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PRESS DIGEST-Australian General News - March 15
March 14, 2012 / 8:38 PM / 6 years ago

PRESS DIGEST-Australian General News - March 15

Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan is being urged to include a tax cut for 40,000 additional medium-sized businesses in this year’s Federal Budget as an alternative that would result in the countries’ 3300 largest firms missing out on tax breaks, but result in the passage of the mining tax through the Senate.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday reaffirmed that he would not support Labor’s tax cuts, given that they were a part of the minerals resource rent levy, but said he would instead introduce “modest” company tax relief if elected. Page 1.

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Computer security and copy protection software maker Uniloc has secured an agreement that will see Microsoft Corporation ,MSFT.O> pay licensing payments to the Australian firm for the use of technology to deter pirating of the Microsoft Office and Windows XP products.

Uniloc and Microsoft had been embroiled in a long-running patent infringement suit, with a court in the United States at one stage awarding A$368 million in damages to Uniloc. “We didn’t want to burn our bridges,” Ric Richardson, former chairman and major shareholder in Uniloc, said. Page 3.

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A judge in the Victorian Supreme Court has slammed legislation that grants lawyers legal immunity from lawsuits lodged by their former clients.

Justice Kevin Bell yesterday ruled in favour of Melbourne law firm Goddard Elliott against Paul Fritsch, but said the decision was “deeply troubling”.

“If you go to a surgeon who makes an error in an operating theatre they can be sued, but a lawyer can’t be. It is extraordinary,” the judge said. Mr Fritsch sued the law firm for its professional conduct in a property dispute that it settled on his behalf. Page 3.

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A parliamentary report released yesterday has declared that the Federal Government’s A$10.6 billion minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) will not negatively impact upon investment in the resources sector.

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which prepared the report, said the panel “believes any change in investment is more likely to be attributable to external economic factors than to concerns about Australia’s economic environment, the future of the mining industry or the MRRT”. Page 4.

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THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian.news.com.au) David Gonski, the chairman-elect of the Federal Government’s A$73 billion Future Fund, yesterday said he had advised Labor that the founder of the sovereign wealth fund, former federal treasurer Peter Costello, had received the “strong endorsement” of the fund’s board to replace outgoing chairman David Murray.

Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong has previously stated that Mr Gonski ”did not make any “recommendations” about a successor. Page 1.

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Industry yesterday called on the Federal Government to radically overhaul corporate tax in order to improve the competitiveness of local businesses and Australia’s attractiveness as a target for foreign investment.

The calls were a response to political debate over a 1 percent cut to the company tax rate, which the Federal Government wants to fund through the proceeds of its minerals resource rent tax. Page 1.

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The professional conduct of Bernadette O‘Neill, general manager of Fair Work Australia, during the workplace arbiter’s investigation into Labor MP Craig Thomson, will be the subject of an inquiry by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The move is a response to a complaint from the HR Nicholls Society think tank, which said Mr Thomson and other members of the Health Services Union had been “discriminated against” because of the length of Fair Work’s inquiry, which is still ongoing after three years. Page 1.

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Daniel Grollo, chief executive of construction group Grocon, yesterday warned that the high Australian dollar and exorbitant pay rises could result in the industry shutting down within the next three years.

“As an industry, if we have not produced some productivity gains over the next three years, with a combination of our currency and our labour rates, we will be so disproportionately out of whack with other centres around the world that our industry will basically have a strike of capital,” Mr Grollo said. Page 1.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (www.smh.com.au) Business organisations are continuing to lobby the Senate to support a reduction in the company tax rate after the Australian Greens and the Coalition joined forces to air their disapproval of the proposal, which is being funded by the Federal Government’s minerals resources rent tax.

“I never thought I would see the day that the Liberal Party would join with the Greens to vote against a tax cut for business,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday. Page 1.

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Figures from the New South Wales Education Department have revealed a 30 percent plus drop in enrolments in at least 14 of the state’s public schools over the last five years.

Maurie Mulheron, president of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, yesterday wrote to Michelle Bruniges, Director-General of Education, to call on the department to release an alleged list of schools that were being “identified” as targets for consolidation or closure. Page 1.

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Three men charged with multiple counts of selling, possessing and importing 150 model 26 Glock pistols since last year appeared in court in New South Wales yesterday.

Police said the appearance of the men in court meant the international gun ring could no longer function in Australia, although they admitted that other syndicates could be operating.

Authorities also revealed that most of the weapons allegedly imported by the ring are now owned by some of the state’s underworld icons. Page 2.

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An independent report into the state’s mental health system found that while the Mental Health Review Tribunal was operating well, there was insufficient safeguards for patients’ rights.

The study, conducted by consultants Communio, also found that controversial alterations that allowed seriously unwell psychiatric patients to be incarcerated without review for up to a month were implemented on assumptions with no foundation. Page 3.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au) Darren Curnoe, co-leader of a team investigating fossils containing evidence of prehistoric humans, yesterday said the previously unknown Red Deer Cave people had a very distinct physical appearance.

“They look very different to all modern humans, whether alive today or in Africa 150,000 years ago,” Professor Curnoe said. The research outlining the discovery of the human species will be published today in the PLoS One journal. Page 1.

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Mining magnate Clive Palmer yesterday vowed to sue the Federal Government in the High Court to challenge the constitutional validity of the carbon tax.

In an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 current affairs program, Mr Palmer said “in the spirit of love and reconciliation we can forgive the Treasurer, but the Australian people will never forgive the Labor Party for destroying the opportunities of our children, our future generations”. Page 1.

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A Victorian government committee has heard that new suburbs in the state’s capital are so badly designed that residents could be afflicted with a number of chronic diseases like depression and obesity, costing the state’s health system hundreds of millions of dollars.

Councils argued that the rising population had hamstrung their capacity to provide medical services, parks and public transport, resulting in “obesogenic” areas that make it easier to gain weight. Page 1.

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Shannon Bennett, the head chef at Vue de Monde, yesterday said the Victorian restaurant would explore ways to boost security after four base jumpers disguised as patrons descended from 55 stories up.

“I suspect either they’ve been up before or they’ve had someone come up and scope our procedures because they knew all the little intricacies that our procedures entail,” Mr Bennett said. Gary Cunningham, president of the Australian BASE Association, said the men were most likely very skilled base jumpers. Page 2.

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