Vic to get $8.4b from property taxes

Victoria needs to increase its debt if it wants to take full advantage of its AAA credit rating, historically low interest rates and build infrastructure, Treasurer Tim Pallas says.


Victoria is in a strong financial position, with a $1.2 billion surplus for the 2017/18 financial year and higher ones in the forward estimates, Mr Pallas told a post-budget business lunch in Melbourne.

Debt as a proportion of gross state product is now at 4.6 per cent, below the 6.2 per cent Labor inherited from its coalition predecessor, he says.

But there needs to be “a grown up discussion about debt” and Victoria’s debt ratio needs to progressively move to six per cent.

“We need to bring (debt) up. We need to actually start to leverage the whole point of a AAA credit rating,” Mr Pallas said.

“What’s the point of a credit rating if you’re actually not using it to secure the lowest possible interest rates you can and actually secure the infrastructure that grows a community and builds the services that the community not only deserves but demands?”

Net debt is listed as $23.8 billion for 2017/18, according to Tuesday’s budget, and will rise to $25.1 billion the year after, then $27.4 billion in 2019/20.

Mr Pallas took another swipe at the federal government over the distribution of infrastructure money between states and disputed funds from the sale of the Melbourne Port lease.

Victoria says it deserves about $1.45 billion from the federal government under the asset recycling scheme when it leased the port.

It wants to put the money towards a regional rail program that many local federal MPs have been calling out for.

“It’s hard to put a compelling argument against (the projects) unless of course it’s something to do with mendacity,” Mr Pallas said.

The Victorian budget is forecasting a $1.2 billion surplus for 2017/18 and Melbourne’s property boom will rake in $8.4 billion.

Interest groups have flagged concerns the state is too reliant on property taxes, and that changes to duties paid by investors could cool the real estate market.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Pallas said he had been waiting for the market to slow, and that it needed to do so that first home buyers could “have a crack at it”.

“I’ve been predicting, and accounting for, slumps in the property market for some time now, and they just haven’t happened,” he told 3AW radio.

Babies killed in PNG cop’s wife bashings

Who do you turn to if the husband belting you is also a policeman?

What if he threatens to rape your teenage daughter if you report him?

Pauline (not her real name), an accountant from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital, has grappled with these questions in the past.


The well-dressed and highly educated mother-of-two endured 17 years of family and sexual violence.

She’s had two miscarriages because of the bashings.

“I have damage to my reproductive organs,” she said.

“Every time I tried to defend myself and my children I suffered unimaginable injuries that almost ended my life,” Pauline said.

Years ago she had a gut-wrenching wait to find out if she was HIV positive after a tip off that there was a case among her husband’s posse of mistresses and prostitutes.

Fortunately, the test came back negative.

Health authorities were able to point her in the right direction to seek help and justice.

Pauline went over the heads of her suburb’s local police and took the bold step to press charges.

Her estranged husband is facing more than 30 counts of marital rape, and has been suspended from the police force, while the legal process takes its course.

He regularly offers bribes to judges and has also used his position as an officer to have her arrested on dubious charges, she says.

“Before we enter the court, he’s there in the (judge’s) office,” Pauline said.

Pauline is adamant she must keep fighting to hold her ex-husband to account in order to protect herself and her children.

Many women stayed silent out of fear, because of threats from perpetrators as well as a sense of inferiority, family and clan implications, and consequences such as financial hardship, Pauline said.

“Victim blaming is a big problem,” she said.

Pauline is grateful her employer gives her time off work to attend court cases.

Time off was costing companies between three to nine per cent of payroll or 300,000 Kina ($A125,879) to 3 million ($A1.25 million)

Business Coalition for Women chair and Origin Energy PNG general manager Lesieli Moala Taviri said in the trying economic times at the moment she anticipated more social problems.

* * PNG readers seeking help and counselling for family and sexual violence should phone the 1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN national hotline


* Reporter Lisa Martin travelled to Port Moresby as a guest of Femili PNG during Rosie Batty’s recent visit.

Australian domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

High-flying Crows buck AFL system

Don Pyke’s barnstorming Adelaide Crows are bucking the AFL system.


They’re unbeaten. Kicking 20 goals a game. Averaging a whopping 132 points.

And all that without a top 10 draft pick.

Pyke’s ladder-leaders are a motley crew of mid to late-order draft steals.

And some trade deals which leave the Crows with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Eddie Betts? Free agent. Haha. Rory Sloane? Pick 44. Hehee. Taylor Walker? Pick 75. Bahahaha.

Adelaide’s bargain list goes on.

And the sum part sits atop the ladder, unbeaten after six rounds and with new-found flag favouritism.

Coach Don Pyke finds the favouritism and flattery “nice” and “interesting”. But he says it’s irrelevant to him.

“It’s nice for people to be reflecting on how we’re playing,” Pyke told reporters on Wednesday.

“People projecting and people writing opinions is interesting.

“But it’s not really relevant to what we’re doing.”

What they’re doing is beating an AFL draft system tailored to mediocrity rather than success.

Since 2004, the Crows have finished lower than 10th just four times – no extended bottom-out and replenish via top-choice draft picks.

Then there was the Kurt Tippett kerfuffle, costing another two first-round picks in 2013.

Yet they now score so freely. Why?

“I really haven’t thought about that, to be honest, as to why,” Pyke said.

“… It’s not a great secret. It is just how it has evolved.”

Much has come from shrewd recruiting eyes.

While captain Walker’s leadership is rightly hailed, so should Adelaide be for landing the NSW scholarship player with pick 75 at the 2007 national draft.

Vice-captain Sloane was a pick 44.

Defender Rory Laird, surely set to crack an All-Australian team after two seasons in the squad, and livewire Charlie Cameron came in rookie drafts.

Skilled winger Rory Atkins was a pick 81. Another emerging midfielder Riley Knight was pick 46.

Dependable small defender Luke Brown was recruited via a Greater Western Sydney pre-selection.

Onballer Brad Crouch came via a GWS mini-draft deal. His brother Matt cost pick 23 in a trade involving a club champion, Bernie Vince.

Ruck Sam Jacobs cost the Crows picks 34 and 67 in a deal with Carlton.

Josh Jenkins’ price was a pick 31, Mitch McGovern was chosen with pick 43.

All this draft value is now reaping big returns under Pyke.

“I don’t know if it says anything about the program,” he said.

“We have recruited some good young players that have come in.

“Where people get drafted is a number.

“Ultimately we want to bring in as much high-end talent as we can and high-end character – and we have got that.”

Second-year wingman Wayne Milera is Adelaide’s highest pick in action, taken 11th at the 2015 AFL draft.

All-Australian fullback Daniel Talia (pick 13), All Australian half-back Brodie Smith (14) and rising defender Jake Lever (14) are other higher-end selections.

Funding fight could delay Cross River Rail

Brisbane’s enduring Cross River Rail project looks set to be delayed further with the warring Queensland and federal governments at odds over whether it is ready to go.


The Palaszczuk government has committed $850 million to the project and is calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to at least match that funding in next week’s federal budget.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said work could start later this year with that level of funding, but otherwise the $5.4 billion project, first mooted in 2010, could be delayed again.

“This project is a no-brainer to lift congestion. It’s a no-brainer for our economy to lift productivity and it’s a no-brainer to setting up Brisbane to be a global city in the 21st century,” Ms Trad said.

“The ultimate test of whether the Turnbull government isn’t just talk on infrastructure is whether there will be a capital expenditure line-item in the upcoming federal budget for Cross River Rail.”

Mr Turnbull on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to the project, but said planning had to be done in a “methodical, consistent way.”

“We have provided $10 million towards a proper business case and analysis of the project, so that the planning can be brought up to the right level,” he said.

“It is a complex business. It needs planning. It needs that work. We are committed to doing that.”

The state government provided the federal government with a full business case for the current proposal in 2016.

The federal government allocated $10 million for early planning works on the project, as well as ensuring it ties into Brisbane City Council’s Metro project.

Federal opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said the government had to fund the project to retain credibility.

“Here in this city we’ve known for some period of time that what is needed is a second crossing,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Brisbane.

But Queensland deputy opposition leader Deb Frecklington said Ms Trad’s comments amounted to “blackmail.”

“Annastacia Palaszczuk said in 2013 that Cross River Rail was ‘shovel-ready’ – that’s clearly not the case,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Once again we are seeing the Palaszczuk Labor government attempt to blackmail the federal government into funding its pipedreams.”

The Cross River Rail project has had several setbacks since being first proposed seven years ago.

Labor’s loss of power in 2012 saw it thrown out and replaced the next year by the Newman government’s BaT tunnel, but that plan was itself thrown out when it failed at the 2015 election.

‘Roos discuss unity dance for World Cup

He rose from his hospital bed to pen the Kangaroos’ new ode, and now Sam Thaiday is hoping the team rise even further and recall the unity dance.


Ahead of Friday’s final Anzac Test against New Zealand, Thaiday provided the latest hint that coach Mal Meninga is working on re-adopting a war dance in time for the World Cup.

“We’re in discussions with that at the moment. We have to make sure everyone wants to buy into it. Mal’s the guy that, if it is going to change, it’ll be under him,” Thaiday told AAP.

Thaiday has become the spiritual leader of the Australian team after the veteran forward inspired them to last year’s Four Nations final triumph in the UK without playing.

It was while he was injured last year that Thaiday wrote what he describes as a bush poem, which he read out to the team before they ran out at Anfield and claimed the title.

Thaiday revealed the seed was planted the moment Meninga took over as coach and held what is now considered a defining meeting before the corresponding fixture in Newcastle last year.

The Kangaroos haven’t been defeated since.

“He was trying to change a few of the things culturally within the Australian team and came up with a mantra of ‘Rise’,” Thaiday said.

“We went overseas together for the Four Nations and I just discussed with him I thought it’d be a good idea with the whole campaign to get a bush poem to help promote it.”

Recalled for the Test in Canberra, an emotional Thaiday read the ode to the squad on the opening day of the camp and has been featured in television and radio promotions.

“I sat at the front of the group this morning so no one could see me because yeah, it was emotional watching the ad,” he said.

“There was a couple of lines in there that really make you stop and think of your own journey, your own story, and that’s the whole idea behind it.”

There’s a strong chance of the unity dance being introduced in time for the World Cup at the end of the year, with discussions being held among Kangaroos officials and players.

The last pre-game cry for the Australian team was used in France in 1967.

“If all players agree to do it, it’ll be a fantastic thing,” Thaiday said.

“There’s a line in the ode that says, ‘Rise is remembering that we come from sacred land.’ And we do – we have a big indigenous representation, some of the best indigenous players ever.

“The NRL are always talking about closing the gap. These small steps are what is going to encourage indigenous kids to again, want to rise, want to go to school, want to be JT.

“I’m sure it’ll be this year at some point, whether it’s (in) time for this game or the World Cup.”

Quintana starts quest for Giro-Tour double in Italy

The Colombian is looking to become the first man since the late Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both three-week races – a feat even Alberto Contador, the greatest grand tour rider of his generation, has found beyond him.


While Contador had already won both races when he last attempted the double in 2015, Quintana has yet to prevail on the Tour, where he has been bested by Britain’s Chris Froome.

The 27-year-old Quintana, who rides for Movistar, is full of confidence however as he prepares to battle it out with defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, France’s Thibaut Pinot, Dutchmen Bauke Mollema and Tom Dumoulin and Briton Geraint Thomas.

“The idea is to go for the Giro title – for both titles. I don’t know if it’s going to come off or not, but we’ll try,” said Quintana, who won the Italian race in 2014.

“We’re on the right track,” he added, referring to his overall victory in the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico race in March.

The 100th edition of the Giro starts from Sardinia and features a stage-four finish on the slopes of Mount Etna as well as two ascents of the Stelvio pass on stage 16, where the race could be decided.

Two individual time trials are also on the menu, which could provide Team Sky’s Thomas, a former track rider, with chances to gain time on Quintana.

Thomas geared up for the Giro by winning the Tour of the Alps last month ahead of Pinot, who has made the Giro his priority this season ahead of the Tour, where he placed third overall in 2014.

“We’ve placed a lot of importance on performing well at this race. We have prepared properly for it to give the riders the best chance of making an impact,” said Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford.

Sky have two cards to play as they also field Spain’s Mikel Landa, who finished third overall in 2015.

Bahrain Merida’s Nibali is also among the top favourites even if his only notable performance this season came when he won the low-key Tour of Croatia last month,

The first stage will take the peloton over 206km (128 miles) from Alghero to Olbia.

It is expected to end with a bunch sprint, where Colombian Fernando Gaviria, German Andre Greipel and Caleb Ewan will be favourites to claim the first ‘maglia rosa’ (pink jersey) of the race.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by John Stonestreet)

Use budget to open GST debate: accountants

Chartered accountants believe Treasurer Scott Morrison should use next Tuesday’s budget to open a new debate on increasing the GST.


Mr Morrison last week ordered the Productivity Commission to undertake a review of how the GST should be carved up between the states and territories.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand believe it is an opportunity to talk about growing the revenue the GST raises rather than just the method of its distribution.

The government did look at raising the GST last year but decided it did not do enough to lift economic growth.

The GST rate has been at 10 per cent since it was introduced in 2000 with exemptions in health, education and fresh food remaining intact during that time.

“Australia will not solve long-term economic and budgetary problems with an ostrich-like attitude, hoping the issues facing the nation will simply go away,” head of tax at Chartered Accounts Michael Croker says.

He wants the government to expand the scope of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry so that its outcomes can “actually be meaningful”.

As a first step, Mr Croker is urging the government to use the budget as a platform to discuss with Australians the need to increase the rate of the GST to 15 per cent and broaden the GST base.

The increased revenue could be directed to both compensation, to ensure it’s fair and affordable, and to fund personal tax cuts and increases in pensions, family payments and benefits.

It could also be used to eliminate inefficient state taxes.

“This is an opportunity to grow the pie, not just argue over the share of it,” he said.

PM should be ready for Trump ‘landmines’

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is playing down his infamous phone call with US President Donald Trump and is predicting “we’ll get on very well” when they meet face-to-face in New York.


A Washington DC-based expert in Australian and US affairs, however, says the prime minister will need to tread carefully in case the president delivers some of his trademark “rhetorical landmines”.

Mr Turnbull is scheduled to touch down in New York on Thursday AEST and will spend less than 48 hours in the city before jetting back to Canberra ahead of next week’s budget.

The prime minister will embark on a full day and evening of events on Friday, including the meeting with Mr Trump where rising tensions with North Korea are expected to be one of the top discussion points.

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The asylum-seeker deal which, according to the Washington Post, outraged Mr Trump during his January 28 phone call with Mr Turnbull might be a topic the leaders avoid.

Mr Trump described the deal, struck last year by Mr Turnbull and then president Barack Obama, as a “dumb deal” in a February Twitter post but has since reluctantly agreed to accept refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island if they pass what he describes as extreme vetting.

Mr Turnbull described the Washington Post story as “inaccurate in many respects”.

“The reports were pretty exaggerated,” Mr Turnbull said in an interview on Sunrise on Wednesday.

“It was a very frank, courteous and forthright call and I’m sure we’ll get on very well.”

The highlight of the trip will likely be a black tie event on the decommissioned USS Intrepid aircraft carrier on the Hudson River attended by Mr Turnbull, Mr Trump and veterans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the US-Australian Battle of the Coral Sea victory over Japan.

“It was a critical battle and a great example of the alliance and the first occasion Australian and American war ships operated together,” Mr Turnbull said.

Alan Tidwell, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies in Washington DC, described the January 28 phone call as a “hiccup” and said the Turnbull-Trump relationship was back on solid ground.

Dr Tidwell, however, did note Mr Trump could be unpredictable.

“They will focus on North Korea and China,” Dr Tidwell told AAP.

Watch: Turnbull ‘speaks his mind’ to SBS

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“The big test for Turnbull is balancing his support for American efforts to bring about a change of behaviour in North Korea, while at the same time not appearing to give in on Trump’s more outrageous positions, for example Trump’s recent invitation to Philippine president (Rodrigo) Duterte.

“Equally, Turnbull will have to be watchful for any of Trump’s rhetorical landmines.”

In recent days Mr Trump has shifted views on the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and raised eyebrows when he suggested South Korea should pay $US1 billion for a US missile defence system.

Australia has a free trade agreement with the US, but Australian officials do not believe Mr Trump will attempt to re-work it as it favours the US with a significant trade surplus.

“On the trade side Turnbull will be hoping that Trump will continue to ignore the AUSFTA,” Dr Tidwell said.

“He doesn’t want Australia lumped in Trump’s trade tirade that’s targeted South Korea, Mexico and Canada.”

Mr Turnbull’s whirlwind New York trip will also include a meeting with Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, where North Korea and other Asia-Pacific security issues will be discussed.

The prime minister will also receive a briefing on the NYPD-FBI joint terrorism task force, hold an energy policy working lunch and a breakfast with chief executives of major companies.

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Foreign aid expected to be spared further budget cuts

An increase, however modest, to foreign aid spending in this month’s Budget would be a sigh of relief for a sector that’s long felt like it is seen as low-hanging fruit.


“No sector has been cut anything like as much as foreign aid,” Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University Policy Centre, told SBS News.

For the 2016-17 financial year, foreign aid spending was cut by $244m from $4.05bn to $3.83bn.

In 2015-16, it was cut by $1bn from $5.03bn down to $4.05bn.

“In the last four years we’ve seen cuts, major cuts to the aid budget, one third in real terms,” Mr Howes said.

“This is a time of crisis so this is not a time when we can really afford to cut we’re facing the worst global humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War.”


Australia currently spends 23 cents in every $100 of national income on aid, proportionately less than smaller countries like Belgium and Ireland.

The United Kingdom spends 70 cents in every $100.

The Australian government has committed to achieving a similar sustainable development goal by 2030.

Eighteen of Australia’s twenty closest neighbours are developing countries.

Mr Howes says a large portion of Australia’s aid spending goes to neighbouring countries in the Asia Pacific to help remedy issues that could impact people here.

One of those is multi drug resistant tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea.

“There is a flow of people two ways between PNG and Australia and we’ll increasingly face that problem here in Australia as well.”


With more than 767 million people still living on less than US$1.90 a day, Oxfam Australia says the need for aid funding is clear.

“There’s a human face to the impact of these cuts and we should never lose sight of that,” Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke told SBS News.

“Aid is at its lowest level ever in terms of a proportion of our gross national income.

“It’s incomprehensible that we would cut it anymore.”

Australia recently dropped in the global aid rankings from 16 to 17 out of the 28 wealthy OECD nations that give aid.

Private donations however are growing faster than the rate of inflation.


Iraqi officials call for humanitarian aid

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Hoaxes shut down Gold Coast high school

A prankster’s use of smartphone technology to send a hoax bomb threat that forced a Gold Coast high school into lockdown may prove their undoing.


Queensland police are questioning several students from Palm Beach Currumbin State High School after separate bomb hoaxes twice forced the school into lockdown on Wednesday morning.

One, a 13-year-old boy, was cautioned after being dealt with under the Youth Justices Act on Wednesday afternoon, but police say he was not the main offender.

A day of drama was sparked when a cleaner discovered an envelope at the school’s gate around 6am containing a white powder and a handwritten bomb threat on the back.

It’s believed the message contained the words “enjoy the bomb”.

Police and emergency services searched the school while parents were sent a text message advising them to keep students away until further notice.

Just before 9am the school was re-opened and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews confirmed the powder was simply flour.

An hour or so later another threat was received by several students and staff on iPhones via the AirDrop messaging service.

That threat sparked another lockdown with police again searching the property before an all-clear was given just before midday.

Police however say the AirDrop message has given them a good chance of identifying the perpetrator.

“AirDrop can only be successfully sent to other users within a very limited distance,” Senior Sergeant Bill Lythgo told reporters.

“That allowed us to determine it was highly likely the threat was coming from within the school grounds.”

Snr Sgt Lythgo said if the culprit was caught they would be prosecuted for their “extremely serious” conduct.

Police believe the same person who sent the AirDrop threat was responsible for delivering the envelope to the school around 5.20am.

The school is one of the largest on the Gold Coast with approximately 2500 students.

Parent Vicki Kelly, whose teenage daughters attend the school, said Wednesday’s events had been stressful.

“It’s a bit of a worry,” Ms Kelly told News Corp Australia. “You wonder why someone would do something like this.”

The school used its Facebook page to reassure parents that all was well.

“Please be reassured we are running classes as normal for the remainder of the school day and encourage students to stay at school,” the statement read.

“Support will be offered to all students who may have experienced anxiety from this morning’s incidents.”