Issues of the Week

THE Federal Government has moved to relieve the political pressure created by its alienation of personal services laws, which have sent the contractors and many small business people into a tizz. Up to 166,000 contractors will be amongst the hardest hit by steeper tax and accountancy costs this year, according to the tax office. This news follows in the wake of a Howard Government crackdown on personal services incomes, such as those of IT and engineering consultants. Accountants predict consultants will, on average, pay $2000 more in tax, as well as face an additional charge of $1500 in accounting fees to work out their status. The issue surfaced in the lead-up to upcoming Aston by-election in Victoria, amid a plague of protests from small operators who claim not to have realised the scope of last year’s tax change.

SENATE-candidate Pauline Hanson and former director of the One Nation party, David Ettridge, have been summonsed to appear before the Brisbane Magistrates Court on July 31 to face fraudulent registry charges. The move follows a 21-month investigation by Queensland police after the Supreme Court found in 1999 that the party had been fraudulently registered. Ms Hanson and Mr Ettridge said they would plead not guilty.

WA Farmers Federation president Colin Nicholl launched a fundraising appeal for money to purchase feed and seed to go to ailing wheatbelt farmers, following widespread drought and the worst season in 75 years. The Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association is coordinating trucks to collect donations of grain and hay to take to farmers in worst affected areas. While public donations will help relieve the symptoms of drought, a recent survey at a public meeting held in Lake Grace has revealed average farm debt to have risen from $275,000 to almost $640,000 as a result of climatic conditions. Only 40 per cent of those surveyed were confident their banks would increase their loans to finance next year’s crop.

WHEAT marketer AWB, a grower-controlled company, hopes that late rainfall in prime growing regions is a good omen prior to its $860 million float on the Australian Stock Exchange next month. The company wants to raise up to $100 million via the issue of 31.8 million B-class shares at $3.50 each. AWB chairman Trevor Flugge commented that recent rains had brought long-awaited relief for many growers, at the Melbourne launch of the company’s prospectus. The listing will give AWB’s 64,500 B-class shareholders, of whom the majority are wheat farmers, the chance to trade on the stock exchange.

MEANWHILE, WA grain handler Cooperative Bulk Handling has announced it will not pursue a merger with the Grain Pool of WA for the moment, even though it has spent months researching the move. The bleak start to the grain season and a lack of “overwhelming support” to the merger have been cited as main reasons for its abandonment. CBH chairman Allan Watson said the time was not right for a merger and that stability in the WA grain industry was best served by ending speculation and uncertainty.

“WHATEVER I do in my life, wherever I go I will be Wimbledon champion” were the words of Croatia’s Goran Ivanisevic, after winning an epic victory against the embodiment of Australian tennis, Pat Rafter. Rafter went down in an epic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 battle against the Croat who became the first wildcard to win a grand slam title, and only the second man to do so unseeded. Victory for the 29-year-old Ivanisevic helped make up for the pain of losing the finals of 1992, 1994 and 1998.

THE Clough Group has won an $86 million share of the contract for a gas field project development off India’s west coast. It is part of a consoritum with South Korean company Hyundai Heavy Industries to develop the Lakshmi field project for joint venture partners Cairn Energy India, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Tata Petrodyne. The field s about 260 kilometres north of Mumbai in the Gulf of Cambay. Last year Clough won a contract to build two offshore platforms and associated pipelines for Cairn Energy.

TWO sons of late WA corporate raider Robert Holmes á Court are locking horns in a battle to control Australia’s beef industry. Robert’s youngest son Paul has taken the reins of the family’s beef operation Heytesbury – Australia’s fourth largest beef producer. He has been a director of the private company since 1999 and has been given his chance at the head of its table with the departure of CEO Elizabeth Gaines. Meanwhile his eldest brother Peter has returned from the bright lights of Broadway to become chief executive of the refloated Australian institution Australian Agricultural Company. It is believed he will put $15 million of his own money into the venture. He wants Australian investors to put $120 million towards his unspoken dream to become Australia’s biggest beef baron. Peter announced the company’s float – delayed by two weeks due to a delayed prospectus – by parading a bull around the Australian Stock Exchange.

– Ben Jones

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