THE LAST GASP: Slices of life

Clive Palmer has his cake and eats it too, but the candles are blown out for Energy Watch.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories. This week, Clive Palmer can’t keep out of the news, nobody feels sorry for Ben Polis and Facebook forks out for filters.

Extra credit

Clive Palmer has moved to clear up any public confusion over how important he thinks he is, claiming it is not the government or internationally-awarded treasurer Wayne Swan who are to thank for the country’s current economic health, but mining magnates such as himself, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart. The billionaire also took aim the Foreign Investment Review Board, which he accused of being a disincentive to international companies looking to invest in Australia. He criticised the processes of the board and said it needed to help make the local economic "cake” bigger so there was more to share among the community. Palmer went on to say Australia had never been able to generate enough capital to take full advantage of its opportunities, and they had gone to waste, like a delicious pastry that had gone stale, or a chocolate muffin sadly dropped on the floor. He was reportedly then cut off and pulled away by advisors, still ranting about various baked goods.

A second helping

It was a busy week for Palmer, who found himself in the news almost every day, and not always on his own terms. Despite a concerted effort from the mining magnate to rubbish the government’s mineral resource rent tax, Fairfax ran a report claiming Palmer flagship company, Mineralogy, has not paid any tax for three years. Profit-and-loss statements from the group show the mining group paid no tax between the years of 2008-09 and 2010-11. The billionaire has also announced plans to launch a $22 million lawsuit against Football Federation Australia within three weeks, in a rare case of litigation from the magnate. He is also still trying to gather evidence against rail group QR National for further court action. Representatives of the magnate are apparently closely watching the group on the off chance they may actually do something worth being sued for.

The bigger they are

Further afield, Facebook has added to its mind-boggling wealth this week, moving to buy photo-sharing group Instagram, and its entire staff of 13 employees, for $US1 billion. The tech giant, which reportedly plans to list on the Nasdaq in either May or June, said the acquisition was a key milestone for the group, given the amount of existing users Instagram has. The large payment for such a small operation is surprising in an industry which has never had any long-term difficulties with overvaluation. In completely unrelated news, Apple’s total value hit $600 billion this week, approaching Microsoft’s tech bubble record.

Doesn’t quite work

Clearly holding deep-seated grudges dating back to the abolition of slavery, employer groups have followed a push by the big banks last week in urging the complete abolition of penalty rates. The National Retail Association want shifts to last as little as 90 minutes, while other groups want to narrow the definition of ‘shift work’ to reduce pay entitlements. The requests are part of submissions to a major review of the awards system currently being conducted by Fair Work Australia, which appears to be quickly turning into a contest over which business groups can show the least possible concern for the welfare of their staff.

Polis apart

The week just got worse and worse for embattled entrepreneur Ben Polis, in a case that could possibly have drawn sympathy from anyone who hadn’t seen his offensive online rants. Fresh from standing down as chief executive of Energy Watch amid a scandal surrounding comments he made on social networking site Facebook, Polis now faces charges from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission over phoenix activity and a Fair Work investigation surrounding staff entitlements. This comes just a week after multiple sporting clubs, including the Melbourne Demons, cancelled their sponsorship arrangements with Energy Watch amid public uproar at Polis’ online posts. Prime Minister Julia Gillard reportedly called the comments ‘nasty’ and ‘disappointing’, among other posts that were quickly taken down for breaking Facebook’s decency rules.

Early bird special

Fresh off its ’not-really-a-victory’ victory on proposed pokies legislation, Clubs Australia has asked why nobody will think of the children, calling for responsible gambling legislation to be added to the national curriculum. A Clubs spokesperson said youth are at increased risk of developing a gambling problem, especially given the number of groups inventing increasingly crafty ways to get exposure for gambling into schools.

Quick misses

- The Prime Minister unveiled her latest attempt at defending the government’s oft-critised surplus push this week, debuting a new party line that balancing the books by 2012-13 would take pressure off the RBA and increase the likelihood of interest rate cuts. Other government sources claimed supporting the surplus would save baby kittens, prevent global warming and help you lose weight for summer.

- Superannuation giant AGEST has warned the government that its merger with rival AustralianSuper may be scuttled unless it promises to make the new entity exempt from certain tax charges. The ALP has been open in its desire to see consolidation in the super industry, but has so far been unwilling to provide tax cuts as an incentive to attract big players in the sector. It’s a bold move by AGEST, given the current government is well known for resisting pressure from the private sector when it has made up its mind on reform. Just like it did with the financial services sector. And the mining tax.

- And finally, China’s Commerce Ministry raised eyebrows this week when it labelled Australia’s blockage of tech group Huawei from bidding for work on the national broadband network ‘unjust’. The government did not respond on the claims, in an understandable move, given that having China criticise you for interfering in corporate matters is a bit like having Ben Polis question the appropriateness of your online conduct.