Universities encouraged to take care

Thursday, 13. December 2018

Valuable role: Dr Marie-Pierre Moreau said there was a “misrecognition” of care work as ” a disturbance”. She will speak from 1pm on Thursday in HB13 at Callaghan.UNIVERSITIES need to provide moresupport to academics who juggle their careers with caring for children or elderly or disabled relatives, according to a visiting scholar.
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The University of Roehampton’s Dr Marie-Pierre Moreau will speak at the University of Newcastle on Thursday about her recent research project, whichfocused on how a university’s policies affect academic staff who are carers, plus how an academic’s caring responsibilities affect their careers and lives.

“There’s a general lack of awareness and that’s to do with the history of higher education, where traditionally it was a male scholar who didn’t have any caring responsibilities or was able to rely on the support of his spouse to undertake the care work,” Dr Moreau said.

“We still have this ongoing care-free culture, so often caring responsibilities are dealt with on an individual level rather than in the workplace and that contributes to make them invisible.”

Dr Moreau said while academics were“relatively privileged”, their profession was also “very greedy on your time”.

She said she had found the degree of support universities provided to academic carers was usually “quite modest” and depended on “how flexible and supportive your line manager is”.

She said there was also a “hierarchy of care”, with more support provided to academics with visible caring responsibilities, for children.

“If you have an elderly father who lives on the other side of the country, it’s up to you to make appropriate arrangements.”

The result, she said, wasacademics who may feel drained, emotional and distracted.

“If universities want to continue to attract the best people, then they need to be accommodating and acknowledge they’re not care-free workers, they do have responsibilities outside the workplace.”

DrMoreau suggested universities regularly collect data on their staff’s caring responsibilities and use this to inform more inclusive policies.

“What will be the different effects on carers and non carers? Make sure care is embedded in every policy and that policies are reviewed before they’redeveloped to make sure they’re not [adversely] affecting carers.”

Virtually no limit to the potential of VR

Thursday, 13. December 2018

More than fun and games: Unreal VR co-founder Daniel Girgis, seated, with business partner Matt Thomas.
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NEWCASTLE has gained another virtual reality hub in Unreal VR.

Six months after VRXP opened in Watt Street, Unreal VR has openedon the Pacific Highway in Charlestown.

Co-founders and relatives Daniel Girgis and Matt Thomas said their decision to open the business they label a start-upwas based on the increasingly broad appeal of virtual reality technology.

“VR has been around for 40 years but I have been watching the space and it’s becoming more commercially viable because the technology is getting so powerful,” says Mr Girgis, an industrial designer who also has his own company.

The Charlestown studio has four VR stations, or rooms, separated by curtains as well as a driving and flight simulator that has been a drawcard for both thrill-seekers and retired pilots.

“We are trying to appeal to families, professionals and businesses and for this also to be a studio for research to test new applications of VR,” says Mr Thomas.

“People are coming in for a fun experience and that covers the rent, but the real potential is in research and development across many industries.”

The business stocks a range of VR experience programs for punters but with Mr Girgis’ “super geek” background, also plans to develop its own.

The men say the only limit on the potential use of VR is your imagination.

Already, VR is being used in education, sport (to help athletes practice), training and even health and therapy.

“We are working with some therapists to assist with mood displacement, using different colours and experiences to lift mood,” says Mr Thomas of the research potential.

“The application of the technology really drives us in giving people an experience that they could otherwise not get.”

There is increasing interest in VR from the real estate sector –with estate agents giving virtual tours of apartments they are pre-selling.

The latest technology allows the viewer to change and mix and matchdesign and decor features of the home to allow the viewer to get a feel for what the final product will resemble.

Until recently the CEO of publicly-listed debt collection specialists Collection House, Mr Thomas relocated to Newcastle six months ago to be closer to family.

“I’m an escapee from the corporate world,” he says with a grin.

As such, he’s excited about the use of VR for training and team building purposes,providing an environment that gives people a chance to fail with a soft landing: “Anything that helps people work together more selflessly is a good thing,” he says.

Sew and steady wins

Thursday, 13. December 2018

Material gains: Mulberry and Flax owner Jennifer Smart in her Islington store. Picture: Penelope GreenOUR rapidly moving society is driving a resurgence back to pursuits of old, says the owner of the latest “crafty” business to open its doors in Newcastle.
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Former film industry veteran, author and screenwriter Jennifer Smart made the tree change to Newcastle two years ago and decided to invest in her love for fabrics and yarn.

“My sister had just died of a heart attack and it made me reassess and realise that life is short,” she says.

“I have always had a passion for knitting and fabric so I thought about how to make it work.”

In April last year she opened Mulberry and Flax, which specialises in high-end fabrics that she largely sources from the US but also in small quantities from Japan.

She recently relocated to Maitland Road, Islington, where she has more space to expand her range.

The daughter of a knitter and sewer, Ms Smart stocks a range of Liberty prints: “I think my fondness for them comes from my grandmother,” she says.

She also sellsa wide range of ethically produced fabrics that are mostly hand-made and largely using Australian yarn.

She retails European silk by labels including US fashion designer Tory Burch and currently has in stock a black silk fabric featuring gold lurex that was used by Kate Moss in her Capsule Collection.

She has sourced organic, Indian hand-block painted fabrics and Pirate Purl yarns made with superfine merino wool that is dyed in Newcastle.

Mulberry and Flax is a havenfor those who knit, crochet, weave, felt and sew.

“Most shops sell one thing for one craft,but if people have an interest in craft they tend to be interested in others,” explains Mrs Smart.

Briefly living in Newcastle as a child, she feels an affinity with the Hunter and is impressed by its creative kudos.

With workshops in weaving, knitting and crocheting afoot, she is noting interest from young women who want to get hands-on about craft.

“The faster that life becomes, we want to reach out to slower pursuits,” she says.

Nine-year-old asylum seeker gets compo for Christmas Island suffering

Thursday, 13. December 2018

The federal government has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to a nine-year-old girl who was detained on Christmas Island.
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The deal ends a bitter, three-year legal battle which had initially aimed to secure compensation for thousands of asylum seekers.

The Iranian girl, referred to as “AS”, was held in detention on Christmas Island for almost a year, after arriving in Australia with her parents by boat in 2013.

A class action was launched on her behalf in 2014 against then-immigration minister Scott Morrison and the Commonwealth.

The girl’s lawyers argued that she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a dental infection, a stammer and separation anxiety in detention, and still needs ongoing medical treatment.

Lawyers reached a compromise before the trial, which involves the government paying compensation to AS in exchange for her dropping her legal claim.

Supreme Court Justice Jack Forrest approved the confidential deal on Wednesday.

The deal comes after Justice Forrest last month halted the class action, ruling that other asylum seekers could no longer jointly sue the Commonwealth with AS.

The judge said that their personal injury claims were too different from hers and each other’s to be dealt with as a group.

This left AS alone in her claim against the government. She and her family have been living in the community on a temporary bridging visa since January 2015.

Outside court, Sister Brigid Arthur, the litigation guardian for AS, said that the girl and her family were relieved to put the case behind them.

“In one way while it’s an effort to get justice, it’s also an extra trauma for them, and an extra thing they were waiting for a response to,” said Sister Arthur, who is co-ordinator for the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project.

While 35,000 asylum seekers were detained on the island between 2011 and 2014, it is unknown how many had signed on to the class action.

Tom Ballantyne, a principal of Maurice Blackburn, which represented AS, said outside court that while the deal was in her best interests, no amount of compensation could properly recognise what she and other asylum seekers had been through on Christmas Island.

Mr Ballantyne rejected the notion that the class action failed, saying Justice Forrest’s decision did not affect other Christmas Island asylum seekers’ legal rights to claim compensation separately.

“It in no way judged the actual conditions on Christmas Island,” Mr Ballantyne said.

“There are thousands of people who have been deeply affected by their experiences [in detention] and we encourage them to seek legal advice if they want to.”

The judge will make formal orders in the coming days, and the question of legal costs will be discussed in court next week.

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the minister and the Commonwealth had made no admission of liability in relation to the matter.

“As this matter is still before the Court in relation to some outstanding issues, it would not be appropriate for the Department to comment further.”

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

Global gas giants use loophole to avoid tax on billions

Thursday, 13. December 2018

Foreign-owned gas companies have legally avoided paying significant tax on billions in earnings from their Australian operations because of loopholes, according to a study.
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The loopholes have allowed the companies to write off interest payments for the borrowings of offshore subsidiaries, it has been claimed.

The study, by academic accountants at the University of Technology School of Accounting, and left-leaning campaign group GetUp, looked at the available balance sheet data of gas giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. It found the two companies have achieved colossal revenue flows from their Australian operations but paid little if anything in petroleum resource rent tax in recent years.

The practice is known as “debt loading” or “thin capitalisation”.

Over the two years 2013-14 and 2014-15, Chevron earned more than $6.12 billion in revenue, but paid nothing in PRRT, according to the assessment.

It found ExxonMobil achieved revenue of almost three times that at $18.08 billion in the same period, but paid only $803.5 million.

The study concluded that between the operation of the company tax rules and the petroleum resource rent tax regime these enormous multinational resources companies can “load up” their balance sheets withexcessive debt, thereby reducing taxable income to the point where the tax liability is low or non-existent.

The report, Investigation into the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax and Debt Loading in Australia – 2012 to 2016, found 95 per cent of oil and gas projects in Australia paid nothing in PRRT in 2014-15.

The case for reform has been boosted by a recent Federal Court ruling that went against Chevron Australia in a $340 million dispute with the Australian Tax Office for financial arrangements between 2004 and 2008. The full bench concluded the Australian arm had paid more in interest payments to its US parent company than would otherwise be necessary, thus reducing its taxable profits.

However, the company noted it had paid close to $4 billion in taxes and royalties since that period.

GetUp’s Natalie O’Brien said the interest payments on borrowings were designed to minimise or eliminate tax liabilities, that could otherwise fund schools and hospitals.

“Between 2013-2015, Chevron made over $6 billion in revenue in Australia. It paid zero dollars in PRRT, and they paid zero dollars in income tax,” she said. “That’s a rort.

“In the same period, ExxonMobil made $18 billion in revenue and paid no income tax.

“Australians are sick and tired of big corporations using their influence to increase their own power and profits, at the expense of the community and our environment.

“Every day people are being forced to deal with cuts to essential services – all because our politicians won’t stand up to these greedy gas giants.”

The government has commissioned independent expert Michael Callaghan, AM, to review the operation of the petroleum resource rent tax to assess its effectiveness at securing a suitable return for Australians from the development and sale of their mineral resources.

The PRRT was introduced in 1988 under the then Hawke Labor government, and was designed to tax profits at 40 per cent.

It differs in this crucial respect from state royalties, which tax according to volume and thus do not differentiate between highly profitable ventures and those that might be marginal or even loss-making.

However, profitable income under the PRRT is calculated after the deduction of eligible expenses and where these expenses exceed revenue in a given year, such losses can be carried forward to the next year for deduction. This means high capital start-up costs, can be amortised over years, rendering apparently lucrative projects free of PRRT liabilities.

“The good news is that we can fix this,” Ms O’Brien said. “We can close the loopholes, and recover enough to restore every last cent of Coalition cuts to local hospitals and fully fund Gonski needs-based school funding reform – twice over.”

“Debt loading refers to a tax avoidance strategy where business operations and investments are funded with excessive debt rather than equity,” the UTS report authors note.

“Excessive use of debt compared to equity creates ‘debt loaded’ or ‘thinly capitalised’ structures. Debt loading is often used by subsidiaries of multinational entities to shift profits from high to low tax jurisdictions.”

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