||Issue No. 151||06 September 2002|
Looking for the Light
Interview: Packing a Punch
Bad Boss: Basher Takes Back Passage
Unions: Five Star Shafting
Economics: TINA – Rest In Peace
International: Against Bush's "War on Terrorism"
Environment: Saving the World
History: A Radical Scribe
Poetry: With A Little Help From My Friend
Satire: Colonel Gaddafi Promotes Himself to General
Review: Workplace Dictatorship
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Charity Begins At Home
Trust Reform 'Too Hard
A pledge by the Coalition to crack down on the use of trusts to avoid tax has been rejected by the Howard Government's own advisory body, which will instead recommend only minor legal changes to curb abuse. In a victory for private businesses, farmers and wealthy individuals who use trusts, the Board of Taxation has rejected a central recommendation of the 1999 Ralph business tax review - to tax the country's 450,000 trusts as companies, a move that was forecast to reap $350 million a year in extra revenue. After a year-long review, board chairman Dick Warburton said the advisory body would propose that tax laws governing trusts be better enforced by Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody. The board was asked by Peter Costello to examine the best legislative means to prevent abuse of trusts, but has taken more than 12 months to conclude legislation is unnecessary. (Source: The Australian)
Execs Resist ASX Disclosure Plan
Leaders of Australia's biggest listed companies plan to battle an Australian Stock Exchange proposal to force them to respond publicly to media speculation. The ASX is proposing to introduce the requirement from the middle of next year. It believes the move will plug a loophole that appeared when continuous disclosure regulations replaced fragmented legislation in 1994. Australian business is being briefed by legal firms, including Allens Arthur Robinson, about the ramifications of introducing a fourth leg to the obligation to disclose. The additional requirement will force companies to clear the air if media speculation creates a false market. Company executives are concerned that they will be forced to answer mischievous reports which could be based on speculation spread by rivals or "inspired" analysts.
Telstra Faces Falk Despite $3 billion Profit
Telstra is under fire after unveiling a $3.7 billion dollar annual profit, with investors disappointed by the result and workers concerned it will lead to more job cuts. The $3.7 billion annual net profit has come partly from a 15 per cent drop in capital spending and the shedding of 4,000 jobs, but market share and revenue are also down. The profit has been attacked by the Federal Opposition, which says consumers should be alarmed by the decline in staffing levels and capital spending. And the Communications Union also says the drop in staff and investment is putting the network at risk. (Source: ABC)
Qantas Chair Says Aussie CEO's Underpaid
Qantas chairman Margaret Jackson has defended high salaries and option packages for chief executives in Australia, and criticised the level of debate on corporate governance. CEOs or executives in the US received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of options, whereas in Australia it was tens of millions of dollars. "The magnitude is significantly different," she said. She's also suggested that the Federal Government veto on increased foreign ownership in Qantas meant the airline was focusing sharply on labour costs and their effect on profitability. Arguing the case for a freer share register, Ms Jackson told a Melbourne Press Club lunch at the Windsor Hotel that aviation was a very capital intensive industry, and Qantas' cost of capital would now be 1 to 2 per cent higher because of the government's decision on foreign ownership.
"If labour rates are not competitive, we will not be in a position to compete on fares," she said.
(Source: The Age)
Greenpeace Slams SPP Over Trees
Greenpeace has slammed a plan by alternative fuel producer Southern Pacific Petroleum to plant 116 million trees as part of its strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.The operator of the $340 million Stuart demonstration project near Gladstone is working on the formula to unlock 17 billion barrels of shale oil from the rock in central Queensland to reverse Australia's dependence on overseas oil. SPP acknowledges its production formula of baking shale to 750 degrees to extract oil creates greenhouse emissions. But the Brisbane-based company aims to reduce its emissions to lower than that of conventional oil companies once the plant is up and running commercially in about eight years' time. SPP had been having trouble securing buyers after a sustained campaign by Greenpeace, which claims shale is the dirtiest form of crude oil. (Source: Nine MSN)
Union Carbide Factory Unsafe
In the central Indian state of Bhopal, at least two former employees of the American chemicals giant, Union Carbide, have given more damaging evidence against the now-defunct company. A court is hearing the landmark case of one of the world's worst industrial disasters. In his testimony, one of the employees told a court that the safety equipment and all three safeguards against the leak of toxic gas in the Union Carbide factory were not working and that all gas storage tanks had been overfilled. The gas leak ultimately killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bhopal, and the former Union Carbide chief, Warren Andersen, was clearly held responsible for the disaster in 1984. Survivors and relatives of those of died are now bitterly opposing the petition from India's chief intelligence body, the Central Bureau of Investigation, to reduce charges against Mr Andersen from culpable homicide to death caused by a negligent and rash act. Unlike homicide, negligence is not covered under the provisions of the extradition treaty shared between India and the United States and the victims fear that reducing the charges would prevent Andersen from standing trial in India. (Source: ABC)
Enron Workers Awarded $52m
About 4000 former Enron Corp employees abruptly laid off when the company plunged into bankruptcy should receive more severance pay, a New York judge has ruled. US Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez approved a $US28.8 million ($52.34 million) plan that will fund payments of up to $US13,500 ($24,530) each for workers who lost their jobs between December 3, the day after Enron filed for bankruptcy, and February 28. Any severance already paid to the workers will be deducted from that amount, the judge ruled. Most workers received $US4,500 ($8,180) in the weeks after the bankruptcy reorganisation filing, and another $US1,100 ($2,000) earlier this year.
Workers who accept the money will give up their right to pursue more severance pay owed to them under Enron policy.
(Source: The Australian)
China Deals With Shonky Execs
Finally, dodgy corporate executives should conbsider themselves thankful they are not in China. Forget about a five or ten year banning as a director. Cop this: Yang Ning, a deputy chief in Air China's accounting division nicked 24.3 million yuan ($5.3 million), according to Bloomberg, citing the Legal Daily. He was executed on Tuesday after four years on the run. (Source: SMH)
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