement, we operate the River Murray system and oversee asset management (Dartmouth and Hume Dam, Lake Victoria, Lower Lake barrages, weirs and locks) with our state partners.

The Authority has over three hundred employees and is headquartered in Canberra.

As the MDBA declares it is responsible for planning decisions and directing water sharing its governing body and the federal water minister have some explaining to do.

The six member Murray–Darling Basin Authority governing body having responsibility for the authority living up to its mandate:

Neil Andrew AO (Chair) – former Liberal MP in the federal parliament, current Chairman of the Crawford Fund in Australia and Commissioner to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
Phillip Glyde Chief Executive – former Deputy Secretary at the Department of Agriculture
Professor Barry Hart director of environmental consulting company Water Science Pty Ltd and emeritus professor at Monash University 
Ms Dianne Davidson – farmer, agricultural scientist and horticulturalist
Mr George Warne – current chairman of construction company Lipman Pty Ltd, former CEO and Project Director of the Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Program, former general manager at Murray Irrigation Limited and former CEO State Water New South Wales
Ms Susan Madden – a principal economist at international consulting firm GHD Pty Ltd engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services to private and public sector clients

Portfolio responsibility for the MDBA is held by Australian Deputy-Prime Minister, Water Minister, and Nationals MP for New England Barnaby Joyce.

Aside from the limitations imposed by having the inept Barnaby Joyce as water minister, a hint as to why this body appears to be dragging its feet over the issue (of improper use of ‘buy back’ and state-gifted waters earmarked for environmental flows) might be found in this exchange previously reported by “Four Corners”.

For better irrigation and for better farming. I mean I just I'm sorry I can't see what's evil about that, I have real trouble understanding why anyone would object to a farmer using the water smarter and better to grow more crops and do it better, I mean has the world gone mad.

This attitude is far from unique and threatens the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

ABC News, 24 July 2017:
The top water bureaucrat in NSW, Gavin Hanlon, has been secretly recorded offering to confidentially share internal government information with irrigation lobbyists — documents he proposed to strip of government logos and share via a special Dropbox account — to assist their lobbying against the contentious Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The recording of the 2016 teleconference also reveals the NSW Government has been actively considering plans, in discussion with irrigators, to abandon the Basin Plan altogether, and has sought legal advice about doing so.
A Four Corners investigation has confirmed that Mr Hanlon, Deputy Director General of the NSW Department of Primary Industries, did not approve a major operation targeting non-compliant irrigators in the north of NSW — an operation urged upon him by his own investigators after they collected evidence that billions of litres of water had been improperly pumped.
"I think that it was clear that there was no appetite for compliance anymore," said Jamie Morgan, who until midway through 2016 managed the department's Strategic Investigations Unit.
"It was odd timing in my view. It was only when we went to the north-west of the state, where we found significant problems, that our team was very quickly disbanded after that.
"Our briefings weren't being answered. And to this day, no-one has actually addressed those issues in that area."
It should come as no surprise that at the heart of the biggest gamer of the Murray-Darling Plan, Webster Limited, is that epitome of far-right, free market greed Chris Corrigan who is this corporation's Chair.

The principal connnection 180 year-old Webster Limited now has to Murray-Darling Basin land under Corrigan is the 200,000 megalitre water entitlement it harvests and can sell-off at will for maximum profit.

Nor should it come as any surprise that the NSW Berejiklian Government supports Corrigan and Webster as well as the other water raiders under the guise of supporting "real world" decisions.
North Coast Voices readers may recall that irrigators, mining corporations and local governments in the Basin region have more than once turned rapacious eyes towards the NSW Northern Rivers, proposing to dam and divert coastal waters for their use.
Proposals which have been strenuously rejected by local communities and Far North Coast councils.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Just because in is beautiful........(30)

Campfire reflections
Camp Fire

Tweet of the Week

Friday, 28 July 2017

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts' British citizenship renunciation timeline not clear

On Sunday 8 May 2016the Prime Minister announced there would be a federal election on 2 July that year.

Writs were issued on 16 May and the rolls closed 23 May 2016.

At 12 noon on Thursday 9 June 2016 close of nominations for both House of Representatives and Senate candidates occurred.

Early voting commenced on 14 June and Election Day ended at 6pm on 2 July 2016.

According to One Nation Senator Malcolm Ieuan Roberts as reported in The Age on 27 July 2017; he wrote to the British authorities on May 1 last year to ask them whether he was a British citizen, given he was born to a Welsh father in India.
He says he got no response so he wrote a further email on June 6 - three days before nominations closed - saying that if he was a citizen he fully renounced. He subsequently nominated as a candidate and won a Queensland Senate seat.

However, this tweet by Chief Political Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, James Massola, throws Malcolm Roberts assertion that he was not a British citizen at the time of nomination into doubt.

It appears that U.K. authorities and Mr. Roberts may possibly have different views of when he ceased to be a British citizen.

I strongly suspect that the High Court of Australia would be inclined to accept the word of the U.K. Government over that of Malcolm Roberts if this difference is confirmed.

The American Resistance has many faces and this journalist is one of them (12)

In June 2017 the U.S. White House banned cameras from its regular press briefings. The last live on-camera White House briefing was on 29 June and live audio-only ceased at some point after that.

At first news agencies were reduced to the absurd – painting short word pictures or using sketch artists to depict action.

In July ABC (USA) began showing "The Briefing Room" with its in-house political team analysing the now 'invisible' press briefings.

Then the dam wall was breached......

The Washington Post, 19 July 2017:

It was only a matter of time.

At every White House news briefing since June 29 — and many before, too — President Trump's spokesmen have ordered a room full of smartphone-toting journalists not to film the session or even broadcast live audio. On Wednesday, one reporter defied the White House by streaming live sound of the briefing online.

Ksenija Pavlovic, a former political science teaching fellow at Yale who founded a news site called Pavlovic Today, used the Periscope app to stream audio of Wednesday's briefing. She tweeted a link to the feed:
PBS News Hour followed suit as did ABC News (USA) with delayed audio posted on YouTube.

It is noted that two days later the White House announced an on-camera press briefing with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Well done Ksenija!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Shorter UN Position: Australia's policy of offshore processing has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long

To add insult to injury our very own J. Edgar Tuber, Peter Craig Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection & just about everything that isn't nailed down, has apparently been lying to the United Nations.

Australia’s policy of offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which denies access to asylum in Australia for refugees arriving by sea without a valid visa, has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long.
Four years on, more than 2,000 people are still languishing in unacceptable circumstances. Families have been separated and many have suffered physical and psychological harm.
In light of this dire humanitarian situation, last November UNHCR exceptionally agreed to help with the relocation of refugees to the United States following a bilateral agreement between Australia and the US. We agreed to do so on the clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there. 
UNHCR has recently been informed by Australia that it refuses to accept even these refugees, and that they, along with the others on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, have been informed that their only option is to remain where they are or to be transferred to Cambodia or to the United States.
This means, for example, that some with serious medical conditions, or who have undergone traumatic experiences, including sexual violence, cannot receive the support of their close family members residing in Australia.
To avoid prolonging their ordeal, UNHCR has no other choice but to endorse the relocation of all refugees on Papua New Guinea and Nauru to the United States, even those with close family members in Australia.  
There is no doubt these vulnerable people, already subject to four years of punishing conditions, should be reunited with their families in Australia. This is the humane and reasonable thing to do. 
The Australian government’s decision to deny them this possibility is contrary to the fundamental principles of family unity and refugee protection, and to common decency. 
UNHCR fully endorses the need to save lives at sea and to provide alternatives to dangerous journeys and exploitation by smugglers. But the practice of offshore processing has had a hugely detrimental impact. There is a fundamental contradiction in saving people at sea, only to mistreat and neglect them on land.  
Australia has a proud humanitarian tradition, manifested in its support for overseas aid and its longstanding refugee resettlement programme. I urge Australia to bring an immediate end to the harmful practice of offshore processing, offer solutions to its victims, for whom it retains full responsibility, and work with us on future alternatives that save lives at sea and provide protection to people in need.
At a time of record levels of displacement globally, it is crucial that all States offer protection to survivors of war and persecution, and not outsource their responsibilities to others. Refugees, our fellow human beings, deserve as much.
Approximately 2,500 refugees and asylum-seekers have been forcibly transferred by Australia to ‘offshore processing’ facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru since the introduction of the current policy in 2013. Of these, some 1,100 remain in Nauru and 900 in Papua New Guinea.
Following the Australia-US bilateral agreement on relocation, UNHCR has referred more than 1,100 refugees to the US over the past eight months. Another 500 people are still waiting for the outcome of the refugee status determination processing being carried out by authorities in PNG and Nauru, under the Australian arrangement.

More Australians live in New South Wales and Queensland than in the other states & territories combined

Australian Bureau of Statistics, media release, excerpt, 12 July 2017:

Queensland and New South Wales home to 52.1 per cent of Australia’s total population according to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing ……

NSW certainly has the numbers on their side, outnumbering Queensland residents by close to three million people (7,480,228 to 4,703,193), but Queensland is making a strong play with a faster growth rate of 8.6 per cent, compared with 8.1 per cent for NSW. …..

The 2016 Census tells us there are 28,864 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in NSW aged 18-35 years, just edging out Queensland with 25,053.

Between the two battling states, it seems the Cockroaches are the bigger earners, with NSW households earning a median income of $1,486 per week compared to $1,402 per week for a household in Cane Toad country. However, Queensland residents gain an edge with household costs – their median monthly mortgage repayment is $253 cheaper than it is south of the border, while the Sunshine State’s median weekly rent is $50 less. 

The Maroon State also tend to work more in the home, with a higher rate of people engaging in unpaid domestic work (71 per cent in Queensland to 68 per cent in NSW) and child care (28 per cent in Queensland to 27 per cent in NSW). However, the Blue State has a higher rate of providing unpaid care for a person with a disability (12 per cent in NSW to 11 per cent in Queensland)……

…..64.9 per cent of persons in NSW embraced the digital Census, completing their Census form online (above national average), just edging Queensland, where 62.9 per cent of persons used the online Census form (below national average). 

Note: All data presented is based on Place of Usual residence data in the 2016 Census

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Liberal Senator Matt Canavan reveals he has dual citizenship but refuses to resign from the Australian Parliament

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUTION ACT - SECT 44, Disqualification, “Any person who: (i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; “

Liberal Senator for Queensland Matthew “Matt” Canavan has admitted to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that he held dual citizenship when he was nominated for the Australian Senate in 2013.

His mother Maria and he, along his brother and sister, were registered as Italian citizens in January 2007. He would have been 26 years of age at the time.

Mr. Canavan knew that his mother was an Italian citizen but would have the world believe that he was unaware that he was so registered until 18 July 2017.

This is the official spin the Turnbull Government is offering the national electorate:



Transcript of Statements on Senator Canavan’s Citizenship, Brisbane

25 July 2017 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yesterday afternoon, Senator Canavan approached the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and me to tell us that he had received advice from the Italian Embassy that, according to their records, he was registered as an Italian citizen.   

Senator Canavan will explain circumstances in which he came to be registered as an Italian citizen. In brief, it occurred in 2006 when Senator Canavan’s mother, who is of Italian heritage, registered both herself and members of her family, including Senator Canavan, with the Italian consulate in Brisbane as an “Italian Resident abroad,” which is a form of citizenship. Senator Canavan, who was an adult at the time, did not authorise this to be done on his behalf. The first he became aware that she had done so was when she raised the matter with him on 18 July. He then sought urgent advice from the Italian embassy, which was only confirmed yesterday afternoon.

In the meanwhile, the Government has taken advice from the Solicitor-General and we are in the process of taking advice from experts in Italian citizenship law. It is the Government’s preliminary view that, because the registration was obtained without Senator Canavan’s knowledge or consent, that he is not in breach of s. 44 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, in view of the legal uncertainty concerning the matter, when the Senate convenes on Tuesday week, the Government will move to refer the matter for determination by the High Court.

MINISTER CANAVAN:  Well thank you, George. As George has outlined I have become aware that according to the Italian Government, I am a citizen of Italy. I was not born in Italy, I’ve never been to Italy and, to my knowledge, have never stepped foot in an Italian consulate or embassy. Until last week, I had no suspicion that I could possibly be an Italian citizen. In 2006, my mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in Brisbane to become an Italian citizen. In doing so, it would appear that she made an application for me to become an Italian citizen as well. I was 25 years old at the time. My mother was born in Australia but was able to obtain Italian citizenship through her parents, who were both born in Italy. While I knew that my mother had become an Italian citizen, I had no knowledge that I myself had become an Italian citizen, nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen.

Following the reporting of Senator Ludlam and Senator Waters last week, my mother raised with me, the possibility that I was in fact an Italian citizen, on Tuesday evening. I have, since then, taken steps to check my citizenship status with the Italian authorities and that has confirmed that I was registered as an Italian citizen in January 2007. The Italian authorities have confirmed that the application for Italian citizenship was not signed by me. To my knowledge, until this week I have not received any correspondence from the Italian authorities about my citizenship status and they have not been able to provide any such records.

In the short time available, I have not been able to obtain definitive legal advice as to whether my registration as an Italian citizen, without my knowledge or consent, was valid under Italian law. I am seeking to obtain that advice presently. On the basis of the advice the Government has obtained, and that George outlined, it is not my intention to resign from the Senate. However given the uncertainty around this matter, I will stand aside until the matter is finally resolved and resign as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. I have informed the Prime Minister of that course of action. Thank you.

The bottom line for Mr. Canavan is that by 2013 when he nominated for the Australian Senate he had known his mother was an Italian citizen for at least five years and he did not take reasonable steps to discover if her citizenship by descent had any impact on his own citizenship status.

Matt Canavan should do the honourable thing and resign from parliament immediately as other members of parliament have done before him.


The Courier Mail, 26 July 2017:

It also emerged today that Senator Canavan discussed Italian citizenship with his mother almost a decade ago.

It has also been alleged that the Italian Government has sent him voting forms for the last ten years.

Greed, plain and simple, is killing off NSW koalas and the Berejiklian Coalition Government continues to ignore this vandalism of habit

ABC News, 20 July 2017:

A koala habitat 50 per cent larger than the Royal National Park has been destroyed by logging, according to a new conservation report.

The report titled Clearing Koalas Away by conservationist Dailan Pugh, says more than 23,000 hectares of koala habitat near Coffs Harbour has been "virtually cleared".

"They're hitting them really hard. We're looking at about 40 per cent of koala habitat in state forests," he said.

Mr Pugh, an environmentalist for over 40 years, sourced the forestry data under freedom of information (FOI) legislation, in a bid to measure logging against known koala habitats.

Last year, then-environment minister Mark Speakman admitted "intensive harvesting" on the North Coast was "not consistent" with regulations, and said the Environment Protection Authority was investigating.

An EPA spokesperson declined to answer questions, but said "current rules are over 15 years old and lack clarity in important areas, including intensive harvesting".

Recent studies suggest less than 9,000 koalas survive on the North Coast, a 50 per cent decline in the past 20 years.

Habitat loss is widely acknowledged as a driver of the decline.

Mr Pugh said a sustainable logging method called "single-tree selection" is being misused by Forestry Corporation.

Single-tree selection permits the selective harvest of just 40 per cent of eucalypts trees in a logging zone — leaving 60 per cent of trees as off-limits.

But the off-limits status is temporary, and evidence shows these trees are heavily logged in later operations.

The reports highlights examples like Kerewong State Forest, with photos showing the heavy clearing of a mapped koala habitat.

Echo NetDaily, 13 March 2017:

A representative of the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) was ejected from a meeting that he called with the Environment Protection Authority at Gibberagee State Forest after it was ‘gatecrashed by the Forestry Corporation’.

NEFA auditor Dailan Pugh said he was invited to Gibberagee by the EPA on Friday (March 10) so that he could show them logging was taking place into what were meant to be exclusion zones around the nationally Endangered Narrow-leaved Melichrus, which only occurs at Gibberagee.

But he was directed to leave by the Forestry Corporation without being allowed to show the EPA anything.

‘A month ago I sent the EPA a complaint after identifying that the Forestry Corporation were refusing to identify the legally required buffers around the Endangered plant Narrow-leaf Melichrus,’ Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily.

He added they were ‘recklessly damaging hollow-bearing and recruitment trees, and logging “unmapped” streams in the immediate catchment of the regionally significant seagrass beds of The Broadwater.’

‘Bryce Gorham of the EPA invited me to come out to the forest last Friday “to accurately identify (on ground identification) of the alleged breach of intrusion into a Melichrus sp.Giberagee exclusion zone”,’ he said.

‘I expected that the EPA would only invite me if they had the authority to do so.

‘The EPA were late, so while waiting I looked around, finding two more places where logging had extended into what were meant to be 50m exclusion zones around Narrow-leaf Melichrus, in one case by 22m.

‘When the EPA belatedly arrived they had a Forestry Corporation employee, Jamie Churchill, with them.

‘He told me to leave the forest on the grounds of occupational health and safety. I insisted that I had been invited into the forest by the EPA and that, in the area where we were, logging had finished some three months ago so we were not interfering with an active operation and there were no safety issues.’

Mr Pugh said he told both the EPA and Forestry Corporation that he had just found another legal breach nearby, and asked to at least be able to show it to them.

But, he added, the Forestry Corporation refused ‘and the EPA went along with them’.

‘After driving two hours to get there I was forced to leave without being allowed to show the EPA anything.

‘The EPA should never have invited me if they don’t have the authority to stand up to Forestry Corporation bullying.

* Image of  koala mother and cub from Independent Australia

Yindjibarndi People granted exclusive native title over their traditional lands

A short entry by the Federal Court of Australia heralds exclusive native title for the Yindjibarndi People over their traditional lands in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.


File number:
WAD 6005 of 2003
Date of judgment:
 20 July 2017


1.    The parties consult and seek to agree and prepare a draft determination of native title for the Court to make under s 225 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) to give effect to the reasons for judgment delivered today.
2.    The proceeding be listed for case management on 17 August 2017 at 11.30am.
Note:    Entry of orders is dealt with in Rule 39.32 of the Federal Court Rules 2011.

In the judgment Justice Rares stated in part:

54    I am satisfied, having considered all of the evidence, that this explanation of spiritual connection reflects both important traditional laws, that the Yindjibarndi acknowledged, and traditional customs, that they observed, at the time of sovereignty and continue to acknowledge and observe today. The explanation neatly captures the essence of the relationship of the Yindjibarndi to their country and their spiritual obligation, embedded in their traditional laws and customs, to protect that country, including from the presence and activities on it of strangers (or manjangu) unless the stranger(s) first obtain(s) permission from Yindjibarndi people.

55    In addition, I am satisfied that, if a stranger were free to enter Yindjibarndi country without permission, under those Yindjibarndi normative laws and customs that have continuously applied over the same time period, he or she could “hurt” the country by violating the Birdarra law, even if unintentionally; for example, by entering a sacred or restricted place, or taking something, such as a resource or animal, from the country. And, those laws and customs thus require the Yindjibarndi to protect their country from a manjangu gaining access to it or its living or inanimate resources without permission of a Yindjibarndi elder.

56    Moreover, I am satisfied by all of the evidence that the Yindjibarndi have continuously (since before sovereignty) acknowledged traditional laws and observed traditional customs relating to the presence, role and power of the spirits of the Marrga and “old people” in and over Yindjibarndi country.

149    I am satisfied that, on the evidence before me, the Yindjibarndi continue to acknowledge their traditional laws and observe their traditional customs that have existed since before sovereignty that a manjangu must seek and obtain permission from an elder before entering on Yindjibarndi country or carrying out activity there (except if the person is simply driving through).

150    Moreover, that conclusion is supported by the evidence of Dr Palmer, which I accept. He concluded that the Yindjibarndi had the right to exclude others who are not Yindjibarndi “and are consequently identified as manjangu”, but he also found that they had abandoned the pre-sovereignty right to put a trespasser to death.

151    Accordingly, I find that the Yindjibarndi have the exclusive right to control access to Yindjibarndi country and, in particular, to the claimed area.

PHOTO: The Yindjibarndi land extends across an inland section of the western Pilbara, including parts of the Millstream National Park. (ABC North West WA: Joseph Dunstan)
The response of that right-wing warrior Andrew Forest of Fortescue Metals was not long in coming.

The Australian, 21 July 2017:

A landmark court decision could set a new template for the way the mining industry approaches ­native title negotiation, after ­Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group lost a long running claim over its Pilbara mining hub.

Fortescue could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in past and future royalties, following the biggest native title ruling to hit an Australian miner for years.

Even so, Fortescue yesterday moved to hose down concerns about the impact of a native title ruling over its Solomon mining hub, noting that it did not expect the ruling to have any “material” financial impact on or inhibit current or ­future operations.

The ruling gives the Yindjibarndi exclusive native title rights over Fortescue’s Solomon mining hub in Western Australia that ­accounts for at least 70 million tonnes of the company’s annual iron ore output.

While the ruling does not prohibit Fortescue from continuing to operate the Solomon mines, it does potentially leave Fortescue exposed to a compensation claim over the hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore mined at the project to date as well as possible royalties over future production.

The Guardian, 21 July 2017:

Fortescue Metals Group is likely to appeal against a determination of exclusive native title for Yindjibarndi people over land in the Pilbara which encompasses its Solomon Hub mine.

On Thursday the federal court ruled in favour of the Yindjibarndi traditional owners, awarding exclusive rights and interests over about 2,700 sq km of unclaimed crown land, which encompasses FMG’s $110bn mine.

The company responded on Thursday that it had “no commercial concerns and do not anticipate any material financial impact following the court’s determination,” but on Friday its chief executive suggested it would appeal.

Nev Power told ABC local radio he thought the court’s decision was wrong.

“I think we are likely to appeal,” he said. “It’s a very unusual decision in that the judge has found exclusive native title possession on this land, which we think is unlikely to be the case. So we will be looking at it definitely and considering an appeal.”

Following the decision on Thursday FMG shares dropped 19c to $5.19, and opened at $5.05 on Friday.