The Paradise Papers

Over 95 media partners have joined together to publicly investigate ‘the Paradise Papers’ – a leak of 13.4 million files detailing the private tax and financial arrangements of some of the world’s richest people and companies. The papers reveal layers of complicated tax evasion.

Say you’re incredibly rich, and you want to avoid tax in your country as much as possible. You pay a very ‘good’ tax lawyer to try and reduce your tax spend. How? You might set up some ‘shell’ companies to spread your money amongst many on-paper companies. You might go further and set up these companies off-shore (out of your own country), in other countries where the international tax laws are far more relaxed (typically South America, into the Cayman Islands or Bermuda). You might buy huge, expensive ‘assets’ to lock your money up – like houses, boats, islands, jets or shopping malls – that will increase in value so that you can grow your money.

The media are still sifting through the millions of files. Here are some interesting nibbles:

  • Some of Queen Elizabeth’s private estate is invested in a Cayman Island fund;
  • Prince Charles made a big profit off having a share in a mate’s off-shore fund;
  • Twitter and Facebook have received millions of dollars that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions;
  • Putin’s son-in-law made big payments to companies owned by the US commerce secretary;
  • A heap of Trumps advisers, cabinet secretaries and donors have extensive off-shore accounts;
  • Adviser and friend of Canadian Hunky Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped move stacks of cash off-shore;
  • Oxford, Cambridge and top US universities invest offshore, with a lump of cash going to fossil fuel industries;
  • Apple has moved its funds around the world to avoid taxation;
  • Glencore, a massive mining company operating a number of mines in Australia and Queensland, loaned money to an Israeli billionaire as a means of securing mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Harvey Weinstein, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Shakira, Bono, Nicole Kidman have all shuffled their wealth around the world, allegedly to avoid tax.

Manus Tragedy Continues

Almost two weeks ago, the Manus Island Detention Centre closed. 600 refugees remain in the centre and are refusing to move. They’ve now been cut off from food, water and electricity for ten days. This week, Turnbull turned down an offer from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden to take 150 of them. The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has refused an application restore food or water to the centre. The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister yesterday threatened the centres ‘ringleaders’ with being arrested and forcibly moved. According to the PNG government, they have just two days to move themselves, or the centre will be forcibly removed. (A summary of Aussie immigration policy is here.)

The Citizenship Saga Never Ends

Dozens of politicians continue to have questions raised about their citizenship status. On Monday, Turnbull announced a policy where he would ask all parliamentarians to declare their citizenship by the first week of December. He took this to a meeting with Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday. Nothing came out of the meeting, as Shorten bluntly opposed the notion. He reckons forcing people to declare their belief of their citizenship still doesn’t correct the essential problem. Shorten hasn’t offered a solution apart from a ‘sort-your-shit-out-Malcom policy’.

This stalemate has put new pressure on Turnbull. This week there was the first mutterings of an early election to try and sort everything out and re-jig the Parliament to be ‘100% Aussie’ only. The other option is to take the country to a referendum to change the constitution to allow dual citizens to serve in Parliament. Either way, Turnbull lost his cool publicly this week when Karl Stefanovic said he was ‘waffling’. Turnbull said he was patronising. Does this mean Australians will finally get a Parliamentary inquiry into Karl Stefanovic?

More on the citizenship saga here.

Same Sex Marriage Fine Print

The postal survey results for marriage equality will be announced next Wednesday. No spoilers but everyone’s pretty darn sure that the yes campaign will succeed. No one’s sure by how much. Still, Liberal Senator Dean Smith, who’s had a draft piece of legislation in his desk drawer since BEFORE THIS ALL STARTED (but Malcom insisted on going to the polls), is ready to take the bill to Parliament immediately. There are reports of another, seperate bill working itself around the Liberal conservative members. There’s public infighting between Dean Smith’s faction and the more conservative faction (including folks like Tony Abbott) on just where to start. Smith’s bill offers celebrants the opportunity to not officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies without being labelled as discriminatory. But the conservatives say this doesn’t go far enough. They would like to see amendments that make sure that schools only offer education around the ‘traditional’ view of marriage, and a broader range of business protected under ‘religious freedom’ legislation.

This’ll be the big news next week. Our old summary on the history of Aussie same-sex marriage is here.

Queensland Election

This week, we did a deep dive into the Queensland election. Since that post, I’ve since discovered the ABC has published a super-helpful, easy to read guide to individual electorates. Get on it. Get informed – see who the candidates are in your electorate.

The campaigning continues. The Premier is receiving some flack for altering her position on Adani, and her Treasurer has admitted the change of pace was in response to public opinion. Earlier this week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, if re-elected, she would continue her support of the Adani Carmichael Epic Coal Mine Project, but wouldn’t give a thumbs up to a government loan for Adani to do the job.

Palaszcuk’s main adversary, Tim Nicholls, is under fire for a letter one of his candidates sent through South Brisbane this week that claimed minority groups are threatening Australian values. Nicholls insists the statement isn’t ethnically based, but instead referred to ‘radical activist groups’ around same-sex and immigration issues. “We’re sick of these minority groups telling us how to think, putting I suppose our traditional values that we hold under question,” Mr Nicholls said. “I think we’re all pretty sick and tired with the nanny state, which is fostered by the Labor Party.” Tim Nicholls is leader of the Liberal National Party in Queensland.

Trump’s Beyond Terrific China Visit

Trump has toured Asia this last week, dropping in on China and Japan and having, according to him, simply the most marvellous time. Importantly, he’s reached out to North Korea for a deal. We’ll do a deep dive into this messy tangle of international relationships on Tuesday.

Sheep know what’s up

The University of Cambridge proved this week that sheep can be trained to recognise faces. In particular, they can tell the difference between Emma Watson and Barrack Obama. This skill is comparable to humans and apes. Scientists say the research is designed to better understand cognitive disorders in humans. But that is quite clearly a cover story for an attempted sheep-assassination of Emma Watson and/or Barrack Obama.

The Passing of Antonio Carluccio

Italian chef and big personality Antonio Carlucci has passed away at the age of 80, credited widely as the godfather of Italian gastronomy. Part of the wave that brought Italian food into the mainstream throughout the 20th Century, his food, books and television shows made a large impact on the contemporary celebrity chef.

Grab a cup of tea and watch him make Spaghetti Carbonara. All is right with the world.

Photo at the top by Jonathan Ernst. Photos courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.

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