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Xenophon gambit: state v federal power

Nick Xenophon’s decision to leave the Senate came out of the blue but has rattled the political elites in his home state, South Australia, and stirred the pot nationally. His gambit not only has some immediate state and federal implications but also raises larger questions about the future of Australian politics.
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Xenophon has gambled on leaving the leadership of his party’s three-member Senate team plus one House of Representatives MP to return to South Australian politics. He plans to stand for the Liberal-held lower-house seat of Hartley, leading a large team of candidates for his new state party, called SA Best.

This fresh gambit is not about returning to South Australia’s upper house, the Legislative Council, where Xenophon his political teeth for a decade before switching to the Senate 10 years ago. He is not aiming to strengthen his party’s upper-house crossbench position but to forge a new lower-house balance-of-power position at the next state election early next year. He will confront the struggling long-term Labor government of Premier Jay Weatherill and the ever-hopeful Liberal opposition led by Stephen Marshall.

Xenophon has a remarkable electoral record and considerable political momentum after the 2016 federal election (winning 22 per cent of his state’s Senate vote). However, he is one of those caught up in section 44 dual-nationality problems and has not been quite the force in the current federal parliamentary term that he was in the previous one. His party, the Nick Xenophon Team, has suffered disunity and defections at the state level, where his critics have accused him of being dictatorial. The big question is whether he can repeat his recent barnstorming federal effort at the March 2018 state election.

One obvious immediate implication is for South Australian politics. If SA Best proves to be as popular as most commentators predict, then neither of the main parties will be able to form a majority government in the 47-seat lower house. This has happened several times to state Labor under Mike Rann and Weatherill recently, but each time Labor performed Houdini-like escapes to create stable coalition governments with a variety of unlikely partners. But the challenge is much greater this time given the government’s problems and Xenophon’s popularity. He may even lead a large group of SA Best MPs, somewhat like One Nation did when it broke through dramatically in Queensland in 1998.

Another implication is for federal politics. The Nick Xenophon Team will suddenly become very inexperienced without its leader because the others were first elected at the last election. This further weakens the Senate’s crossbench, following the resignations of Bob Day and the two Green senators, Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters. Experience is always difficult to factor into parliamentary negotiations, and Xenophon may still be a part-time guiding presence as his party’s leader and founder, but his absence will still hurt the Senate’s ability to hold the government to account.

The larger question for Australian politics is whether Xenophon is correct to rate a decisive lower-house role in South Australia ahead of being an influential player on the Senate crossbench. If so, it flies in the face of the general presumption that federal politics is always more important than state politics and federal MPs are inevitably more powerful than their state counterparts.

The attraction for a party of a place in the Senate is that it offers a national role and visibility. But the weakness of Senate power is that it is within a house of review, not the house of government.

Xenophon is only able to contemplate this shift because his party has strong regional appeal rather than being spread more evenly across the nation like most other minor parties, such as the Australian Democrats and the Greens.

If he is successful, it may portend a more fragmented federal system, in which genuine regional parties contend effectively with the major national parties. The name SA Best points towards such fragmentation, as it clearly has only state appeal.

A good illustration of this contradiction between state and federal power can be found in the Greens. Their nine senators, led by Richard di Natale, certainly have a greater national profile than their state counterparts and they play a role in developing national policies. But it is at the state level that the party can get its hands directly on the levers of power. The Greens have shown they can regularly take part in government in Tasmania and the ACT if they win lower-house seats.

Xenophon is not necessarily a one-off. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is another example. Though it is more genuinely national than Xenophon’s federal party, with its senators from three states, Queensland is its heartland.

Perhaps Hanson is pondering Xenophon’s gambit; her One Nation party threatens to win a big swag of seats again in the forthcoming Queensland election. Is she wondering whether she would be better off as party leader in Queensland than a team leader in the Senate?

If she did a Xenophon and flipped to state politics, she would ensure that One Nation did even better in the state election than it is already likely to do, and she would become the kingmaker Xenophon hopes to be. The ABC election analyst Anthony Green has even suggested the outside possibility of Xenophon becoming South Australian premier. In Queensland, Hanson may dream of becoming deputy premier in a Liberal-National-One Nation coalition government after campaigning on a “make Queensland great again” slogan.

John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University.

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Marking NAPLAN with robots danger to learning: academic

A leading US education academic has warned that it would be “extremely foolish” and even damaging to student learning if NAPLAN writing tests were marked by computers next year, as education ministers across Australia back a move to online marking.
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Les Perelman, an internationally renowned expert in writing assessment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said a report on automated marking of NAPLAN was “so methodologically flawed and so massively incomplete” that it could not be used to justify any use of automated essay scoring of NAPLAN.

Dr Perelman was commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation to review a report by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) into automated NAPLAN marking of persuasive writing tests.

ACARA’s report, released in late 2015, said a “significant body of literature” confirmed that automated essay scoring met or surpassed the quality of human markers. But Dr Perelman’s review said a major failing of the ACARA report was that it “completely ignores” any research that was critical of automated essay scoring.

“Until these critical studies are completed and carefully evaluated, it would be extremely foolish and possibly damaging to student learning to institute machine grading of the NAPLAN essay, including dual grading by a machine and a human marker,” Dr Perelman wrote.

The release of Dr Perelman’s review comes as ministers at September’s meeting of the federal Education Council gave in-principle support for NAPLAN writing tests to be marked by a computer and a human in 2018.

Stanley Rabinowitz, general manager of assessment and reporting at ACARA, said all NAPLAN writing tasks completed online next year would be marked by a person as well as an automated scoring system.

“This is to provide reassurance that automated marking achieves scores comparable to human markers, but faster,” Dr Rabinowitz said.

Dr Rabinowitz said ACARA had done further research since the 2015 report, including work based on Dr Perelman’s research, which would be released next month.

He defended ACARA’s report and said Dr Perelman and the Teachers Federation “are known critics of automated marking systems and the report findings should be viewed with this in mind.”

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said parents, teachers and principals had not been consulted about the “radical plans” to move to online marking.

“The federal agency in charge of NAPLAN is rushing through with plans to have robots mark next year’s NAPLAN tests despite their justifications being discredited by world-leading research,” Mr Zadkovich said.

Mr Zadkovich urged education ministers to reject ACARA’s plan to “bring robots into the marking of extended pieces of children’s work”.

Mr Zadkovich said Dr Perelman’s report warned that computers could only detect “low grade attributes of writing” and cannot detect “the most important elements of a text”.

Automated marking can discriminate against some social groups and is even flawed when it comes to grammar checking, he said.

Robyn Cox, the president of the Primary English Teaching Association Australia, said she did not oppose the role of artificial intelligence in education but warned that its ongoing involvement in areas such as writing could have negative consequences.

“My concern is that this will serve the needs of the computer and not the needs of humanity,” Dr Cox said.

“It won’t take us long before big corporations or text book publishers start developing software or text books that prepare kids for the writing task that a computer wants to see.”

The ACARA said the number of schools taking part in the double marking had not yet been confirmed but the Education Council was told that the move will deliver a “significant increase in costs”.

The ministers also agreed to extend the timeline for all schools to transition to NAPLAN online to 2020. All year 3 students will do NAPLAN writing tasks with pencil and paper regardless of when their school moves online.

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Top or front loader: Buyer’s guide to washing machines

Buying a washing machine is not as straightforward as it used to be. What drum size do you need? How about spin speed? And what about energy efficiency?
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Before choosing the best model for you, here are some points to help inform your purchase. Size

Start by measuring the intended installation space – making sure you pay close attention to depth, as machines often vary. Add in a centimetre or two for clearance on each side, consider how the door will open, and don’t forget to measure areas of access for when they deliver it.

Also consider the layout of your home. Top loaders, for example, tend to be better suited to laundry rooms over kitchens, whereas front loaders can fit under a bench or above or below a dryer.

If it’s in a room where you spend time, noise level is a consideration. Check the decibels – with anything below 50 decibels considered particularly quiet. Type

If you have limited space, a front loader may better suit your needs and cost less to run. They tend to be gentler on clothes – if you happen to have lots of delicates – as they work via a spinning drum versus a pole-style agitator in the middle. Related: Should you rinse your dishes?Related: Cooking in the laundry: Multitasking or weird?Related: Household items you only have to clean once a year

If you do frequent, large washes, and have the space, then a top loader may be more viable.

Alternatively, if you want a two-in-one workhorse, washer-dryers combine both appliance functions, though consumer choice websites remain unconvinced. The drying capacity is also lower than the washing capacity, so you may have to adjust the load midway. Capacity

Drum sizes range from 5kg all the way up to 16kg – indicating the weight of clothes it can wash on a standard cotton setting. As a guide to capacity, one complete outfit usually equates to around 1kg.

Washing machines are most efficient when carrying a full load, so choose a high-capacity drum if you’re a busy household and a smaller drum if you’re a one- or two-person household. Water and energy efficiency

Want to save money and be kinder to the environment? Look out for the Energy Star Rating out of 10 and a WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme) score from zero to six stars. The more stars, the better.

Energy-saving machines may cost more now, but are better for your wallet (and the planet) in the future. If you want to use electricity, consider washing clothes at 40 degrees instead of 60 degrees, though certain items may require a higher temperature. Functions and features

Look out programs and features that suit your needs, for example, hand wash, fast wash, baby wash, sports wash, child locks, or automatic sensors, which will automatically adjust your machine settings depending on the size of the load and how soiled it is.

If you’re busy, it may be worth investing in a machine with a delay timer, which means you can time your wash to end when you get home, to avoid that musty stench. When buying

Do your research, shop around for the best value and don’t be afraid to haggle. Make the salesperson aware that you want to buy, but need the best possible price. They’ll usually price match, at the very least – or throw in extras or premium delivery (i.e. installation and removal of your old appliance) to sweeten the deal.

As they make you an offer, get them to write it down on their business card, so you won’t forget and can show it to the next store you visit. And if it’s floorstock you’re looking at, it’s even easier to negotiate a better price.

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The 90s decor item making a nightmare comeback

As anyone who’s watched The Block knows, mastering the skills of styling a modern-day bedroom is pretty much the key to life success.
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But what if The Block had been around a couple of decades ago, when Scotty, Shelley and Shaynna were merely a glint in a TV producer’s eye?

Could these renovation experts have ever, pray tell, predicted that dancing flowers, rockstar sunnies, would go out of vogue? That Fido Dido bedspreads would fail to make a comeback or that teenage bedrooms would no longer be plastered with posters of Jason Priestley?

Admittedly, it can be a sticky wicket trying to guess when trends are suddenly going to rocket back into fashion (90210 did get a second life). Who could have predicted the mysterious resurgence of Crocs, macrame, high-waisted jeans and white Reebok sneakers?

As for the boudoir, who knew that lava lamps would be replaced years later by a sea of Himalayan salt lamps promising to ward off electronic nasties. Or that our sleeping quarters would begin morphing into botanic gardens. Fiddle leaf fig, anyone?

But this article isn’t really about any of that. It’s about dreamcatchers. Yep, they’re back – in a big, boho way – appearing everywhere from Bali to Byron. A friend reports seeing dreamy dreamcatchers selling for 500 clams at a high-end boutique in LA. A post shared by Dreamcatcher Collective (@dreamcatcher_collective_au) on May 30, 2017 at 8:33pm PDTThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Housing demand keeping prices high, developers say

A lack of housing supply and restrictions on funding and sales to foreign buyers, mean prices will remain high, says developer Crown Group’s Iwan Sunito.
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Speaking in Sydney on a panel at an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce event, Mr Sunito said there was no question residential prices are rising rapidly, but it’s more to do with the supply-demand model.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the panel, which included head of Charter Hall, David Harrison, and the executive general manager of funds management at Dexus, Deborah Coakley, said issues such as increased migration and population, infrastructure projects, crowd funding by retail investors and even driverless cars, were issues impacting on the commercial and residential property sectors.

Mr Sunito, who has developed the Infinity project at Green Square and Waterfall at Waterloo in Sydney, said restrictions on bank funding and selling to foreign buyers has led to some developers scaling back projects.

“Post the global financial crisis, the supply side has been diminishing which has pushed up prices,” he said.

“We are still building, but I know of other developers that have scaled back.”

Mr Sunito took a swipe at local councils saying, there should be less “red tape and more red carpet”.

Mr Harrison said on the issue of funding, that in simple terms, governments get involved and put restrictions on free markets “when prices get out of control”.

“With restrictions on banks and pressure to change from interest only to principal and interest loans, and the number of state-driven taxes, these are all affecting foreign buyers,” he said.

“It’s a series of government reaction to the affordability crisis.”

Ms Coakley said the rise in population was helping to keep office vacancy rates at historically low levels. Confidence up

The comments were made against the backdrop of the latest ANZ/Property Council Survey for the December quarter, which shows a strengthening of the NSW property industry’s confidence.

NSW industry confidence has increased from 139 index points in September 2017 to 147 index points in the December quarter, indicating a significant strengthening of industry sentiment.

Property Council NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald said forward work expectations and economic growth expectations had increased over the quarter, showing an industry solidifying its position in an uncertain policy environment.

“There is also an easing in expectations around debt finance availability this quarter after three quarters of worsening sentiment,” she said.

“What this most recent survey indicates is that the NSW industry is resilient and has a confident outlook to the future; and it’s important this continues.”

Ms Fitzgerald said there are 70 pieces of planning policy being considered by the NSW government, according to the Department of Planning website; policy that has been consulted on yet is awaiting a decision.

“It is this policy that we must see decisions on in order to continue the strengthening of industry confidence and ensure economic and jobs growth continues,” she said.

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Tie-up puts bounce back into Flying Kangaroo

When Qantas entered into its first partnership with Emirates five years ago, the Flying Kangaroo was a very different beast to the one it is today. The international business was losing hundreds of millions of dollars, fuel was expensive, the cost base was too high and the airline was trying to ditch loss-making routes.
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It’s fair to conclude that when that marriage was thrashed out, the Middle Eastern partner was in a far stronger negotiating position. There was plenty of commentary written that Qantas didn’t benefit to the same degree as Emirates.

This may have been so, but the reality is that regardless of which airline posted the biggest gain, the deal did ultimately play a part in the revival of Qantas’ fortunes. It provided access to Qantas customers with greater frequency and a far wider network of European destinations without the need and the cost of using its own planes.

Fast forward five years and Qantas and Emirates are back at the negotiating table and so much has changed.

Firstly Qantas is not the financially undernourished creature it was – indeed over the past two years it produced record profits and the international division reported underlying earnings before interest and tax of $327 million in 2017.

There are still plenty of reasons why the partnership with Emirates works, most of which involve access to routes and frequent-flyer programs.

But it is hard to imagine that this agreement cannot but favour Qantas more than the previous one.

While not suggesting (as Qantas boss Alan Joyce and Emirates chief Tim Clarke do) that this isn’t a win-win, one gets the impression that Qantas has spread its wings a bit further in this relationship. London calling

There will be less overlap with Emirates, in that both carriers will no longer fly from Australia to London via Dubai. This will be strictly an Emirates route, even though Qantas will code-share on it.

Qantas instead will offer two different ways to get to London – using Qantas aircraft. The first will be from Melbourne via Perth then non-stop to London and the second will be from Sydney to London via Singapore. Emirates will code-share on the former route and on the Sydney to Singapore leg of the London flight.

The additional detail announced by the partners on Wednesday will see Emirates all but cut Australia out of its Dubai to New Zealand route, with one Sydney-Christchurch exception. This will allow Qantas to greatly boost the capacity of its east coast flights across the Tasman.

Qantas admits that the changes will see more people flying on Qantas livery. Logic suggests this will be more financially beneficial for Qantas because (again) logic suggests airlines will make more money from a passenger sitting on their airline than on one with which it code-shares.

But this is not something the partners are prepared to discuss. Indeed, the magic formulae they use to share the spoils of this agreement is one of the best-kept commercial secrets of all time. Both parties prefer to say that it is far more complicated and invoke the “win-win” explanation.

One of the other big changes over the past year has been the increasing importance of traffic between Australia and Asia.

Under the Qantas-Emirates partnership Mark I, Qantas abandoned its Asian hub to London, but these days clearly considers it a must in its route network.

Where five years ago Qantas international was looking to reduce routes, the huge reduction in the cost of fuel has enabled it to start adding new ones.

The third change in the airline industry is technology and this is likely to become the biggest factor in determining how the partnership will look in another five years.

Advances in aircraft technology now allow Qantas to offer a non-stop flight from Perth to London and Joyce is certain that in five years the airline will be flying from Australia’s east coast direct to London and New York.

There are whispers that even the aircraft being delivered next year will open up some interesting route options; one being talked about is Brisbane to Chicago.

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‘Cracks are starting to show’: The surprise Sydney area leading the slowdown

Sydney’s eastern suburbs have emerged as the weakest market in the city with house prices falling 6 per cent in the three months to September, new data shows.
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In fact, all but two regions recorded price falls over the September, with the south-west the next worst performer (-4 per cent), followed by the once-red hot inner west, which fell 3.9 per cent, according to the Domain Group State of the Market report.

The most resilient markets were the northern beaches, where the median house price increased 0.4 per cent to $1,907,000, and the south – with no price change at $1.3 million.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said the results showed the downturn was widespread across Sydney, with affordability starting to bite even in the higher-priced city and east where the median was $2.17 million.

“More than $2 million is expensive in anyone’s language – clearly buyers are thinking twice,” Dr Wilson said.

Good Deeds buyer’s agency principal Veronica Morgan, who actively buys eastern suburbs real estate, wasn’t convinced the market had slowed across the board.

“We have noticed a softening but it’s sporadic,” Ms Morgan said.

She’d also noticed more substandard homes coming onto the market, which she described as a market in transition.

Brad Caldwell-Eyles, managing director of 1st City, said there had been a “slight cooling in enthusiasm and a decrease in that sense of urgency for existing residential property” in the city and eastern areas.

But he said it was likely a softer period due to the increase in homes for sale over spring.

“Bottom line, recent history shows that we can expect this spring cooling in established residential enthusiasm however come Australia Day, that fire will be stoked back into life.”

Richard Baini director of Richard Matthews Real Estate, located in Strathfield, was not convinced the inner west had moved into a downturn, despite the data showing a 3.9 per cent decline for houses and an even steeper 4.9 per cent drop for apartments.

Instead, he described it as an “adjustment quarter” with more realistic pricing from vendors and reasonable expectations across the board.

He put the softness in the apartment market down to a decline in off-the-plan sales that had the effect of changing the mix of properties on the market to secondhand stock, which is typically more affordable, thus skewing the median price.

Apartment prices fell in all areas except the south west, west, Central Coast and northern beaches.

But the worst performer for apartments, outside of the Blue Mountains, was the lower north where prices had declined 6.7 per cent over the quarter to a median of $900,000. They were up 0.1 per cent over the year.

House prices in the lower north fell 2.6 per cent over the quarter to $2.41 million, but were up 2 per cent over the year.

Richardson & Wrench Mosman director Robert Simeon said this was an inevitable outcome after such a run in the market.

“At the moment the market is fatiguing and we’re going to see a self-correction and then a line-ball market,” Mr Simeon said.

He said without “significant economic bad news like another GFC” it would be unlikely prices would drop significantly.

“There are fewer and fewer buyers at auction, but this is what happens after a boom.”

The western suburbs had also been seeing signs of a slowdown, Raine & Horne Blacktown’s Edwin Almeida said.

“We’re in for a rude shock and the cracks are starting to show,” Mr Almeida said.

He’d already seen some homes selling for less than they would have achieved six months ago.

Starr Partners chief executive Doug Driscoll said it was “simple economics” that the market was slowing down.

“For a long time, we were seeing an influx of investors from across Sydney looking to buy in the west and south-west and this volume applied extra pressure on the market,” Mr Driscoll said.

“External influences we wouldn’t normally experience in these parts of Sydney meant prices grew at an exaggerated rate.

“Now that there are fewer investors, and lenders are becoming increasingly prudent, I think it’s a case of the market now starting to find its natural level.”

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The new Byron? Regional market clocks staggering growth

They may both be a 90-minute flight from Sydney, but when it comes to house prices, Ballina and Byron Bay are going in different directions.
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House prices in Ballina jumped a staggering 7.1 per cent over the September quarter, making it the fastest-growing regional market in NSW, Domain Group’s State of the Market Report shows.

Ballina now has a median house price of $621,250 – a jump of $44,000 in just three months.

Over the year, the median rose 14 per cent from $545,000 last September.

When his waterfront home at 108 Riverside Drive in West Ballina sold for $1.425 million at auction two months ago, Chris Brombal was pleasantly surprised.

“We couldn’t have been happier, we were thinking hopefully around $1.3 million, but yeah the result blew us away,” he said.

“We had 45 inspections and then five different bidders at auction.”

“Now we’re moving to a farm in the area, near Austinville, because the kids are young and they wanted motorbikes and a cow.”

Licensee of LJ Hooker Ballina Michael Shay, who co-managed the sale, said there was a buzz around Ballina.

“The market is very strong here in Ballina Shire, so houses that have the correct price on them are selling immediately and in fact often over the listed price,” he said.

Last week the sales record for Ballina Shire was smashed by a waterfront home in Lennox Head selling for $4.06 million at auction.

Increased development in the area has helped fuel price growth, according to Mr Shay.

“As well as a lot of people selling their homes to downsize, we see a lot of locals buying into the new estates and upgrading. Builders have been very busy here,” he said.

In 2013, a planning panel approved rezoning a 35-hectare farm at Skennars Head – adjacent to Ballina – into 500 residential lots and potentially a shopping centre.

But while house prices are shooting up in Ballina, in nearby Byron Bay they fell 3.7 per cent over the quarter.

The tourist hotspot is still the most expensive NSW market outside Sydney, with a median house price of $820,000 and has enjoyed strong price growth of 8.3 per cent over the year.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said Ballina was emerging as an affordable alternative to Byron Bay.

“The growth has been extraordinary over the last three years and it’s not a surprise that we’ve started to see prices hit a bit of a ceiling in Byron. At once stage it looked like Byron was going to have a $1 million median.

“I think that with cashed-up Sydney buyers looking for that second property or a retirement property Byron is a favoured destination, but it’s very tightly held,” he said.

Other strong regional markets over the quarter included Clarence Valley, which grew by 5.3 per cent, followed by Port Macquarie (3.8 per cent), Shoalhaven (3.7 per cent) and Albury (3.4 per cent).

Shoalhaven and Shellharbour were the strongest performers over the year, with 19.5 per cent and 16.7 per cent growth respectively.

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Canberra house price growth overtakes Sydney, Melbourne

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 02: Generic crowd image during the auction for the property at 1/88 Queens Parade in Fitzroy North on July 2, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hopkins/Fairfax Media) Generic auction signThe Sunday Age Domain Photo CATHRYN TREMAIN23 June 2005/cjt050623.001.005
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Canberra’s property market continued to rise in the third quarter, with rental rates and median house prices growing faster than the Sydney and Melbourne markets.

The latest Domain State of the Market report, released on Thursday, showed house prices in the capital had reached a new high of $723,980, up 4.3 per cent over the quarter and 10.5 per cent annually.

Experts said under-supply in the market was helping drive growth, with median prices for units increasing by 1.9 per cent to $427,391, recording a slight decrease of 0.5 per cent annually.

The capital’s rental market also remained strong, putting Canberra among the highest movers in the nation alongside Hobart, which saw 4.2 per cent growth.

Median weekly asking rents for houses grew 1 per cent in the quarter to $505, an increase of 6.3 per cent year on year.

Median unit asking rents were steady at $420, but remained up by 5 per cent year on year.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said Canberra’s median house price had been down over the June quarter, but the strong market suggested prices would continue to rise through to the end of the year.

“The Canberra market grew significantly quicker than the Melbourne market over the September quarter, and also grew at a much faster rate than Sydney where house prices were down by 1.9 per cent,” Dr Wilson said.

“The two strongest markets at the moment are Canberra and Hobart, and it’s interesting to note that they are the two smallest markets as well.”

Sydney remained the country’s most expensive city, with median house prices of $1,167,616, ahead of Melbourne at $880,902.

The national median house prices was $819,455, down 0.5 per cent in the quarter by 10.80 per cent up on an annual basis.

Canberra had the highest unit rental yield in the nation at 5.77 per cent, increasing at 3.7 per cent year on year.

The figure put Canberra ahead of Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide, while Sydney and Melbourne had yield growth of 3.86 per cent and 4.47 per cent respectively.

“The unit result is quite interesting in Canberra,” Dr Wilson said.

“There’s been a building boom in Canberra for units and we’ve seen prices pick up again over the September quarter – up by 1.9 per cent and it’s set for a consistent increase.”

“This just shows that the return on investment is reflecting that Canberra units represent good value,” Dr Wilson said.

Census figures released in June showed the ACT is the fastest growing jurisdiction by population, approaching 400,000 and with 11.44 per cent growth since 2011.

The ACT looks set to pass Tasmania on population levels, driving in part by the growth of Gungahlin – the fastest growing region in the country.

Dr Wilson said the Canberra property market continued to show upward potential generally, which provided good value perception for both buyers and sellers.

“We saw through 2013-2015 a constraining of the Canberra market through local economic factors – the slashing of the public service budget and the small number of net migration, both had a significant impact on the housing market,” he said.

“Migration has turned around quite strongly now for Canberra, the unemployment rate has fallen back down again and no doubt the public sector is going strong.

“There’s upwards potential for Canberra and a good value perception from buyers and sellers in the Canberra market,” he said.

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ATO isn’t being honest with us about the $2.5b corporate tax gap

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 03: Australian Taxation Office Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan speaks at the Tax Institute’s 31st National Convention at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne on March 3, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. ATO (Photo by Wayne Taylor/Fairfax Media)The Australian Taxation Office was working with the government to ensure that it had the right public “messaging” before releasing its tax gap figures, Freedom of Information documents reveal.
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Correspondence between the ATO and government and Treasury, obtained under FOI, proves that prior to releasing its tax gap figures – it was supposed to be in the ATO’s 2016 annual report – the ATO consulted with them to ensure there was “lead time” to allow the agency “to develop the narrative and messaging”.

The detail of that consultation isn’t included in the FOI material, obtained by staff at Labor MP Andrew Leigh’s office, but it’s clear the ATO and government knew releasing such figures would be controversial and that any figure would be closely scrutinised.

On Wednesday, more than one year after that correspondence was sent, the ATO finally revealed its first-ever tax gap estimates, but only for large companies (it estimates a gap of $2.5 billion in 2014-15 or 5.8 per cent of tax payable). The agency delayed the release of small business and individual tax gaps. I’ll come to why later.

The tax gap is not an actual amount of missing revenue. It’s the theoretical difference, one that’s prone to errors, between the total amount of income tax collected and the amount the ATO estimates would have been collected if every one of those taxpayers was fully compliant.

As experts have noted, $2.5 billion is a conservative estimate. The ATO cannot tax what it does not count or see.

The ATO admits it isn’t counting companies it chooses not to audit. It’s hit several companies with $4 billion worth of tax bills, mainly in relation to transfer pricing issues, but this doesn’t capture all companies that may be dodging tax.

As former ATO employee Martin Lock (he took a redundancy in June 2014 when there were massive ATO staff cuts) had told the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, the ATO is giving up billions of dollars in revenue and uses an imperfect “risk rating” system to determine who it audits and how aggressively it audits large companies.

The ATO’s annual list of company tax data shows more than a third of large public and private companies paid no tax in 2014-15, with 36 per cent of large firms reporting zero tax payable. (While it is difficult to extrapolate which taxpayers did not pay their fair share of tax from this data, as the ATO reports company losses as “nil tax payable”, it’s unlikely all companies with zero tax made a real “loss”.)

Further, for the ones it has chosen to audit, the variance between tax bills issued and what finally came into the federal revenue chest were massive. The ATO just loves cutting deals with big companies rather than heading to court. It did so with Chevron and Microsoft recently. And it will do so in the coming years.

Not only is the ATO underestimating the amount of possible tax dodging going on by multinationals, it’s also saying they are generally honest. “We find that large corporate groups lodge income tax returns as required and pay the liabilities that are due,” it said upon releasing the tax gap figures.

And this brings me back to the earlier issue of why the ATO didn’t release the tax gap figures for other market segments: highly wealthy individuals, small businesses and individuals – those it suspects are participating in the illegal black economy, or cash economy.

You should expect a figure much higher than $2.5 billion for these segments of taxpayers. Rightly so for the Highly Wealthy Individuals HWI market – not only are they playing with big money, but as we saw in the Panama Papers leaks, some of them engage in tax fraud and evasion and hide behind secret shell companies.

But should the blame fall on the rest of us? Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan and his underlings have been hammering the point for some time now: It’s not the corporates that the ATO need to worry about, it’s you and I. You and I are making too many illegitimate work expense deductions, Mr Jordan has said.

Saying multinationals are good corporate citizens and the rest of us are the problem isn’t being honest. The ATO needs to work on better messaging.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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