Monthly Archives: April 2019
Dom Calabria owner of Aussie’s Cafe at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew MearesParliamentary bean counters have proposed hiking the lease of a popular coffee shop after negotiations with the owner stalled.
Described by the Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Rob Stefanic as “an institution”, the rent for Aussies Cafe at parliament is due to rise from $87,000 a year to $150,000.
Speaking at estimates on Monday, Mr Stefanic denied reports the owner Dom Calabria had been told to ditch the name Aussies.
He also fended questions the department runs a competitive operation and should not have access to Mr Calabria’s financials.
“The reason the amount is so significant is that the proprietor of Aussies has refused to share his turnover information,” Mr Stefanic said.
“In doing so, it became very hard for the valuer to make an assessment of the true, fair market value of the rent.
“The independent valuer had to make an estimate based on a complex formula to establish a licence fee value. He had to make an estimate of the turnover that Aussies achieves in a year.”
The formula included comparisons with the Coffee Club in Civic, with allowance made for non-sitting days.
This drew the ire of Liberal senator Eric Abetz who said: “So the worse he runs the show, the less the parliament or the taxpayer would get. The better he runs the show, the more you want to fleece him. Is that the idea? If his figures were very bad and he were running at a loss, would you be paying him to be there?”
Mr Stefanic said Mr Calabria could challenge the assumptions and the valuation, based on his turnover value, and the proposed licence fee would be adjusted accordingly.
He said the lease and key performance indicators were open for negotiation.
“If he is concerned with any elements of that, it is subject to negotiation and he has been given ample opportunity to do that,” Mr Stefanic said.
“There is no take it or leave it here. He can discuss it with us. He has made no attempt other than, very apparently, making representations to senators and also to the media.”
Senator Abetz questioned if the department was in competition with Aussies and suggested a conflict in officials seeking Mr Calabria’s turnover.
The Financial Review reported earlier this week the Small Business Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, was examining the matter.
“While they’re not bound to do so, I call on all government departments to lead by example and ensure their contractual agreements with small businesses aren’t at odds with legislation outlawing unfair ‘take it or leave it’ contract terms,” she said.
“The reason the government set up the ombudsman’s office is to act on behalf of small businesses who become involved in exactly these sorts of situations.”
Mr Stefanic assured the committee there would be no repercussions for Mr Calabria from the coffee stoush being made public, despite the publicity being “less than desirable”.
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan told the inquiry that multinational oil and gas companies were a particularly high-risk category. Photo: Christopher Pearce The ATO has another audit underway relating to a $35 billion loan for the Gorgon gas project. Photo: Supplied
An appeal against a multimillion dollar tax bill owed by multinational oil giant Chevron is taking place, and will have global implications for the way tax paid by large companies is assessed.
Chevron recently lost a landmark profit-shifting case in the Federal Court that left it with a tax bill of about $300 million.
Monday marked the first day of hearings of Chevron’s appeal to the Full Federal Court.
The ATO has been fiercely battling Chevron in court over unpaid taxes between 2004 and 2008.
In October the ATO won its case, arguing Chevron used a series of loans and related-party payments worth billions of dollars to slash its tax bill by about $300 million.
The decision was a big win for the ATO, which has spent about $10 million on legal costs to date.
The tax and business community are closely watching what happens with Chevron’s appeal.
“This court case is of major significance in and internationally,” said International Transport Workers Federation senior researcher Jason Ward. The union, which represents workers on the offshore LNG projects of WA, has been a vocal critic of Chevron.
“Chevron has been using related party loans – sending profits to low-tax jurisdictions such as Delaware – to reduce the tax that they pay in ,” Mr Ward said.
He said people around the world were also watching this case closely as it would impact what other multinationals are doing in low-tax jurisdictions.
The case is unravelling as the ATO has another audit underway relating to a $35 billion loan that Chevron has used in relation to the Gorgon gas project.
“The implications on the current loan, not subject to this case, are huge,” Mr Ward said. “Upwards of $15 billion in tax revenue in by Chevron’s own admission.”
The long-running Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance will resume hearings this year, with a special focus on oil and gas companies. The inquiry has broadened the scope of the hearings to include the complex structures that such companies use.
At earlier hearings held in November 2015, Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan and one of his lieutenants told the inquiry that multinational oil and gas companies were a particularly high-risk category and that the use of so-called marketing hubs, which allow sales and profits of n resources to be booked overseas, were an “emerging concern” for the ATO.
Chevron is one of several multinationals facing a showdown with the tax man. The ATO in December confirmed that apart from Chevron, Crown and BHP Billiton are among seven large companies that have been hit with tax bills amounting to $2 billion.
But that revenue could take time to flow through, if at all. While in recent years most companies have opted to settle with the ATO, the agency is expecting some other companies will head to court.
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CHAMBER DEBATE: A file photo of the Port Stephens Council chambers, 2014.Queuing upon polling day could become a chore of the past if Port Stephens councillor John Nell has his way.
Cr Nell said Port Stephens resident clearly don’t like to turn out at polling booths for council elections as it is, if recent trends are any indication.
“The amount of pre-polling is increasing 10 per cent at every election,” he claimed.
“You don’t even need an excuse anymore as to why you can’t vote on the day.”
The matter was expected to ignite heated debate in the council chambers on Tuesday night.
The mayor, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, heeded Cr Nell’s call to bring it to council for discussion if nothing more.
The mayoral minute askedcouncillors to support a resolution to write the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton for permission to conductthe September 9 polls bypostal voting exclusively.
This would require a special exemption on the minister’s behalf since such matters must usually be resolved 18 months out from an election.
Cr Nell noted the council had not had that opportunity since the election date has only just been announced.
“If this [request] was approved no one would need to turn up at a polling booth on September 9,” he said.
The measure has its supporters and detractors.
Cr Peter Kafer said postal votes tended to support the incumbents.
“I’ve spoken to people in [state] parliament and they’re saying it usually favours the incumbents and people with deep pockets who are able to get their name out there,” he said.
“I’m an incumbent andI’m seeking reelection, so Ishould be for it but it’s not fair for others who want to represent their community.”
Cr Nell disagreed.
“You can make arguments for and against most things,” he said.
For him, there was one clear advantage for independents.
“It’s a hell of a job for any candidate to man the pre-poll centres for two weeks,” he said.
“Really, it’s no longer pre-polling, it’s a furphy, it’s just two weeks of polling.”
Cr MacKenzie said it was “really Nell’s idea”.
“People get really worked up on election day…it even gets physical. It’s a civil war sometimes with people handing out how to vote cards,” Cr MacKenzie said.
Fresh faces: Portia Graham, Jake Rexter and Holly Blackham chose to stay in Newcastle for the affordability and lifestyle, while Harry Webster moved for the university’s reputation and the beach. Picture: Jonathan CarrollFOR Holly Blackham,the magnitude of her first day at university – and the start ofthe rest of her life – only hit over theweekend.
“I thought ‘Why did I do this?’,” Holly, 18,said.
“I was so nervous I thought ‘I should have waited a year’, I did not want to go. But once I got here today it was all goodand I’mfine now– it’s the start of meeting new people and starting a new chapter.”
Holly is one of thousands of students who have chosen to start their undergraduate degree at the University of Newcastle.
She is studying pharmacy to combine her interest in science and the body with a long-held desire to work in a medical setting.
Holly was joined in her “surprisingly fun” maths lecture by her friend from Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College Portia Graham, 17, who is studying environmental science and management.
“It wasgood but eye opening–I know I have to work hard and I’m open to that,” she said of the lecture.
Portia is already considering a masters degree in marine biology and combining further study with research.
“I’ve always been passionate about the environment,” she said.“The way we’re treating the planet we’re going to need some environmental scientists to figure out some issues.”
Portia’s joined a number of mostly sporting clubs includingscuba diving, tae kwon do, water polo, rugby and snow sports.
“Social life at university is what it’s all about,” she said.“School now feels like a long time ago. I was ready for a change and university is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
Harry Webster, 19, moved from Dubbo into the university’s Evatt House –originally known as the ‘country kid’s college’ –to study architecture and plans to join the rugby team. “I’ve always liked design and being creative,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about starting and all the doors that are opening.
“I’d been to Newcastle a few times before with family and friends and found it to be a nice city with some pretty rural connections. It’s exciting that it’s diversifying what it’s known for.”
Jake Rexter, 18, is studying for a double degree in communication and law.
“I’ve always been interested in journalism, reading and writing and want to be a writer when I finish,” he said. “I enjoyed Legal Studies at school and while I don’t think I want to be a lawyer, I think it’s good for general education and really interesting.” He said his first lecture was “like eating sand it was so dry” but he was already feeling “more liberated”.
“It’s freedom –there’s so much more happening and the energy burns so much brighter than it did at school.
“I’m not going in with any expectations other than to have a good time and meet lots of new people.”
Merewether surfer Jackson Baker will take up a wildcard into the Central Coast Pro at Avoca from March 8 after a frustrating round-one exit at the n Open at Manly on Tuesday.
NEXT STOP: Jackson Baker competing in round one at Surfest’s 6000-point World Surf League qualifying series contest last week at Merewether. Picture: Marina Neil
Baker led his four-man heat early with scores of 6.17 and 5.6 but was thenthird needing a 7.18 to progress with just over four minutes left.He put together a ride of four turns and thought he had done enough but a 6.5 lefthim third on 12.67 behind Brazilian Marcos Correa (13.67) and Kiwi Billy Stairmand (13.34).
“I thought that wave I got near the end when I needed a seven, I thought I 100 per cent had the score. I wouldn’t have claimed it if Ididn’t,” Baker said. “I guess that’s how it goes sometimes.I think they pulled my score down a bit because my last turn wasn’t super big, but I thought I already had the job done out the back.”
On Wednesday, fellow Merewether surfer Philippa Anderson will start her campaign against Brazilian star Silvana Lima,Kobie Enright andTanika Hoffman in the women’s round three.
Clubmate Ryan Callinan was set for a tough start in round two of the men’sevent on Thursday against Brazilian Michael Rodrigues, Hawaiian Koa Smith and n Jacob Willcox.
Baker’s loss followed around-two defeat at home in Surfest, another 6000-point qualifying series event, last week.
He said it wasfrustrating not to progress at Manly after a strong heat where he felt he madeno mistakes.
Baker was set to bypass the 1000-point Avoca contest to join Merewether at the Kirra Teams event but said he would now accept a wildcard in the hunt for QS points.
He hoped a change to “a more relaxed approach” and a “nothing to lose” attitude at Avoca would help change his fortunes.