Joe Hockey under fire for taxpayer-funded PR campaign on tax reform

Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Daniel Munoz Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Treasurer Joe Hockey is under fire for launching a taxpayer-funded public relations push to sell the need for tax reform.

Treasury bureaucrats have revealed Mr Hockey personally directed that a strategy be devised to accompany the imminent launch of the Coalition’s tax white paper process.

So far, $650,000 has been allocated for focus groups and a slick communications strategy to “convince people of the need for reform”, a Treasury official told a Senate estimates committee on Thursday.

The Australian Financial Review revealed on Friday that a public information campaign, including TV commercials, will accompany  the intergenerational report and the government recently came under fire for spending $8 million on an advertising blitz to promote its proposed higher education reforms.

Public affairs firm GRACosway, co-chaired by former Liberal minister Helen Coonan and Keating-era Labor treasurer John Dawkins, has been paid $360,000 to prepare the communications effort on tax reform.

The project is being led by GRACosway executive Richard King, a former Coalition ministerial staffer. Mr King was a senior political adviser within former Treasurer Peter Costello’s Tax Reform Unit.

Treasury deputy secretary Rob Heferen said past governments have relied on the release of discussion papers but said Mr Hockey was keen to “get people engaged in the process”.

“The Treasurer this time around was very concerned that the old way of doing things was simply not going to cut the mustard,” he said.

Mr Hockey has been widely criticised from inside and outside the government for failing to convince the electorate of the need for budget repair. The Treasurer said in December the government had “made a mistake” in communicating about tough budget measures with voters and “neglected the conversation”.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who grilled the Treasury officials, said after the hearing that Mr Hockey was using public funds to sell his message.

“Joe Hockey is bribing the Australian people with half a million bucks of their own money. It looks like the Mad Men of the Abbott government have asked the Mad Men of the Australian advertising industry to pitch their tax ideas,” he said.

GRACosway has been paid $70,000 develop a PR strategy and $180,000 to advise on implementing the strategy. They stand to make another $110,000 under the contract.

Market research firm TNS was paid $80,000 to poll 1200 people and run focus groups.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham told the Economics Legislation committee that the plan, which will include a dedicated tax white paper website, was “more an engagement strategy than an advertising campaign”.

Senator Birmingham said the initial discussion paper on tax reform would be released “relatively soon”, followed by a green paper later in the year and the white paper before the next election.

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Longmire earning her plaudits

WINNING WAYS: Goulburn horse trainer Emma Longmire ishoping Free Billy can continue his form after a win at Goulburnon Tuesday. Photos: Bradley Photographers“Good honest communication.” That’s what Emma Longmire attributes to her success since she took the plunge into the horse training world just over two-years-ago.
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“That’s how I operate, results are just the cherry on top,” she said.

But it isn’t just honest communication that’s attracting plaudits.

Longmire’s hands on approach is beginning to make her stand out from the rest.

“I ride track work most of the time, not only because I’m used to doing so, but I feel as if I get to know them personally,” she said.

“It’s what kind of makes me unique compared to other trainers I guess. But I’m just used to it, I was a track rider for Graeme Spackman in 2008 and then pre trained for Guy Walters before getting my license two-and-a-halfyears- ago.”

It’s proving to be a winning technique.

Longmire has ran six winners since the beginning of the year including Free Billy, who raced a winner in the Maddens Stable Beddings (1600m) in Goulburn on Tuesday.

She’s hoping the young gelding will be able to push his form at the Country Championships series held in Goulburn on March 20.

BY A MILE: Free Billy won by a considerable length on Tuesday. Photos: Bradley Photographers

“He’s a real character,” Longmire said.

“I think he thinks it’s all one big game. The Country Champs is a 1400m race so I’ll need to freshen him up for it.”

Free Billy is one of six horses trained by Longmire who is owned by a Queensland backer.

“He’s been a big supporter of mine, in fact every horse he has sent my way I’ve been managing almost every aspect.”

“Part of why he got onto me last August was that he had seen my stats and saw the results for the quality of horses I had.”

Another horse Longmire has high hopes for is Shubawi.

The four-year-old colt ran three wins in a row in January, more recently winning outright at Moruya and Canberra.

“Shabawi is a good wet tracker, so I’m hoping the autumn season will be good.”

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UNSEEN sculptures tours held around Bega Valley

Viewers will use an app on their smartphones to access the Unseen digital sculpture exhibition. RELATED COVERAGE:Sculpture on the Edge 2015 rundownBEGA Valley Regional Gallery will begin a series of interactive digital sculptures across the shire.
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From this weekend, viewers using smartphones or tablets will be able to interact with specially created artworks that are only visible through your device.

“Some of the sculptures are to human scale and some are monumental,” gallery curator Iain Dawson said.

“In addition to the many fine physical works on display, the UNSEEN sculptures exhibition brings together artists from Europe, America and Australia to showcase this amazing technology.

“To visit this exhibition you have to bring your smartphone, download the LAYAR app and our volunteers on site will guide you through the process of seeing these ‘hidden’ works.”

Mr Dawson said the exhibition is free and there will be tablet computers available to borrow.

The exhibition will start in Bermagui within Sculpture on the Edge from tomorrow to March 8, in Bega’s Littleton Gardens and on the bank of the Bega River in Bridge St from March7 to 13, in Merimbula’s Ford Park from March 14 to 20 and on Eden’s Lake Curalo Boardwalk from March 21 to 27.

For more information visit the BVRG Facebook page.

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Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo to be sold to developers

For sale: the Powerhouse Museum will be relocated in western Sydney. Photo: Supplied For sale: the Powerhouse Museum will be relocated in western Sydney. Photo: Supplied
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For sale: the Powerhouse Museum will be relocated in western Sydney. Photo: Supplied

For sale: the Powerhouse Museum will be relocated in western Sydney. Photo: Supplied

The state government will sell the Powerhouse Museum in Pyrmont to raise about $200 million for the museum’s relocation to Sydney’s western suburbs.

Premier Mike Baird and Arts Minister Troy Grant announced the relocation of the museum to Parramatta and flagged their plans to sell the building and its prime central Sydney land on Thursday.

“Every dollar from the sale of the site will come towards this new museum. It’s a very strategic site right next to the city, with a good opportunity for renewal,” Mr Baird said.

Mr Baird said they expected the Pyrmont site to reap between $150 and $200 million and that it would be developed into apartments.

John Zheng, the director of LJ Hooker Pyrmont, said the value of the land would vary considerably depending on the restrictions the state government and local council placed on the development, particularly maximum building heights.

“It is a very unique opportunity, and also a significant site which brings extra value,” Mr Zheng told Fairfax Media. “But the highest and best value for it will be apartment blocks.”

Mr Zheng said any apartment redevelopment able to return on an initial land investment of $200 million would need to be significant, so community concerns would also be considered by developers.

The announcement of the museum’s relocation comes shortly after the release of a report about how governments can better support the arts and culture in western Sydney, home to nearly a third of the state’s population.

The government has also set aside $30 million to begin the Powerhouse Museum relocation, and to expand local dance group Form Studio and the Riverside Theatre.

Before the announcement, only 7 per cent of the NSW Arts Budget went to western Sydney initiatives. The additional millions doubles this to 14 per cent.

“For too long in the arts and culture space, we’ve accepted second best and we haven’t been investing in terms of enough programs, promoting it enough and building the facilities that are required,” Mr Baird said.

No site has been set aside for the new museum. A site will selected following further research and business case development. Mr Baird mentioned locations near Parramatta Stadium or the former Parramatta jail.

In October, Powerhouse Museum director Rose Hiscock told Fairfax Media it was “vital” to their plans up to 2020 that the museum remained close to Sydney’s CBD.

“We would be really open to considering something [in western Sydney], but it would need to be a satellite from this site,” she said in 2014.

However, on Thursday, Ms Hiscock said she and her team were looking forward to building a world-class museum from the ground up.

“What I said at that stage was you just don’t pick up a museum and plonk it somewhere else. I’ve always been open to a venue in Parramatta and I’m really pleased to be able to do it.”

The move may be good for the Powerhouse Museum, which has been battling flagging visitor numbers for years.

The most recent annual report reveals 2014’s visitor total was 16 per cent beneath the 10-year average. This was up slightly from 2013, when the annual visitor total was 17.6 per cent beneath the average.

Last year, slightly more than 381,500 visitors streamed through the doors. Almost a quarter of these were for one exhibition, the video gaming exhibition Game Masters.

Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber David Borger told Fairfax Media the cultural institutions would boost the local community in many ways.

“It’s terrific news for Parramatta. One thing every urban planner knows is cultural facilities need to be in great locations, and we’ll make it work,” Mr Borger said.

Mr Borger said the relocation would have a positive effect on the region’s culture, retail and hospitality economies and identity.

“The west does not have any truly iconic public buildings, and it will be exciting to build one to help shape how western Sydney understands and promotes itself.”

Mr Baird said the plan was for the new Powerhouse Museum to open before the end of the state government’s next term, and the museum was likely to be closed at times during relocation.

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Clean up your own backyard

Cleaning up: Site coordinator Michael Jacobs.MICHAEL Jacobs will join thousands of Australians this Sunday for Clean Up Australia Day.
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He said the importance of the day had grown over the years to the point where young people had started to make up the majority of those who took part.

“Times and attitudes have changed over the years and the best thing is that it’s a chance to give back to the community,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said he had noticed less rubbish could be seen and it could be attributed to people taking pride in their community.

“A lot of people might disagree with me, but I believe there’s less rubbish around these days,” he said.

“You see retired people go around every morning and pick up rubbish.

“I know I take my dog for a walk and pick up rubbish when I can.

“It was the first community project I took part in and the fun of doing it, contributing and giving back to the community has meant I’ve been doing it ever since.”

As the site coordinator Mr Jacobs said Rotary Club of Port Macquarie Sunrise had been involved for the last 14 years and he said he planned to continue to do so for some time yet.

“My father is 92 so if I can live as long as that I’ll be doing well,” he said.

This year over 500,000 volunteers will participate across the country at 140,000 sites with 12 different sites registered across Port Macquarie.

[email protected]南京夜网.au

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Trainer John Thompson hoping Whittington can beat the wet and get a run

Travel happy: Queensland horse Whittington will run in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: Jenny Evans Travel happy: Queensland horse Whittington will run in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: Jenny Evans
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Travel happy: Queensland horse Whittington will run in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: Jenny Evans

Travel happy: Queensland horse Whittington will run in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: Jenny Evans

While John Thompson clocked up the air miles to watch Auvray scratched at the barriers in the Singapore Gold Cup, another recent stable acquisition has been logging just as many kilometres via road to find a race.

Impossible to miss in his new striking maroon colours with a white map of Queensland and a big ‘W’, Whittington has been forced to dodge another big ‘W’ – the wet – triggered by Cyclone Marcia to get back to the track.

It has tempted Thompson to send Whittington on two interstate trips in the space of a week – first from Queensland to Sydney and then on to Melbourne – in a bid for a first group 1 win in the $400,000 Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on Saturday.

“We were disappointed we got washed out last week because I thought he was in a real winnable race and the owners wanted to run away from the wet weather, so he came down here,” Thompson said.

“He worked well here [Randwick] on Tuesday and they wanted to have a crack at the race on Saturday, so we sent him down to Melbourne. The only problem is this is his first run in Melbourne and he’s travelled two states to get there. He came here to Sydney for nearly a week and had a little break and then went on to Melbourne.”

But the lure of a first major was too good to pass up for his new owners, a group of stud managers who prised the horse from Star Thoroughbreds with a view to standing him at stud up north after his racing career.

Now Thompson has to weave his magic and improve a four-year-old which has been racing since his opening two-year-old race, a winning effort in the Breeders’ Plate, and has already shuffled through the yards of Gai Waterhouse and Chris Waller.

“I’m still learning about him and on his work he looks like a stakes horse, but it’s going to be hard having his first start the Melbourne way at Caulfield in a group 1,” Thompson said.

“He ran well [in his first start for Thompson at Doomben], but he just drew the outside gate and was stuck wide the whole way. His condition gave out that last little bit, but he’s come on since the run and he looks great.”

Most of Thompson’s autumn eggs rest in the First Seal basket and the group 1-winning filly, the early favourite for the Queen Of The Turf, will step out in the Surround Stakes at Warwick Farm.

“She went into that [first-up] run [in the Light Fingers Stakes] a little bit underdone and if they were going to beat her it was going to be over the 1200 [metres],” Thompson said. “The run has brought her on and switched her on and her work has been very good this week. I’m very happy going into the race.”

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Hastings to farewell summer in style

Sunshine ahead: Fine weekend predicted for the Hastings.GET out of the house and enjoy the final weekend of summer in the Hastings this weekend.
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After last weekend’s wet weather, Hastings residents can look forward to getting back outside with sunshine and warm temperatures.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said the mercury was set to head into the 30s by Sunday.

“Thankfully there’s no remnants of a cyclone this weekend so it’s all looking pretty tame and will steadily warm up,” he said.

The odd shower was still expected on Friday, but Mr Dutschke said they would be restricted to mainly inland areas.

“There will be a shower or two on the coast, but they will only be light.”

Saturday is looking generally dry with a top of 29 degrees for Port Macquarie and 30 for Kempsey with the chance of an afternoon thunderstorm late on Sunday afternoon or evening.

“Sunday will be 30 or 31 degrees with the chance of a late cool change which should drop temperatures down quite quickly,” Mr Dutschke said.

For those willing to return to the beach this weekend, Mr Dutschke said sea temperatures would start to warm up after the icy conditions of the last week or so.

“With the sun returning it will mean the sea temperatures should start to warm up to what is normally expected around this time of the year.

“Most of the weekend looks like there will be increasingly lengthy sunny breaks.”

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Old Striker hangs up his boot

RETIRED: Strikers premiership winning coach RobinCaulfield will be watching from an arms length thisseason.WITH the Strikers ready to kick things off with a trial in Canberra tomorrow, there will be a considerable lack of jolly Englishmen.
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Premiership winning coach Robin Caulfield has hung up his boots.

The Yorkshire man has confirmed he has stepped down from the position due to outside commitments.

It’s a decision not taken lightly.

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of last year. It was the first time they won in their history and I’m proud to have been a part of that,” Caulfield said.

“At the end of the day and after a lot of thought I think I’ve made the correct decision.”

A new coach has been identified and is expected to be officially announced by the club in the coming weeks.

Caulfield said they would inherit a quality team. But by no means does this mean his end with football.

“I’ve been with the Strikers for two years. That team overcame a lot of hurdles to achieve what they did,” he said.

“I’ll try to remain at an arms length I think.”

“Football is in my blood. When you’re a player who enjoyed it so much, you want to give back to the game that gave you that enjoyment, any way you can.”

Regardless of situation, with the club coming into the season as reigning state league three premiers, there are high hopes the club can continue their form.

They have their first test tomorrow, with a trial match against the O’Connor Knights in Canberra.

Captain David Albrighton said the majority of the side has remained intact and that he was hoping the players have been able to maintain their fitness.

He believes the Knights are a good kick start.

“They’re a strong team that play a league above us,” he said.

“They’re premier league quality and only aren’t because of their junior system. It’s going to be an interesting game.”

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Kerrin McEvoy’s sliding doors moment has him comfortable with Silent Achiever

Silent Achiever Photo: Anthony JohnsonIn another time and place Kerrin McEvoy might have been holding all the Chipping Norton Stakes aces.
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He could have been on favourite Contributer, the Apollo Stakes winner and a project for Godolphin, with whom McEvoy made his name internationally.

Or he could have been on second favourite Lucia Valentina, his Melbourne Cup mount only a few months ago and the horse he steered to group 1 success in October.

But McEvoy won’t be on either. The price he’s paying for slumming it with the hundreds of other freelancers in Australia? It is one he is only too happy to pay if he gets to follow well-travelled New Zealand mare Silent Achiever  to France for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later in the year.

“We haven’t looked past the Sydney autumn yet, but I know that was mentioned early on and I haven’t spoke to [trainer] Roger [James] about that since then,” McEvoy said. “You’d like to think I can get a win on her and then see where that leads to.

“It [freelance] is a different approach to it all and I’m enjoying the freedom of being able to work with many of the top stables here in Sydney. I’d like to secure a few more nice ones as the autumn progresses and I haven’t locked in a [Golden] Slipper ride so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

McEvoy’s association with Silent Achiever, who slipped over on a concrete surface on Tuesday morning when suffering superficial cuts to the hip and near foreleg, is confirmed up until her next start in the Ranvet Stakes.

But his Warwick Farm book, taken after a week’s break to attend a wedding back home at Streaky Bay in South Australia, is headed by the potential globe-trotting mare and includes Surround Stakes contender Peggy Jean and the resuming Arabian Gold (Guy Walter Stakes).

Add Rubick into the mix and it’s a solid platform for McEvoy’s first autumn carnival since leaving Godolphin.

But perhaps there would be no better advertisement than a Chipping Norton success with Silent Achiever, who he has struggled to get the better of in the past.

“She beat me by a narrow margin in the Ranvet when I rode the Queen’s horse [Carlton House] so I’ve seen her up close and personal,” McEvoy said. “I was pretty happy when Roger gave me the nod to ride her this preparation and with all being well she can run well and then into the Ranvet and whichever way she goes after that.

“She was really good in [her Apollo Stakes] defeat and we ended up without any cover, but she finished off really well over the concluding 300 metres. I was really happy with the way she handled herself first-up and Roger agrees she’s going to be even better second-up.

“Contributer was awesome [in that race] and Lucia Valentina will be ready to rip second-up. It’s a quality line-up.”

James has amassed a dossier on the logistics of travelling to France later in the year with the Cox Plate third placegetter, if the urge remains. He will embark on a five-day study trip after the autumn, but is adamant business needs to be taken care of this side of the Tasman first.

“We’re here to be serious and France will be the bonus if we get there really,” he said.

“I think her work this week has been very solid, but traditionally if she runs a very good race over 1400 [metres] fresh up and I think, ‘when we go over a mile she’s going to be hard to beat’ she can sometimes do the same and you think she’s ready for 2000 metres. I have tried to keep her a bit fresher this time in to see if we can win a group 1 mile with her.”

James’ compatriot, Sydney-based Chris Waller, will boast a record eight Chipping Norton Stakes entries with Expressway Stakes winner Weary the equal third favourite in early betting.

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First Aid for Motorcyclists teaches tips in case of accident

Mick Cole and Mary Rutter are behind a first aid course for motorcyclists in Bega next month. A FIRST aid course targeted at motorcyclists is coming to Bega next month.
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Organised by local rider Mary Rutter and supported by Mick Cole Motorcycles, First Aid for Motorcyclists will teach attendees all they need to know in the event of a motorbike accident.

Key topics will include accident scene management, emergency helmet removal, CPR, shock and wounds, fractures and burns, and what to do if head, neck or spinal trauma is suspected.

Also, importantly, there will be a discussion on accident and injury prevention.

Ms Rutter is one of the organisers of the Far South Coast Social Riders Group and said the first aid course, to be held at Club Bega on March 21, will provide vital and valuable information for riders of all types.

“I’ve done basic first aid, but then I thought, if I was riding along and came across a fellow rider, would I know what to do?” she said.

“Do I take their helmet off or not?

“Then I thought if I’m like that, perhaps others are the same.”

The First Aid for Motoryclists course will be run by Tracy Hughes, a senior first aid instructor with St John Ambulance – and a keen motorbike rider.

“Tracy does courses like this for a living and has a world of knowledge,” Ms Rutter said.

“And this course wouldn’t be possible without the support and sponsorship of Mick Cole.”

Early registration for the course is recommended, via the First Aid for Motorcyclists website.

There will be both a morning and afternoon session, with part of the proceeds from the course fee to be donated to the neck and spinal injury unit at a Sydney Hospital.

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