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J is for jihad

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

IN MARCH this year, a group of Islamic radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.
Nanjing Night Net

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman, who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession, was the prisoners’ mosque functionary who came under the influence of Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with another Bali bomber, Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists, and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling this issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi” – Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia entirely with an Islamic caliphate under Islamic law.

Until the Bali bombings, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terror police, has had great success in cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists.”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500. For every 10 prosecuted, another one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terror, and many more who have gone unnoticed so far.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones which blew up by accident in the kitchen.

Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised. The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding and follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sunday Age that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the United States and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians not the three mujahideens,” he writes. ”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila” – ”crazy”. But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle and wise old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiah, Bashir’s former terror vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron, and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the latter-day plots that police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the Ngruki boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rohim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that the school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down, and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque being built and the separate sections for boys and girls, the Al-Mukmin school in suburban Ngruki is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terror police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning, or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, young English and Arabic teacher Abu Amar airily says the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Abu Bakar Bashir’s son Aburahman Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad, saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamic state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual, or its curriculum dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school,” he says angrily. ”It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking. For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

The fact is that not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terror raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahid can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy. They were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.”

Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade. He says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing, and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp, or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a de-radicalisation program. Vice-President Boediono himself ordered an anti-terror plan to be in place by next year, and said that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono said.

But Irfan Idris, the head of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter-Terrorism, says the entire agency has a budget of only $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of de-radicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

Professor Sarlito Wirawan, a psychologist working on this program and others, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical boarding school in Ngruki, Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector de-radicalisation programs. Noor Ismail Huda, a journalist and former student at Ngruki, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes, and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdurahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate. He says attacking the ideology head-on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said.

”Then we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terror. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … this is what people here call Reformasi,” he says.

”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

Islamist teaching … cleric Abdul Rahim, a son of Abdul Bashir, is a teacher at al-Mukmin school. Students laugh during a break in classes at al-Mukmin school.
Nanjing Night Net

Students in an English class at al-Mukmin school.

In March, a group of Islamist radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader, Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman – who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession – was the mosque functionary who came under the influence of the Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison, he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But, despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling the issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi”, Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia with a caliphate under Islamist law.

Until the Bali bombing, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terrorism police, has had great success cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, the Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists [than Indonesia is].”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500.

For every 10 prosecuted, one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terrorism and many more who have so far gone unnoticed.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones that blew up by accident in the kitchen. Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised.

The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding, little follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside, he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sun-Herald that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the US and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph, he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians, not the three mujahideen,” he writes.

”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila”(crazy). But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiyah, Bashir’s former terrorism vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have since emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the more recent plots which police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rahim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that al-Mukmin school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque now under construction and the separate sections for boys and girls, al-Mukmin is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about ”mikroba” – microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terrorist police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, a young English and Arabic teacher, Abu Amar, airily says that the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamist state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual or that its curriculum is dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school. It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking,” Rohim says angrily. ”For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

However, not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terrorism raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahideen can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy – they were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.” Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited, both by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade.

Depressingly, he says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a deradicalisation program. The Vice President, Boediono, has ordered an anti-terrorist plan to be in place by next year, and says that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono says.

However, the director of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter Terrorism, Irfan Idris, says the entire agency only has a budget of $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of deradicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

A psychologist working on this program and others, Professor Sarlito Wirawan, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate, it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical pesantren at Ngruki, and Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector deradicalisation programs. A journalist and former student at Ngruki, Noor Ismail Huda, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard-core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdul Rahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiyah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate.

He says attacking the ideology head on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said. ”Then, we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terrorism. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiyah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia, it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … This is what people here call reformasi,” he says. ”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

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Running with scissors

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

Nicy try … Peter Morrissey, Megan Gale, Alex Perry and Claudia Navone.Looking back, model, actor, swimwear designer and host of Project Runway Australia, Megan Gale, has a clear memory about the moment when for her, clothes became ”fashion”.
Nanjing Night Net

Several waiters at the Southbank restaurant where we meet gaze at her from a discreet distance while an oblivious Gale stirs her coffee. ”It was the night of the school disco and mum wouldn’t let me go, but I just hassled her until she said, ‘All right, you can go, but you’ve got to go now.’ I was so happy I just went in the clothes I was in, which was a pair of jeans and tracksuit top.

”It was the ’80s so all my friends were wearing ra-ra skirts and their hair was crimped. That was the first time where I felt like I didn’t fit in because of what I was wearing.”

While you probably won’t see a ra-ra skirt on the fourth season of Project Runway Australia, Gale says some of its designers have produced remarkably original garments. ”Some of them interpret fashion in interesting ways,” she says. ”That’s what makes this show feel different each season. Everyone remembers Matcho from season three … he made you wonder where his head was creatively. This year we have Christina – she’s got this amazing vision and she really thinks outside the square. That’s exciting.”

Based on the long-running US version hosted by Heidi Klum, Project Runway Australia is a reality show about 12 fashion designers who must create a garment within the short time frame. Each week there’s an elimination – the last contestant standing wins.

The first challenge in episode one begins at midnight; pressure, exhaustion and creative temperaments are a compelling combination. Then there are the challenges. Gale says there are plenty of fresh tasks that force designers to use materials out of their comfort zones.

This year’s judges include Australian fashion designer Peter Morrissey and professional stylist and former fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Claudia Navone. ”Peter’s very playful,” Gale says. ”He takes it all seriously, but sometimes he’s like a six-year-old on red cordial. But I’m the wrangler when it comes to the judges, designers and guest judges [including Miranda Kerr and Dannii Minogue], so that’s a lot of fun, too.”

As a judge herself, Gale doesn’t hold back and has developed an uncanny knack when it comes to spotting the designers’ attempts to hide wayward pins. ”It’s true. I have an evil eye when it comes to pins but constructive criticism is important – but not all the designers like to hear it. Some of them stand there and just give you excuses and that just brings out my ‘mum’ tone.”

Designer Alex Perry (if he had a more substantial moustache, he’d twirl it) returns as mentor, dishing out his signature advice, which ranges from supportive and astute to delightfully acerbic. ”A lot of people may not believe this,” Gale says, ”but Alex has one of the biggest hearts. He has this persona that works on the show but he’s very down to earth. He rarely goes out to functions – he’d prefer to be at home, in his jammies, having a cup of tea with his wife and his dog.”

At the suggestion that maybe the decision-making process featured on the show is the result of scripting, Gale stresses that every result is hard-won.

”We all have a different perspective. We don’t always agree – Claudia might focus on how the garment photographs, Peter’s looking at how it’s crafted, and I’m thinking, ‘Would I wear that on the red carpet and do I want my underwear hanging out the back?’ We nut it out until we have a result.”

Gale is reluctant to reveal any specifics about the new season, but says there was one challenge that almost ended in disaster.

”All I’ll say is that the designers were asked to make an entire outfit and someone decided they’d knock out a pair of jeans, but they ended up looking like something circa 1980 and not in a good way.”

It could be said, though, that the mishaps – say, the model teetering down the catwalk praying her ill-fitting garment doesn’t cause a wardrobe malfunction – are a large part of the show’s appeal.

”Coming up with new challenges that are good for both the designers and viewers at home is a challenge in itself,” Gale says with a laugh, ”but this year we’ve definitely managed to come up with some great ones.”

Project Runway Australia premieres on Monday, October 8, at 8.30pm on Arena.

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

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Rematch … Kerrin McEvoy brings Guineas Prelude winner Epaulette back to scale.MEMORIES of the Todman Stakes and Epaulette’s narrow defeat by Pierro are fuelling Kerrin McEvoy’s ambition of back-to-back Caulfield Guineas successes on Saturday.
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Epaulette, which is a Commands half-brother to Helmet, last year’s Guineas winner, headed Pierro in last year’s Todman before Gai Waterhouse’s still-unbeaten star fought back to win by a short half-head.

”I felt like I was home. We got there [to the front] and [he] had a look around,” McEvoy said after the Todman as Nash Rawiller claimed he had taught Pierro how to fight.

It was the closest any horse has got to Pierro and in two meetings since, Epaulette finished last in the Golden Slipper, which is best forgotten, and 2½-lengths third in the Run To The Rose dominated by Pierro.

”He [Pierro] is the benchmark for the three-year-olds there is no doubt about that,” McEvoy said. ”The Todman is a long time ago but it is the closest anything has got to him. My horse has definitely got better since but so has Pierro. He definitely has the runs on the board and is a lot stronger and has been very impressive in everything he has done.”

The $1 million Guineas over 1600 metres will be the first time Pierro steps up to group 1 level as a three-year-old but his record of eight wins without defeat, including the Golden Slipper, Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes, entitled him to the short quote of $1.35 with bookmakers. His Bill Stutt Stakes romp over the mile at Moonee Valley 10 days ago helped to trim that quote further.

Epaulette is the only real threat and $7 is freely available about his chances, even after his Golden Rose victory and a workmanlike performance in the Guineas Prelude at Caulfield eight days ago.

”He has been good at his past two [runs] but this is the ultimate test,” McEvoy said. ”This is the race we have targeted with him and we are taking on a very, very good three-year-old in Pierro. All I can say is I’m very happy with my horse.”

It will be Epaulette’s first run at 1600m but he looks like he will be suited by the trip. McEvoy indicated the barrier draw could play a big role in how the Guineas is run, but expects Pierro will be in front of Epaulette during the race.

Epaulette relaxed at the tail in the Golden Rose and stormed home to win at Rosehill, but showed versatility to be much closer in the Prelude but lacked the killer instinct when it looked as if he was going to blow his rivals away.

”It would be as good to be as close as possible to Pierro but we won’t be making any decisions about that until after the barrier draw,” McEvoy said. ”He is going to have something to chase this time I’m sure of that.”

Pierro will be the only runner from the Waterhouse stable as Kabayan and Proisir will be saved for targets later in the spring.

McEvoy has picked up the ride on Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Shahwardi in Saturday’s Herbert Power Handicap, which offers direct entry into the Caulfield Cup.

The Melbourne Cup-winning jockey’s European experience helped in getting the ride on the French stayer, which has 51.5 kilograms in the the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, and ran a close-up third in the Prix Kergorlay at Deauville at his most recent outing on August 19. It is the race Americain and Dunaden came through on their way to Melbourne Cup victory in the past two years. Also, Shahwardi is a two-time winner over the Caulfield Cup distance of 2400 metres, albeit in 2009.

McEvoy will get acquainted with the seven-year-old when he works him at Werribee this morning in preparation for Saturday. ”I have never ridden for Alain before, so it was a honour when he rang to ride Shahwardi,” he said. ”He needs to win a race like Saturday’s if he is going to get into the cups and it will be interesting to see how he measures up.”

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Reforms to give consumers a say

May 28th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

A new tribunal must approve ECT for involuntary patients.A NEW tribunal will be required to approve electroconvulsive therapy treatment for involuntary patients as part of an overhaul of Victoria’s mental health laws announced by the state government.
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Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows ECT without the consent of the patient and without either an external review from a tribunal or a second psychiatrist.

The former Labor government began a review of the 26-year-old Mental Health Act but it has been delayed for almost two years since the Coalition won office in 2010.

In releasing details of the reforms, Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the government took into account hundreds of written submissions and extensive public consultation.

She said the reforms would allow mentally ill patients more say in their treatment, including stating their preferences in advance in case they became too unwell to communicate them.

Patients will also be able to nominate a person to support them during compulsory treatment, which would be deemed necessary only to prevent harm to the patient or others.

A new mental health tribunal comprising a doctor, a lawyer and a community representative will be required to approve compulsory treatment orders beyond 28 days, as well as ECT treatment if the patient is unable to consent.

In a submission to the review St Vincent’s Hospital warned that waiting for tribunal approval for ECT could delay treatment.

Speaking to The Age about the reforms, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists spokesman Malcolm Hopwood said ECT was an effective and sometimes life-saving treatment for severe mental illness.

”It is a significant change to require the authority of a tribunal to proceed, and we’ll obviously be looking very closely at the detail of how that’s going to be governed, and provisions around cases that require immediate treatment,” he said.

Associate Professor Hopwood welcomed the government’s decision not to proceed with penalties of up to a year’s jail for psychiatrists who breached ECT regulations.

He said there were more appropriate mechanisms for dealing with bad practice, including through the medical board.

Mental Illness Fellowship chief executive Elizabeth Crowther said the reforms were ”very significant”, particularly in recognising that patients’ capacity to make decisions about their treatment could fluctuate.

”Being able to work with the person while they are well and saying you can have some control over what happens to you when you are unwell is a sensational change,” Ms Crowther said.

Ms Wooldridge said the government planned to introduce a bill into Parliament by June, with the laws to take effect a year later.

A new mental health complaints commissioner to be appointed as part of the reforms will have ”broad powers to investigate services, make recommendations and issue compliance notices for serious and flagrant breaches of the legislation”, according to a government summary.

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Cath Roper works at Melbourne University with mental health nursing students.IT’S A good thing Cath Roper, who is no grudge holder, can appreciate the ironic reversal in her relationship with the state of Victoria.
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During 13 years of involuntary admissions to state psychiatric hospitals, Ms Roper was forcibly injected, thrown into solitary confinement, left to defecate and urinate without facilities and on one occasion sexually assaulted by a charge nurse.

In a remarkable turnaround, the same state health department now pays Ms Roper to work at Melbourne University, where she teaches new generations of mental health nursing students to treat tomorrow’s patients somewhat better.

Researchers and health bureaucrats say the arrival of people with openly declared experiences of mental illness into influential positions is improving mental health care and lives across Australia.

Sought out for their ”expertise by experience”, these mental health ”consumers”, as many call themselves, are conducting high-level research, working openly in government departments and even running a few mental health services staffed exclusively by people who have experienced mental illness.

Tomorrow, in an initiative welcomed by consumer representatives, Victoria’s Department of Health will introduce bi-monthly meetings between the state’s most senior mental health bureaucrats and about 50 ”consumer consultants”, all of whom have experiences of mental illness.

So is Ms Roper, a former public school teacher who was pushed out of her job after one of her hospitalisations – only to later become Australia’s first permanent ”consumer academic” – bitter about the Victorian state’s oddly bipolar attitude towards her?

”It has been remarkable, but no, I’m not a grudge holder,” Ms Roper says. ”And the beauty of this form of teaching is that the painful things you’ve experienced become fodder and inspiration – they’re incubated into learning for the students.”

Southern Health’s mental health program director of carer and consumer relations, Vrinda Edan, says consumers should be ”much more involved in policy”.

”Consumers,” says Ms Edan, who has been given multiple diagnoses, ”are people who, because they have lived through very high levels of distress, are the real experts in how to overcome that.”

In New South Wales, consumer advocate and service manager Janet Meagher was recently appointed an Australian mental health commissioner by the federal government. She has lived with schizophrenia since the 1970s.

Queensland consumer and former teacher Jude Bugeja manages a public residential mental health service run and exclusively staffed by people with an experience of mental illness. ”We have walked the walk,” the founding manager of the service, called Brook RED, told The Age, ”and it’s natural for someone [experiencing mental distress] to seek support and ideas from … someone who has ‘been there’.”

Meanwhile, Queensland’s health department has chosen a mental health services consumer, Rick Austin, to manage its Consumer, Carer and Family Team.

At least one person with a declared experience of mental illness is known to be employed in the Victorian health department’s mental health division.

However it is not always smooth sailing for consumers involved in the health sector.

International studies have found that medically oriented health professionals, such as psychiatrists, are among the least enthusiastic about involving consumers in mental health care.

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My school report
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Neal Harvey, 33, is the creative producer of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. It ends this week and has featured more than 300 shows.

Schools attended:

St James Primary in Coorparoo, Brisbane, then my family moved to the US when I was seven. I was enrolled at Notre Dame Elementary in St Louis.

I had to skip ahead six months because of the timing of the school year but I struggled academically. The syllabus was so different and I couldn’t catch up. I used to be good at school and now nothing made sense.

When we returned to Australia, I rejoined my former class at St James for a short while. I had a new appreciation for the way Miss Burn, my grade 4 teacher, understood that everyone learns differently. She spent as much time as she could with the students who were struggling and she tried to adapt the curriculum to each child’s strengths. I then went to Villanova College, Brisbane from years 5 to 12.

Favourite subject:

Physics because I liked its discipline and knowing that the problems were, ultimately, solvable. I also loved drama for its playfulness and, in contrast to physics, unknowingness and uncertainty.

Teacher who changed my life:

Rosemary O’Neill who taught speech in action (a style of public speaking) from grades 5 to 7. When I was in grade 6, I and another student topped Queensland in speech in action in the Australian Music Examination Board awards. It was a turning point because I realised it was something I enjoyed and could pursue. Rosemary O’Neill was a very good teacher and the first person who had an impact on my future career.

Sports/academic prizes won:

The Philip Parsons Prize for performance research at the University of Queensland and an Australian postgraduate award to undertake my doctorate in theatre and cultural studies.

When I was 12 I wanted to be:

Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies.

In grade 6 I sat next to:

Michael Baldwin, who was a very good friend through to year 12.

Why I took the educational journey I did:

I did drama, English, physics, chemistry and maths B in year 12, then enrolled in a science degree at the University of Queensland. However, the physics there was very similar to what I’d done at school. I also did a drama elective and found this more challenging and enjoyable.

I changed courses and enrolled in arts, with a double major in drama. I was fortunate to study with a great intake of students who encouraged each other. Quite a few are now my peers and colleagues in the arts sector. After I graduated, I worked as a production manager and stage manager, including at Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company, the Queensland Theatre Company and with different arts festivals.

After about five years, I returned to the University of Queensland. Professor Joanne Tompkins told me about a project she was working on and I became her research assistant. She convinced me I had what it takes to do a doctorate. I studied this full-time for three years, and then part-time while I also did some tutoring. I’ve been with the Melbourne Fringe Festival since 2010. This year is our 30th anniversary and we’re constantly trying to reinvent what we do.

We sell about 500,000 tickets for our diverse program, which ranges from the edgy and the new to children’s shows. I love my job and work with a great group of people.

Best lesson ever learnt:

Not everything you do will work out, but it’s important to get back up and try again.

If I could change anything about my education:

I would change nothing as I had a well-rounded education.

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Car profits driven overseas

May 28th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

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A BUSINESSDAY analysis of the latest financial accounts for Australia’s big three car makers has found profits were again eroded by hefty royalty payments to parent companies overseas while the government continued to subsidise their operations here.

Royalty payments from GM Holden and Toyota to their overseas bosses last year – Ford did not report these payments – amounted to $221.4 million. This was marginally less than the $222 million the two car makers received in government grants.

The figures are grist to the mill of car industry critics who say the handouts are a waste of taxpayer money, made only because of the threat of plant closures and job losses.

In the case of GM Holden, royalty payments rose to $143 million in 2011 from $129 million in the previous year.

No breakdown was provided by the company but these intellectual property payments, perhaps for use of the logo and so forth, exceeded $89.68 million Holden received in government grants last year.

The grant almost exactly matched the $89.69 million profit GM Holden reported for the same period.

Toyota Australia, the biggest of the car makers, paid out royalties of $78.4 million, compared with $99.9 million the previous year.

Toyota received $132 million in grants during the year.

Sales were $7.2 billion, down from $8.2 billion. But the most striking figures from its financial report were on its costs of sales generated with related parties offshore – it was $5.2 billion out of $6.66 billion worth of sales costs.

Between the three makers, sales were $14.1 billion last year and related party transactions were $7.16 billion.

This means that for every dollar of sales recorded by Australia’s car industry last year, 50¢ of costs were generated by offshore companies related to Holden, Ford and Toyota.

It appears that as well as creating jobs locally – with the help of the government – Holden, Toyota and Ford are also creating plenty of jobs in other countries.

The other telling aspect of the accounts was the overall cost of sales. Other industries may show a gross margin of 50 per cent. By contrast, the auto makers regularly have 90 per cent of their total sales eaten up by cost of sales. Combined, their costs were $13.15 billion last year.

The more that revenue is eaten up in costs and assorted transactions with related companies offshore, the less tax the auto makers pay in Australia.

The most recent accounts appear to corroborate the claims of the car industry’s detractors that they are deliberately ”transfer pricing” and cooking up ways to send money overseas while asking for government grants in Australia. The car industry has always denied this.

The accounts for Ford, the weakest of the three, did not report royalty payments to its US parent.

The car maker reported revenue of $2.75 billion and a loss of $289 million.

It received grants totalling $102 million.

Ford’s retained earnings have been in sharp decline with contingency in its accounts for repaying a government grant because it had not fulfilled the criteria.

At the net profit level, GM Holden’s $89 million profits was down from $112 million in the previous year and Toyota made a loss of $33 million.

Toyota’s loss would mean no tax will be paid, with losses deferred for offsets against future profits.

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Surfwear online stitched up

April 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

SurfStitch is a one-stop shop.WHEN Justin Cameron was working as an investment banker, he found a surf after work would wash away the stresses of the day.
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”Surfing was the perfect remedy for any frustrations that I had during the day,” Mr Cameron said.

But what he couldn’t find was a one-stop online store from which to buy all his surf clothing needs, so with business partner Lex Pedersen he decided to start his own.

”We saw an opportunity in the market where none of the major surf and swimwear labels were marketing their brands online,” Mr Cameron said.

With Mr Cameron’s finance background and Mr Pedersen’s experience as manager of the Surfection retail chain in Sydney, the pair reckoned they had a chance of success. They were right.

This year, SurfStitch will turn over about $50 million in Australia, and another €10 million ($12.8 million) in Europe for its offering of 350 brands including Billabong, Quiksilver, Seafolly and Tigerlily.

Turnover has doubled each year since inception and the company now employs 250 staff in Australia and Europe, where it has just opened new headquarters in France including an 8000-square-metre distribution centre.

”We saw a huge opportunity to get into the European marketplace, which has a similar environment to what we saw in Australia in 2008 when we started,” Mr Cameron said. ”No one is currently servicing the street/surf/snow market in Europe [online] so the opportunity to capitalise on being a first mover is very appealing.”

SurfStitch sells up to 10,000 items online every day, even as the waters for Australian surfwear brands become increasingly choppy.

Georgina Safe travelled to Europe as a guest of Bulgari.

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THE head of the body representing industry super funds has blasted as ”inadequate” the for-profit sector’s proposed independence safeguards.
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Industry Super Network chief executive David Whiteley last week wrote to John Brogden, the head of retail fund umbrella group the Financial Services Council, setting out his concerns about the independence of super fund directors.

Under a standard proposed by the FSC, directors of super fund trustees will count as independent if they are also an independent director of the sponsoring financial institution’s board.

By contrast, industry funds are non-profit and controlled by a board of trustees made up of representatives of employers and unions.

The ISN submission to the FSC is the latest in a long-running battle between industry and retail funds for dominance of Australia’s $1.3 trillion superannuation nest egg.

Mr Whiteley told Mr Brogden he did not ”believe the draft standard will have credibility in the broader community”.

”The definition of independent director is novel but fails to address the obvious conflicts of interest and duty a director of the parent company and/or subsidiary would have if appointed to the board of the trustee,” he said.

In its submission, the ISN said the duties a director of a bank or other financial institution owes to that company will conflict with their duties to super funds members.

Mr Whiteley called on Mr Brogden to participate in a broader process that would set a standard binding both sides of the industry.

An FSC spokeswoman could not be reached yesterday, but BusinessDay understands the organisation feels its proposed standard complies with Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the stock exchange’s independence standards.

The proposed standard would make it impossible for a bank executive to sit on the board of a super fund run by the bank.

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Steadfast move for QBE chief

April 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

EMERGING insurance play Steadfast Group said former QBE chief Frank O’Halloran was a ”logical choice” to take charge as chairman as it prepared for a stockmarket listing in May next year.
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Mr O’Halloran, who was planning to join the QBE board next year, surprised investors when late on Friday he detailed plans to head up the Steadfast board.

The appointment of Mr O’Halloran comes less than two months after he retired from QBE following a 12-year stint as chief executive.

QBE’s board has offered to waive a non-compete clause in his contract that would have prevented Mr O’Halloran from acting for an insurance company or related business for three years from his retirement.

Steadfast executive chairman Robert Kelly said plans for the initial public offer were well under way and Mr O’Halloran was the logical choice for the insurance broker network.

”We do $760 million worth of business with QBE annually; we’ve had a long-standing relationship with them for many years,” Mr Kelly said yesterday. ”We’ve worked very closely with [Frank] over that time.”

JPMorgan and Macquarie Capital have been selected as joint lead managers to the planned float.

The Steadfast model sees insurance brokers band together to negotiate wholesale insurance rates with the major insurers. This is then onsold to the customers of insurance brokers.

Steadfast is also planning to take ownership stakes in more than 100 insurance brokers, making it a rival to listed insurance broker network Austbrokers Holdings.

Still, the appointment of Mr O’Halloran to a business that seeks to drive down premiums from players such as QBE raised questions among investors.

Mr O’Halloran is well known in the insurance broking community and has intimate knowledge of QBE’s pricing models.

There are more than 400 Steadfast brokers’ offices nationally, with sales of $4.1 billion and annual revenues of about $700 million.

Analysts calculate Steadfast would be valued at around $440 million based on its future earnings growth.

Mr O’Halloran was travelling overseas yesterday and was unavailable for comment. QBE chairwoman Belinda Hutchinson said Mr O’Halloran ”is passionate about the insurance industry, and feels that his expertise would add a great deal at Steadfast Group with its plans to list on the ASX”.

However, given QBE underwrites 17 per cent of Steadfast’s insurance, the QBE board and Mr O’Halloran ”agreed that he will not return to the QBE board in 2013 as originally envisaged”.

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Jobs figures a boost for Obama camp

April 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

BARACK Obama’s hopes of holding on to the White House have received a major boost from new figures showing that the US unemployment rate has dropped below 8 per cent for the first time since he took office in January 2009.
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The US added 114,000 new jobs in September, in line with expectations. But August’s disappointing jobs figure was dramatically revised upwards from 96,000 to 142,000, helping to bring the unemployment rate down to 7.8 per cent.

”Today, I believe that as a nation we are moving forward again,” Mr Obama told a raucous campaign rally in Fairfax, Virginia, after the figures were published. ”This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office.”

Acknowledging that the economy was not out of the woods yet, he added: ”Now, every month’s figures reminds us that we have still got too many of our friends and neighbours struggling to pay the bills … But now is certainly not the time to talk down the economy and score a few political points. It’s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.”

Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, described the report as ”pretty darn good”. Mr Greenhaus highlighted the fact that the total number of employed persons rose by ”a whopping” 873,000 while the number of unemployed persons declined by 456,000, the largest increase in employment since January 2003.

The news could not have been better timed for Mr Obama, whose re-election campaign has been rattled in recent days by his perceived weak performance in his first debate with rival Mitt Romney. The report contained good news for many voters in key demographics being targeted ahead of the election.

The unemployment rate for adult men is now 7.3 per cent, and for adult women 7 per cent. But problems remain. September’s unemployment rate for teenagers was 23.7 per cent and there was little change for black Americans (13.4 per cent) or Hispanics (9.9 per cent).

The number of people working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job rose from 8 million in August to 8.6 million in September.

”This is not what a real recovery looks like,” Mr Romney said. ”We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.”

He added: ”The results of President Obama’s failed policies are staggering – 23 million Americans struggling for work, nearly one in six living in poverty and 47 million people dependent on food stamps to feed themselves and their families.”

The Republican House speaker John Boehner also noted the figures are too high but acknowledged there was good news, too. ”While there is positive news in today’s report, job creation is far too slow and the unemployment rate is far too high.”

While Mr Obama can now point to 24 consecutive months of growth, the Republicans argue the rate remains historically weak. An increase of 114,000 barely covers population growth in the US as new entrants come into the job market.

Geoff Hoffmann of recruitment firm DHR International said employers were growing confident but a lot of uncertainty remained. ”There’s uncertainty about the impact of healthcare legislation, tax impacts, it’s not really clear what is going to happen in 2013 and beyond,” he said.

GUARDIAN

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Taxpayers taken on a long car ride

March 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

THE first thing to notice about Australia’s three car makers is how jealously they guard their accounts.
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It’s no wonder. Notwithstanding some $3 billion in government handouts in the past 10 years, you won’t find the financial statements for Ford, Holden and Toyota on the company websites.

You won’t find them at all unless you pay a tidy fee to the corporate regulator for access to these supposedly public documents.

Even cutting through the car makers’ public relations and ”communications” thickets to ask a basic question is tough.

It’s the same deal with government. The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education did not even bother returning calls last week.

The department is paranoid, mired in a court battle with The Australian Financial Review over some emails sent mistakenly after a freedom of information request. Holden has joined the government’s case against the newspaper.

The fact is, the government should not be hiding this stuff, nor chewing through taxpayer dollars trying to suppress information in the courts, information which should be public.

It’s in the public interest for people to know what deals are being struck with their tax dollars, especially if they are propping up purportedly unprofitable businesses.

In a self-interested aside, it is not as if we battlers here in the traditional media business – a sector in worse financial shape but whose survival is arguably more critical to the nation – have our hands out for taxpayer dollars.

Greater transparency is clearly warranted in the light of the findings of this BusinessDay investigation of the Holden, Ford and Toyota accounts.

Once again, in a pattern replicated year in, year out, as much profit as appears possible has been sent offshore.

The car industry, it seems, has been taking the taxpayer for a ride, an epic ride. And now it has hit a bump. That bump takes the form of a challenge to the sweetheart deals between the car makers and the government.

In a nutshell, this is the debate: the Fin Review has been running its doctrinaire and increasingly determined anti-protectionist line. The government has countered by talking up the benefit of a heavy manufacturing base and protecting thousands of jobs.

Holden chief Mike Devereux weighed in last week, telling the Murdoch press the benefit of this latest round of ”co-investment” – a euphemism for government subsidy – was a ”multiplier effect”.

That is, beyond the direct investment by General Motors and the government, there is job creation and rising demand for other goods and services. Devereux puts the value of this latest $1 billion ”co-investment” at $4 billion.

The car makers have been less enthusiastic when it comes to multiplier effects elsewhere, even hypocritical some may contend, by objecting to the government’s move to protect steel makers against cheap imports.

For their part, the anti-protection crusaders see dark forces at work, shadowy deals between the unions and the Labor government. They point to a $53 million bailout for Ford in January that shortly preceded Ford’s commitment to 3 per cent wage rises for the next three years.

Holden, they say, struck a similar agreement last year.

The reality is that cosy deals have carried on for decades, and have sprung from governments of both hues. In the past 10 years, more has been forked out in subsidies than has been recorded in bottom-line profits.

Herein lies the rub. To what extent are the accounts of the car makers financially engineered to shift profits offshore?

The sheer size of the ”cost of sales” line in the accounts of the three car makers and the alarmingly high proportion of related party transactions in these figures leads to the inescapable conclusion that the companies’ offshore parents are benefiting at the expense of their local subsidiaries.

Whether this accounting charade is reason enough to jettison every last protection initiative and throw the car makers to the laissez-faire wolves is another matter. We defer to others on the old multiplier effect.

Suffice to say that the fervent cries of the anti-protection brigade do not extend to indignation about the free ride that has been afforded the big banks, to nominate another mollycoddled sector.

Above all, there is undeniable public interest in having this all out in the plain light of day.

No suppression of information, and far greater transparency on the part of government and the manufacturers has to be a good thing.

Joining the dots in the Holden accounts, it would appear that the Tax Office became a little fed up with the some of the aggressive tax minimisation tactics a few years ago.

There has been an unravelling of deferred tax assets, which explains a small tax benefit last year although there was also a profit.

The ATO has reduced GM’s entitlement to royalties paid by $51 million in 2005, $46 million in 2006, $43 million in 2007 and $37 million in 2008.

It then increased taxable income by up to $22 million in the same years.

From a global perspective the auto bosses in the US and Japan would be loath to see a lurk like this come to an end, one in which foreign governments help to fund demand for their spare parts.

With SU-LIN TAN

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