THE LAST GASP: Let the bears pay

Labor has a taxing time, Lynas has a false start and Tony Abbott responds poorly to his falling public approval.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest news, every week. This week, confusing tax troubles continue to plague Labor, Lynas very nearly jumps the gun in Malaysia, and Tony Abbott responds to falling public approval the only way he knows how – poorly.

Unchain my heart

Despite repeated assurances from Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury that Labor will under no circumstances be changing the rate of the goods and services tax, more pressure has been placed on the government to consider widening the levy. Among the most vocal this week were Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, with the former accusing both major parties of being somewhat gun-shy on tax reform. It’s an easy pot for the independent, given support for new taxes would put the popularity of the big parties at risk, while he himself at this point doesn’t have a hell of a lot to lose. The Business Council of Australia has also backed the push, claiming Australia could increase its competitiveness by lowering its reliance on personal and company income tax in favour of consumption taxes. It’s a crafty move from the representative group, with its basic argument boiling down to "Company tax? Bad! A tax where we can sneakily hike prices and tell consumers it was the government? Brilliant!” Despite Labor’s public rejection of the idea, reports have suggested that it is privately working on a GST model that would bring the levy in line with some of its more successful recent taxes, in a way that would see it raise precisely zero revenue.

I move for a bad court thingy

Lynas finally put to bed the long running saga surrounding its Malaysian rare earths plant this week, with the Kuantan High Court throwing out an attempt by the wittily named activist group Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas to place an interim stay on the miner's operating licence in the country. The decision follows months of uncertainty and several court decisions on the issue, leading to constant pushbacks and ever-rising operating costs. Lynas celebrated the win the only way one could in the situation – by tapping the market for $200 million to make back some of those costs. Then, a day or so later, the activist group pushed for another appeal, suddenly making that $200 million worth of shares a little less valuable than first thought. Luckily for Lynas, the claim was knocked back, but not before a few nervous hours for both investors and, particularly, the executives who signed off on the capital raising. Spare a thought as well for the lawyers, and underwriter JP Morgan, which were all convinced the move was a good idea, once again proving that decisions made by investment banks are always infallible.

Enquire within

Somebody just take the microphone from Tony Abbott. If that is not somebody’s full-time job already, it needs to be. Just hire somebody already. The opposition leader did his tumbling popularity no favours this week when he mentioned how great it would be to have an ‘authentic’ indigenous representative of central Australia in Canberra when referring to rumours of Northern Territory minister Alison Anderson switching to federal politics. This would have been a noble cause, had sitting Western Australian Liberal Ken Wyatt, who appeared pretty authentic in his numerous media appearances following Abbott’s gaffe, not already been elected in 2010. Unfortunately for Abbott, this indeed means there is no shortage of authentic indigenous federal MPs, and, doubly unfortunate for the Libs, also means there is no shortage of authentic stupidity.

Hide your kids, hide your wife

Any confidence garnered from the collapse of the federal government’s internet filter was slightly offset by news this week that government agencies have increased their surveillance of personal internet usage in the past six months. The agencies, which make up 93 per cent of The Last Gasp’s total readership, made 523 requests to access Google users' data in the first six months of 2012, including email accounts. The majority of the requests were made for privacy and security reasons, as well as defamation and copyright, while a small number were removed due to government criticism, in a clear sign that people have become so disillusioned with the local political system that have simply stopped paying attention.

The weekly Clive

Famed billionaire Clive Palmer was immensely offended this week when Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney had the gall to look into allegations that Palmer’s Waratah Coal has ignored indigenous heritage laws at one of its sites in the Galilee Basin. It’s a silly move by Seeney, who should be aware that Palmer is far too rich to actually break the law. Palmer was so incensed by the injustice that he called for Seeney’s resignation, which carries a lot of weight given the high esteem Palmer has been held in around the LNP of late. Predictably, the party was forced to suspend Palmer, who is a life member and major financial donor. The move has led to threats of legal action from the mining magnate, which has been an effective knee-jerk reaction from him in the past. Conveniently, the billionaire has his lawyers at number four on his speed dial, just below his home, office and Dominoes.

Quick misses

– The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has launched a campaign to reunite Australians with $677 million in unclaimed funds, warning the government was likely to claim it as its own if it was just left lying around.

Hillary Clinton stepped off her busy schedule to spend some down time in Adelaide this week, in a clear sign she had never heard of Adelaide before agreeing to such a thing.

– And finally, Fairfax Media sold its Northern American rural press assets this week, because not even backwater southern hicks in the US read newspapers anymore.

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