Labor to target ‘unfair’ family trusts

A crackdown on people using trusts to avoid paying income tax is not only fair, it will stop more than $17 billion leaking out of the federal budget, Labor argues.

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The opposition has unveiled plans to impose a 30 per cent tax rate on payments to adults from discretionary trusts.

It says this will curb the legal but unfair practice of high income-earners funnelling money through trusts to lower-earning family members, thus avoiding paying top tax rates.

“The lucky few, riding the business end of the tax system are able to opt out of paying taxes,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

“Nice deal if you can get it! The real challenge here is that we want to create one system for Australians.”

The 30 per cent level is just below the second marginal income tax rate, paid by people earning less than $87,000 a year.

The policy will “prevent leakage” in the billions from the federal budget, adding $4.1 billion to commonwealth coffers over four years and $17.2 billion over a decade, Mr Shorten said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen issued a challenge to the Turnbull government.

“Either come out today and defend income splitting, defend the current arrangements and promise no change, or admit there’s a problem and look at adopting Labor’s proposals,” he told reporters, anticipating the government would opt for a scare campaign.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann offered a flavour of the response on Sunday morning, though conceded he didn’t know the full details of Labor’s policy.

“This is ultimately going to be a tax hike in particular on the many small business operators across Australia who use trust structures as a legitimate way of managing their financial affairs,” he told Sky News.

“They will want to see how Bill Shorten thinks he’s going to be able to take $17 billion out of their pockets.”

He said trusts were predominantly used for legitimate purposes and there was an integrity taskforce within the tax office to rout out the rorters.

Mr Bowen acknowledged there were legitimate uses, such as asset protection for small business owners or succession planning.

Labor’s “carefully calibrated” changes shouldn’t affect these.

“There are many, many hundreds of thousands of small businesses in Australia and most don’t use discretionary trusts,” he said.

“Where a small business is employing a family member … they will or can pay them a wage and of course they’ll be taxed at the normal rate and they can claim the tax-free threshold, there’s no change.”

Farm trusts, charitable trusts, disability and those set up to manage deceased estates will be exempt.

There are about 642,000 discretionary trusts operating in Australia and Labor estimates its policy will affect 315,000 of these – and 98 per cent of taxpayers will see no change.

Left-wing think tank The Australia Institute says there has been an explosion in the use of discretionary trusts in recent years and they now hold more than $3.1 trillion.

Income from trusts overwhelmingly flows to the wealthiest Australians, director Ben Oquist told reporters, with more than half going to the top 0.5 per cent of the population.

“It’s time something was done about them. This is a modest step in the right direction by Labor today,” he said.

Cats gun Dangerfield defends ‘fair’ tackle

Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield has launched a spirited defence of the tackle which may cost him a second Brownlow Medal.

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Dangerfield pinned Matthew Kreuzer’s arms and dumped the ruckman head first into the Etihad Stadium turf during Geelong’s 65-point victory on Saturday night.

Kreuzer was ushered to the Carlton rooms and wasn’t sighted for the rest of the match, with the Blues later confirming he had suffered a concussion.

The incident is certain to come under heavy scrutiny when the AFL match review panel meets on Monday.

Former Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney on Sunday said he believed Dangerfield would receive a one-game suspension.

A bemused Dangerfield said he wasn’t aware of the furore surrounding the tackle until he was shown the footage after the game.

“I actually thought he still had the ball, so that’s why I’ve turned around and put my hands in the air,” he told the Seven Network’s AFL Game Day.

“‘I haven’t been cited for anything. I felt it was a fair tackle.

“There was no umpire’s call at the time, so I don’t see an issue with it, but it’s not up to me.”

At the heart of the issue is the fact Kreuzer’s arms were pinned, meaning he had no opportunity to protect himself.

This could lead the MRP to class it as a dangerous tackle, however they must also decide whether Dangerfield used “excessive force” in bringing down the 101kg Kreuzer.

If the MRP decide Dangerfield has a case to answer, it seems almost certain he will face suspension.

The Cats star had been joint favourite to become the first back-to-back Brownlow winner since St Kilda champion Robert Harvey.

Geelong coach Chris Scott said he was confident Dangerfield would be cleared.

“I think the powers that be have been very clear that the severity of any injury only comes into play once you acknowledge there’s been a breach of the rules,” he said.

“I just don’t see that when I watch it.”

Sydney star Josh Kennedy also came to Dangerfield’s defence, adding that the incident should be judged on intent rather than the outcome.

“If it was one of my teammates, you’d be disappointed if they were to go for something like that,” he said.

Government subsidises miracle cancer drug

Thousands of Australians fighting late-stage renal and lung cancer will soon get easier access to a new miracle drug.

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From Tuesday, the federal government will subsidise Opdivo so that patients will pay just $38.80 per treatment, or $6.30 for those with a concession card.

Up to now, patients have had to fork out about $5000 a course – adding up to more than $130,000 per year.

“This drug changes lives and save lives,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday.

“For patients and their families it provides the precious gift of a full and healthy life.”

It’s one of the biggest listings ever on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, costing the government $1.1 billion.

The drug has been credited with saving the life of AFL star Jarryd Roughead among others.

It’s a type of immunotherapy that helps make cancer cells more vulnerable to attack by your body’s own immune cells.

Unlike conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, it activates white blood cells that help fight disease so they can attack cancer cells in your body.

The federal government says it is more effective and safer than current therapies and can improve and extend the life of patients.

“The hardest part of this role is to witness families facing the most tragic of medical diagnoses,” Mr Hunt said.

“The most uplifting is to see breakthroughs that save lives , transform families and give people real hope – and that’s exactly what Opdivo does.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia, with about 8000 people dying from the disease each year.

Some 3500 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed annually, making it the ninth most common cancer in Australia.

Peak bodies Lung Health Australia and Kidney Health Australia both welcomed the drug’s listing, saying it could make a significant difference to patients’ lives.

Comedian Chris Lilley apologises for blackface video posted after Elijah Doughty protests

The comedian Chris Lilley has apologised after facing criticism online for a blackface video posted to his Instagram account.

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Social media users reacted with anger when the music video was reposted to Lilley’s account on Saturday.

The video – titled Squashed N**** – features Lilley as his Angry Boys character S.Mouse.

pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/VAmYljgROl

— Chris Lilley (@ChrisLilley) July 29, 2017

It was posted hours after hundreds of people took to the streets of Melbourne to protest over the death of Indigenous boy Elijah Doughty.

Some Twitter users claimed the post was insensitive at a time when Indigenous people are mourning the death of the 14-year-old boy.

The video was deleted from Lilley’s Instagram account and the comedian issued an apology on Twitter.

He clarified that the post “is not connected in any way to current news stories”.

In a time where this country is mourning the death of a child run down this cheap excuse of comedy drops. The only joke here is Chris. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/uLeL0dgbka

— Ryan Griffen (@RyanJGriffen) July 29, 2017

“My social media pages are run for me to give fans nostalgic pics or clips from previous shows,” Lilley said in a statement on Twitter.

“A fan-made remix of a song from Angry Boys made in 2009 was posted recently. It is not connected in any way to current news stories.

“I apologise for any hurt caused by the misinterpretation.”

I used to defend @ChrisLilley’s comedic right to play diff ethnicities, but this new video has proven me wrong. Not linking it, too horrible

— Hau (@hauiebeast) July 29, 2017

A 56-year-old man was last week acquitted of manslaughter over the death of Doughty in Kalgoorlie, and was instead sentenced to three years jail on a lesser charge.

The man admitted to dangerous driving occasioning death after he hit the teen with his ute. He had been chasing the boy, who had stolen his motorcycle.

The man said the motorbike veered in front of his car and he was unable to avoid the collision.

The Supreme Court jury deliberated for six hours before finding the man – whose identity is suppressed – guilty of dangerous driving occasioning death.

— With AAP

Turnbull told to stop avoiding WA issues

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would be dreading this week’s visit to Western Australia following a poll suggesting the Coalition is heading for an election rout in the state, Premier Mark McGowan said.

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The PM and his cabinet head west this week, but he has made the trip only twice in 11 months – the last time in February before the WA election when he damaged former premier Colin Barnett’s campaign by backing away from a promise to lift it’s GST share.

“He knows these issues are here, he needs to deal with them, better to bite the bullet and get it over with, rip the bandaid off rather than procrastinate and make excuses,” Mr McGowan told reporters.

A Galaxy poll published on Sunday indicates a swing of six points and a loss of four Liberal-held seats across WA, which would deliver Bill Shorten power.

Those potential lost seats include cabinet ministers Michael Keenan, Christian Porter and Ken Wyatt.

If Mr Turnbull wants to improve his stocks, he must stop pork barrelling in other states and fix the flawed GST distribution model that gave WA by far the least amount and sent billions of dollars to other states, the premier said.

The PM announced to a standing ovation at the Liberal state conference in Perth last August he would fix the system and lift WA’s share, but then all but walked away from that promise on his next visit in February.

“The federal treasurer and or the prime minister can sign a letter to the grants commission today and the formula will change,” Mr McGowan said.

“That’s all he has to do or can he top up Western Australia to 80 cents or 90 cents, whatever he’d like to do it is all within Mr Turnbull’s hands.

The Galaxy found only 21 per cent of respondents trusted the PM to change the GST distribution system, while 61 per cent did not.

The Coalition government has tried to appease WA by launching a Productivity Commission inquiry into the system and providing $1.6 billion in top-up funding for state road and rail projects, although that money was merely reallocated from previous state government projects.

He was speaking at the launch of tunnel-boring work at one of those projects, the $1.86 billion new Forretfield-Airport link train line.

Mr McGowan said he hoped to meet with Mr Turnbull but nothing had been organised yet during the visit that will include Perth and regional towns including Broome, Albany and others.