Brisbane street parade to celebrate Comm Games athletes

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By Laura Polson

Teenage swimming sensation Ariarne Titmus and inspirational para-sports great Kurt Fearnley will headline the Australian Commonwealth Games athletes to be lauded at a Brisbane street parade on Friday.

Closing flag-bearer Fearnley and Brisbane schoolgirl Titmus will be among a handful of gold medallists in the first of a series of public celebrations for Games athletes around Australia.

About 50, mostly Queensland-based sportsmen and women, will feature in the parade through Brisbane’s CBD, starting at Queen Street Mall from noon.

Ariarne Titmus celebrates after winning gold.
Ariarne Titmus celebrates after winning gold.

Photo: AAP


As well as 17-year-old Titmus and Fearnley, 20km race walker Dane Bird-Smith and marathon runner Michael Shelley will be Commonwealth champions applauded for their efforts.

At the conclusion of the parade, Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk will hand the keys of the City to Fearnley, who will receive them on behalf of the team.

 “It will be a great chance to celebrate with all of the Commonwealth Games team,” Mr Quirk said.

The event comes 12 days after the athletes were made to enter Carrara Stadium before the closing ceremony went to air, causing them to miss their final moment in the spotlight.

The Australian team with flagbearer Kurt Fearnley.

The Australian team with flagbearer Kurt Fearnley.

Photo: Twitter/Kurt Fearnley

The closing ceremony sparked public outrage and saw Australia’s official rights broadcaster, the Seven Network, blame the ceremony directors and the Games’ host broadcaster for the decision.

Organising committee chairman Peter Beattie admitted and apologised for the mistake, before taking aim at “whingers”.

Fearnley, who won the men’s wheelchair marathon the morning of the closing ceremony, had played down the controversy, preferring to highlight the success of the Games.

“Right now, we have just finished the best and most inclusive Games we have ever had,” Fearnley told SEN radio at the time.

“It’s the best two weeks of my life … let’s just move on and remember the Games as the absolute success that it was.”

Those attending the parade have been urged to dress in green and gold for the occasion, as athletes weave their way through Queen Street Mall and Albert Street before gathering at King George Square.

Parades will be staged around Australia featuring local athletes and gold medallists in every state and territory until next Friday.



Source :  The Brisbane Times


Telstra ordered to pay $10 million after misleading billing charges

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By Jennifer Duke

Telstra has been ordered to pay a $10 million penalty after its billing charges potentially misled more than 100,000 Australians, in a Federal Court judgment handed down on Thursday afternoon, making it the equal biggest payout on record under consumer law.

Telstra previously admitted to misleading customers by charging them for content they didn’t know they had bought, such as games and ringtones, through a premium direct billing arrangement. The penalty matches that paid by Coles for its treatment of suppliers, and another ordered by the court earlier on Thursday for Ford.

Telstra has already refunded customers $5 million over its billing arrangement.
Telstra has already refunded customers $5 million over its billing arrangement.

Telstra customers had unknowingly signed up to subscriptions, without any additional level of verification, such as identity checks or needing to enter payment details.

Telstra mobile phone customers in 2015 and 2016 were able to sign up to subscriptions or other costs under this billing method.

Online content, videos and apps required pressing “subscribe now” or “purchase now”, with costs then added to the phone bill automatically without needing to put in a PIN or other safeguard. This allowed children or others using someone else’s phone could inadvertently subscribe. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has started to push for larger fines and was pleased with the outcome.

“We think this is just unacceptable behaviour when you consider they were well aware of the issues, failed to take sufficient steps to remedy the problem and at one stage were getting in excess of 10,000 calls a month disputing the charges,” Mr Sims told Fairfax Media.

When some customers complained, they were redirected to the ombudsman by Telstra.

“They did make $60 million out of this … the most egregious part is knowing there were complaints and not doing anything about it, they had a real financial incentive to keep it going,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC, when it began proceedings against the telco in March, said tens of thousands of customers and possibly more than 100,000 were caught up in the billing arrangement and were not adequately told by Telstra they would be billed. The service was ended on March 3.

Mr Sims said the billing practice was pervasive in the telecommunications industry, with two other major telcos with similar practices being watched closely.

Prior to the court action, Telstra admitted to making false or misleading representations and has already refunded $5 million to customers.

A Telstra spokesman said the judgment was in line with a joint submission it made with the ACCC.

“[Premium direct billing] services have been recognised as an issue for the broader telecommunications industry and while we took a number of steps to improve our processes we acknowledge we could have done more and done it faster,” he said.

“We stopped providing new subscription-based services like these in December, and completely exited the service from 3 March this year.”

Telstra has agreed to contact and offer refunds to other known affected customers, including those who have complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and to Telstra directly.

Source :  The Brisbane Times

Energy companies will pay more under budget changes that could also secure company tax win

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By Eryk Bagshaw

Oil and gas giants will be forced to pay billions more in tax under changes to the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax that could also deliver the Turnbull government a shock victory on its stalled company tax cuts.

It is understood next month’s budget will tackle longstanding concerns about the way energy companies are taxed by curbing “uplift concessions”, which determine tax deductions associated with exploration and construction. But in a concession expected to win industry support, the changes will exempt existing projects.

Treasurer Scott Morrison ordered a review into the system in 2016.

Treasurer Scott Morrison ordered a review into the system in 2016.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Former Treasury official Michael Callaghan recommended changing the uplift concessions last year in a review of the PRRT aimed at ensuring big Australian and multi-national energy companies were paying an appropriate amount of tax in Australia.

With Australia poised to overtake Qatar as the largest exporter of gas in the world by 2020, critics of the PRRT note Canberra is forecast to receive a much smaller tax take than the Middle Eastern country.

This disparity has caught the interest of crossbench senator Rex Patrick, who could help the government pass its plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for all companies. Senator Patrick and his Centre Alliance colleague Stirling Griff this week signalled a willingness to vote in favour of the tax cut after previously ruling out support.

“On the face of it the legislation is simply not supportable, but if it is packaged together with a number of measures [it is],” Senator Patrick told Fairfax Media.

“There are a whole range of things the government could do to make them palatable.”

The billions of dollars in extra revenue will not start flowing for decades, but could be enough to help secure the support of the two crucial crossbenchers. Fellow independent senator Tim Storer has also described the focus on company tax reform as “narrow”.

Fairfax Media revealed in 2015 that tax revenue from offshore gas will continue to flatline until at least 2027 despite company revenues soaring from $5 billion in 2007 to $60 billion in 2017.

Treasurer Scott Morrison ordered a review into the system in 2016 and labelled it “a problem”.

He said there were design elements of the 40 per cent tax on super profits – paid on top of company tax – that may pose long-term revenue risks, including high uplift rates, transferability, and sequencing for carrying forward exploration expenditure.

A spokesman for the Treasurer described the expected budget announcement as “further budget speculation not informed by the government”.

Mr Morrison received the report ahead of last year’s budget, but asked for more work to be done before making a final decision.

Industry has been gearing up for changes ever since. A spokeswoman for LNG giant Santos said it “fully understands the need to pay our fair share of taxes.”

“Last year, we worked cooperatively with the federal government and proposed a sensible package of PRRT reforms, including a reduction in the PRRT uplift rate,” she said.

NXT Senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.

NXT Senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Senator Patrick added his decision to support the company tax cuts would also be based on their impact on gross national income. He will not support the cuts if they have a negative impact on GNI or present a risk of cuts to social services.

“I’m not pushing anything on the government, I’m just going down all the nooks and crannies to find out what all the issues are,” he said.

Securing the vote of Senator Patrick and Senator Griff would mean the government could avoid demands from independent Derryn Hinch to carve out the banks from a tax cut.

The Business Council of Australia on Thursday conceded the tax cuts were a hard sell but essential to guarantee Australia’s international competitiveness.

“It’s probably not the most politically popular, but it is the right thing to do,” BCA president Grant King told a Senate inquiry.

A poll due to be released next week by Per Capita shows two thirds of voters remain opposed to company tax cuts, including a majority of Coalition supporters.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed broad tax reform was necessary, but that company tax cuts were the only plan on the table at the moment.

“It is very difficult getting significant tax reform through,” she said.

With Cole Latimer


Source :  The Brisbane Times