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Australian authorities have said the Paradise Papers helped reveal how a global industry of tax intermediaries was brazenly offering
tax avoidance “packages” to wealthy individuals. They said the papers also showed how offshore tax providers had expanded dramatically since the global financial crisis, growing supersized networks of accountants, lawyers and tax specialists that dwarf similar networks from a decade ago. The deputy international commissioner of the Australian Tax Office, Mark Konza, told Guardian Australia the ATO’s investigation of the data leak had already identified 731 Australian taxpayers and 344 corporate entities within the data.
He said the Paradise Papers had revealed the extent to which intermediaries such as banks, law firms and accountants had commoditised tax avoidance. “They would say they give you the arrangements, they give you the tools, but what you do with them is up to you. So they try to stay morally ambivalent,” Konza said.
Two teenagers have been in isolated cells in a Perth youth detention centre for more than 250 days, and three allegedly subjected to extended periods of solitary confinement, Amnesty International has said. Amnesty has warned Banksia Hill could be breaching international law, and called for the immediate closure of its intensive support unit (ISU), pending an independent investigation into the allegations and into the operations of the ISU. The mother of one 18-year-old whose mental health has significantly declined says she was not told by staff at the troubled Banksia Hill facility that he had become a “continuous self-harmer”.
The Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London at the age of 46. No cause of death was given for the Irish singer, whose band has sold more than 40m records. Musicians have started to pay tribute, including Irish songwriter Hozier, who said he was “shocked and saddened”, and that O’Riordan’s voice “threw into question what a voice could sound like in that context of rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way”. The deeply romantic Linger was one of the Cranberries’ biggest hits, with O’Riordan describing it to the Guardian as having been inspired by “being dumped, publicly, at the disco. Everything’s so dramatic when you’re 17, so I poured it into the song”.

Margaret Atwood has faced criticism on social media after voicing concerns about the #MeToo movement and calling for due process in the case of a former university professor accused of sexual misconduct. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Atwood described the #MeToo movement, which emerged in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, as a “massive wake-up call” and a symptom of broken legal systems. But she warned that “understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit”. Some responses angrily criticised the 78-year-old author of The Handmaid’s Tale for failing to support women.
Most Australians support a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, the Guardian Essential poll has found. The poll found 53% of the 1,038 respondents were in favour of a sugar tax on drinks, compared with 38% opposed and 10% with no opinion. A majority of all major-party voters backed the sugar tax, with Greens (60%) and Coalition voters (57%) most in favour. The poll also found Bill Shorten’s approval rating slumped over the summer, with Malcolm Turnbull increasing his lead as preferred prime minister despite Labor maintaining its 53% to 47% two-party preferred lead.


English cricketer Ben Stokes has vowed to clear his name after being charged with with affray following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub three months ago. The 26-year-old all-rounder missed Ashes but is provisionally named in the Twenty20 squad which starts in February. Stokes made a statement via Twitter: “I am keen to have an opportunity to clear my name but, on advice, the appropriate time to do this is when the case comes to trial ... Until then, my focus is very much on cricket.”
Ashleigh Barty and Alex de Minaur begin their Australian Open campaigns today, along with Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic. Sean Ingle writes that Sharapova’s expected warm reception in Melbourne is an indication of the indifference of sports fans to doping offences.

Thinking time

Last year World Vision’s chief advocate Tim Costello travelled to two very different sites of refugee despair. Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled; and Manus Island, where 600 refugees wait in limbo. He was struck by the absolute absence of hope in both camps. While the suffering of the Rohingya is a question that Myanmar must ultimately answer, Manus is the Australian government’s cruelty – which, Costello says, was more personally unsettling. Over the next week in our new series Beyond the Wire, the people of Manus Island tell their stories: those sent there against their will, and the Manusians for whom the island has always been home.
“Australian cinema in 2017 presented a range of weird and sensational visions, from stunning snow-tipped mountains to a feral and murderous Stephen Curry,” writes Luke Buckmaster, who names the top 10 Australian films he’s most excited about in 2018. “This year’s outlook looks similarly eclectic, from zombies to iconic animals and escaped convicts,” naming Hotel Mumbai, about the 2008 terrorist attacks, Cargo, a zombie thriller starring Martin Freeman, and the follow-up to The Babadook, The Nightingale, as must-sees.
So you’ve heard about bitcoin and its gobsmacking fluctuations, but still don’t know whether you should invest? Don’t, says the Guardian’s frugal financial blogger. “A collective insanity has sprouted around the new field of “cryptocurrencies”, causing an irrational gold rush worldwide,” he writes. “It’s not an investment, just as gold, tulip bulbs, Beanie Babies and rare baseball cards are also not investments. These are all things that people have bought in the past, driving them to absurd prices ... because people thought they could sell them on to someone else for more money in the future.”

What’s he done now?

Usually, world leaders issue public statement via a fleet of press secretaries, verifying their facts and making sure the language hits the right tone and message. Not so President Trump, who issues his own statements, as he did last night on Twitter. “Statement by me last night in Florida: ‘Honestly, I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal. They talk about DACA, but they don’t want to help..We are ready, willing and able to make a deal but they don’t want to. They don’t want security at the border, they don’t want to stop drugs, they want to take money away from our military which we cannot do.’ My standard is very simple, AMERICA FIRST & MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Media roundup

The Age reports on the surging rates of STIs in Melbourne, with a particular boom in syphilis and gonorrhoea, which may be attributed to partners meeting for casual sex via online dating, combined with a decreasing fear of HIV, experts have speculated. The NT News has an arresting front-page image of Palmerston residents posing with their firearms, with the Darwin suburb accounting for nearly half the registered guns in the Territory. There are 33,695 people in Palmerston, who own 25,481 guns between them, the paper reports – nearly half of the 54,807 firearms in the NT. And the ABC has a long read on why “part-time parenting” can actually be good for children. “They [the children] aren’t competing with the other parent for attention,” says child psychologist Kimberley O’Brien. “They [parents] aren’t feeling tired or resentful of their own time being eaten into by children’s needs.”


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