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February, 2019

‘That kind of survival isn’t what I want’: Anne’s plea to Parliament

Each day, breathing and swallowing become more difficult for Anne Gabrielides.
Nanjing Night Net

She has largely lost control of her hands, and faces eventually having to communicate via technology that tracks her eye movements.

Ms Gabrielides was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in July last year and has recently lost the ability to speak.

“That kind of survival isn’t what I want,” Ms Gabrielides told Fairfax Media during an interview in which she responded to questions by typing on her iPad.

“Along with that is the difficulty of breathing and swallowing every day. I want to suck up as much of life as possible, but there will come a time when I will want to say, ‘No, that’s enough’.”

The 53-year-old wants the legal right to end her life with medical assistance at the time of her choosing and has the support of her husband, Paul, their twin sons Michael and Christopher, 31, and daughter Eleni, 20.

Terminally ill NSW residents over the age of 25 would have the legal right to end their own lives with medical assistance under draft legislation expected to be introduced to state Parliament within months.

To qualify under the draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, the patient would have to be, in “reasonable medical judgment”, expected to die from their illness within 12 months and be experiencing “extreme pain, suffering or physical incapacity”.

The decision must be signed off by two medical practitioners, including a specialist, and the patient assessed by an independent psychiatrist or psychologist to guarantee they are of sound mind and the decision made of their own free will.

Other safeguards in the draft legislation include a 48-hour cooling-off period, the patient’s ability to rescind the decision at any time and the right for close relatives to challenge patient eligibility in the Supreme Court.

A cross-party working group of NSW MPs will unveil the draft bill for public consultation on Tuesday, with the aim of introducing it to Parliament in August for debate shortly afterwards.

The bill is the result of two years’ consultation by the working group comprised of Liberal MP Lee Evans, Nationals MLC Trevor Khan, Labor MLC Lynda Voltz, Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi and independent MP Alex Greenwich.

Ms Gabrielides will be attending the bill’s launch on Tuesday at NSW Parliament House. She and her husband are petitioning MPs for their support.

She has launched a change.org petition imploring NSW MPs to support the voluntary assisted dying legislation.

On Monday, the petition had been signed by more than 40,000 people.

Asked for her message to NSW MPs, Ms Gabrielides said: “Until you have this impact your life you don’t know why this is so important.”

Mr Gabrielides acknowledged that some MPs might be concerned that the legislation is the “thin end of the wedge” and could be expanded.

But he argued: “Politicians shouldn’t fear that anyone with a terminal illness wants to go early. They don’t. They want every last bit of wine and every last kiss.”

Shayne Higson, spokeswoman for the right-to-die advocacy group Dying with Dignity NSW, said the draft bill contained “basically the tightest eligibility criteria in the world and the most safeguarded process for making a request for assisted dying”.

While supporting the bill, Ms Higson raised a question about the fairness of the eligibility age of 25, given similar legislation internationally stipulated 18 years.

The MPs’ working group decided on the age of 25 in light of medical evidence that some executive functions of the brain relating to rational decision-making do not mature until then.

In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media, the group says: “Whilst society may shy away from talking about the end of life we can no longer ignore giving those patients with terminal illnesses the right to a dignified death.”

But a spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said activists should be advocating for more resources to be placed into palliative care.

“Legalising euthanasia is not death with dignity, and introducing a law which would define killing as a form of medical treatment would have consequences for all Australians, not just those who would use such a law to end their lives,” she said.

“And these consequences would exist no matter the ‘safeguards’ put in place.”

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ANU calling on citizen scientists to help search for supernovae

Dr Anais M????ller of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Photo: Stuart Hay ANUThe explosive, violent deaths of stars are being used to help measure how much our universe is expanding.
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The Australian National University is calling for citizen scientist’s help in their quest to spot supernovae, a flashpoint so powerful it can briefly outshine millions of stars in the galaxy.

Using a web portal on zooniverse.org people can search for these luminous bursts in thousands of images taken by the SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Sliding Spring Observatory.

Co-lead researcher ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker said scientists could measure the distance of a supernova from Earth by calculating how much the light from the exploding star faded.

“Using exploding stars as markers all across the universe, we can measure how the universe is growing and what it’s doing,” said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“We can then use that information to better understand dark energy, the cause of the universe’s acceleration.”

Understanding dark energy is now a major international research enterprise and analysing Type 1a supernovae was crucial to this field, co-lead researcher Dr Anais M??ller said.

She said Type 1a supernovae were of particular interest as scientists understood the amount of light they emitted when they exploded and could calculate their distance from earth by how much that faded.

Dr M??ller explained dark energy, a force thought to cause the expansion of the universe, with an example of two ants standing still on top of a balloon.

“You inflate the balloon and these ants, the distance between them is getting bigger, but they are not moving or doing anything,” she said.

“I always think of dark energy as that. The energy is making the space bigger but we don’t feel it.”

Dr M??ller said unlike the public search for Planet 9 earlier this year images were coming in every weekly for this project from the 1.3 metre telescope – the only one comprehensively surveying the southern sky.

“We are examining an area 10,000 times larger than the full moon every week,” she said. “The first people who identify an object that turns out to be a supernova will be publicly recognised as co-discoverers.”

Searching for brilliant supernovae was a fun activity for the public, but would hopefully help to illuminate greater ability to measure the forces which shape our universe, Dr M??ller said.

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ATO slated oil giant Chevron, now ramps up hunt for multinationals

Chris Jordan, Commissioner of Taxation at the ATO, at the 2016 Self Managed Super Funds Conference, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Wednesday 18th February 2016. World Copyright: Daniel Kalisz Photo: Daniel Kalisz
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The Tax Office says the more than $10 million legal cost of fighting global oil giant Chevron in court was worth every cent – even if the company appeals to the High Court – since the agency feels it now has firepower to chase hundreds of millions of dollars in tax bills from other companies using dubious tax schemes.

On Tuesday the Australian Taxation Office will release new transfer pricing guidance. This is aimed at helping companies with cross-border financing – in 2015 worth about $420 billion across the economy – meet their obligations.

These cross-border transactions involve potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars in tax each year.

Deputy commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn said “everyone is excruciatingly aware of the Chevron case”, which had loaded up debt with its US parent company in a bid to reduce its Australian tax bill.

This strategy ultimately proved unsuccessful when the company last month lost its appeal against the $300 million tax bill issued by the ATO.

Chevron’s global vice-president and chief financial officer Patricia Yarrington has called the Federal Court tax ruling a ‘huge disappointment’ and said the company is considering a High Court challenge.

Notwithstanding that, the ATO wants multinationals to be transparent about whether they have similar tax arrangements. ‘Red zone’ taxpayers

Mr Hirschhorn said it was important that multinationals pay the right amount of tax, given the “astronomically large” size of Gorgon and other upcoming investments by oil and gas and resource giants.

Chevron has almost completed the $US60 billion Gorgon LNG plant in Western Australia. The company is now targeting first production from the $US34 billion Wheatstone project, also in WA, by mid-year.

The ATO guidance asks taxpayers to rank themselves within six colour-related risk ratings starting from green “low-risk” and moving through to red “very-high risk” categories.

If the interest Australian subsidiaries pay on an inter-company loan is within 1 per cent of any borrowings made by the parent, then they are unlikely to be targeted.

But as the Chevron case highlighted, not all taxpayers have low interest bills. Mr Hirschhorn said in 2015, about 50 taxpayers had related-party interest expense of over $50 million. Of those 50, about 25 taxpayers had $100 million or more in interest expense.

“You can work on the assumption that this guidance is aimed at that 50,” Mr Hirschhorn said. “At least one-third of these taxpayers have already been assessed as being in the red zone.”

He said the ATO expects the number of taxpayers in the red zone to increase slightly as it continues to assess them. Less likely to cut deals?

While the Tax Office has in previous years cut deals with large companies, Mr Hirschhorn said that this time around it was expecting it would recover most of the $4 billion of tax bills being issued to big companies.

Already $2.9 billion of that $4 billion has been attributed to seven large companies.

“I would say from where I sit I am expecting that we will collect a higher percentage of those [$4 billion worth of tax bills] than we have in previous years,” Mr Hirschhorn said.

“We are more focused on key issues and cases like Chevron strengthen our hand in transfer pricing cases.”

Mr Hirschhorn said some of the seven are transfer pricing-related cases. For example, SingTel is fighting a $330 million tax bill from its 2001 Optus purchase which also involved intra-company financing.

Apart from Chevron and Singtel other companies named during evidence at the Senate corporate tax avoidance inquiry or in ASX statements as fighting tax bills resulting from ATO audits include Apple, Google, Microsoft, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Crown. Related-party deals on the rise

He said while the number of related party-deals is on the rise, “I would expect that as the gas starts coming on line some of those oil and gas companies will start repaying some of that debt”.

In a submission to the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance the ATO said in the 2014-15 income year, total related party loans totalled about $420 billion.

Almost half of these related party loans were in the energy and resources sector (worth $202 million). About one quarter of related party loans were in the oil and gas industry (worth $97 million).

The Tax Justice Network’s Jason Ward said related party interest payments in the oil and gas industry were estimated at $3.9 billion in one year.

“These schemes are blatant efforts to avoid tax obligations in Australia where the profits are earned,” he said.

The ATO’s guidance was “very encouraging” and had the potential to bring in billions in additional tax revenues from the world’s largest multinationals, Mr Ward said.

Tax Institute senior tax counsel Bob Deutsch said the guidance gives taxpayers a deeper insight into how Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan might regard their financing transactions. Can’t be stooged

Mr Hirschhorn said the ATO wanted multinationals to be more transparent but expected that unfortunately not all companies would willingly admit that they were in the “red zone”.

If that was the case, the ATO would use its information-gathering powers to force them to, he said, reiterating Mr Jordan’s line to the 2015 Senate inquiry into corporate avoidance that some “believe we can be stooged”.

Aside from interest levels other indicators resulting in red zone risk include the use of “hybrid financial instruments” and/or “hybrid entity structures”.

The OECD plan against multinational tax avoidance includes anti-hybrid rules that aim to deny duplicate deductions or deny where an entity is able to claim a tax deduction in one jurisdiction but not include an income amount in the other tax jurisdiction.

Mr Hirschhorn said Europe and the US were typically jurisdictions where hybrids were used.

The government noted the OECD’s work on hybrids in the May federal budget.

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

Buying for investment: Are tenanted properties the best buy?

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Investors might think they’ve struck the rental jackpot when they pick up a tenanted property but sometimes they can be more trouble than they’re worth, according to experts.

Property Pursuit director Meighan Hetherington said there are pros and cons to inheriting tenants as part of a sale.

“We always assess the documentation if the tenant is in situ, so the lease agreement and the entry condition report, which is one of the most important pieces of paper that a potential buyer can look at,” she says.

“If that is good, thorough and has good photos, then the end of lease is a much smoother process than if it’s not there, doesn’t exist or it’s poor record-keeping.”

If the documentation is non-existent or poor, that could potentially lead to problems, especially if there weren’t actual records of any breaches, she says.

Hetherington says investors need to be have an understanding of the tenancy’s history because the vendor may be selling because of longstanding problems.

“The cons can be that the tenant may actually be a problem and it may be the reason that the landlord is selling, so those investigations into the tenant’s history are really important,” she says.

Bees Nees City Realty sales manager Rebecca Herbst says some landlords wait until the end of a lease to sell their properties believing that a vacant property is more attractive to potential buyers.

But this isn’t always the best strategy, she says.

“Unfortunately many agencies actually encourage landlords to move their tenants out before selling and, while there can be some benefits in easier access and presentation, we do think a great tenant is always worth hanging onto if investors are looking to sell,” Herbst says.

“A well-presented property with happy tenants and a good return is always attractive to investors – the sale has more opportunity to be a win/win situation for everyone involved.”

But she says incoming landlords needs to have their eyes wide open, including any outstanding maintenance requests, which can annoy tenants and potentially give them grounds to terminate.

Landlords should also consider whether they want to retain or change the property management appointment, Hetherington says.

She also suggests that if tenants appear problematic and are on a periodic lease then new landlords consider vacant possession.

“We would like for vacant possession and for the existing property manager to manage that exit process,” she says.

“We then have the opportunity to do a pre-settlement inspection once those tenants are out. Then we can identify other issues that we need the owner to address that weren’t addressed by the existing property manager.”

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Rolf Harris trial jury told three claims of assault is ‘beyond coincidence’

London: The jury at a trial of Rolf Harris underway in London has heard that it is “beyond coincidence” that three teenage women who allege the Australian entertainer groped them at separate events over the course of a decade should come forward with their claims independently of each other.
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The 12-person jury, comprising seven women and five men, was sworn in on Monday for the trial of the 87-year old artist and musician who is charged with four counts of indecently assaulting the three women who were aged 16 or below at the time. The incidents all took place at events dating between 1971 and 1983.

Harris appeared via video-link, sporting his trademark goatee and spectacles. He wore a grey suit, white shirt and dark blue tie with red braces. He is pleading not guilty to all counts.

The first day of the trial heard evidence from two witnesses – the first was Larry Westland, the organiser of the festival for youth music which took place at London’s Lyceum theatre in Covent Garden on the weekend of the 10 -11 July in 1971.

One of Harris’ alleged victims attended the festival and said she was in shock after the incident and was not able to talk about it with her own mother until years later when she was married with children, adding that what happened to her as a teenage girl wasn’t talked about in the 1970s.

It was at this festival that the British woman alleges Harris pulled her onto his lap with both hands around her waist area, after they had been photographed together with another unidentified boy.

She testified to the jury that when she stood up, Harris slid his hands “between her legs”‘ touching her vagina through her tights and knickers in an encounter lasting “a couple of seconds” that made her feel “terrible.”

She said she immediately told her father who went to confront Mr Harris but said it took many years before she was able to tell her mother.

“I was in shock about what happened??? in the seventies you didn’t discuss things like that,” the court heard.

“Later on when I was married and had children it was a lot easier to talk about things, we talked about it then.”

The woman will be cross-examined on Tuesday when the case resumes at 10am local time.

Earlier, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC opened the trial telling Southwark Crown Court that it was “beyond coincidence” that three women with similar allegations would come forward decades later independently of each other.

Mr Rees said it “offends common sense” to think that three women, aged 13, 14 and 16 at the time “should just happen to fabricate” offences in which Harris is alleged to have groped them “‘in a sexual way without their consent… for his own gratification.”

He told the jury they would notice the “common theme” of the women reacting badly to images of Rolf Harris on the television years later causing them to confide in their friends and family that the actor and musician was a “pervert”‘ and “dirty old man.”

Judge Taylor told the jury to put out of their minds any prior media reporting they may have read or seen about the high-profile entertainer and begin the trial with a “blank page in your minds” to be filled only by the evidence heard in the courtroom.

The trial is expected to last around two weeks.

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