faceless penalty scheme: Govt introduces faceless penalty scheme


The government has introduced the Faceless Penalty Scheme 2021 which will digitise issuing of penalties on assessees under the faceless taxation regime.

The scheme, notified on Wednesday, specifies setting up of national faceless penalty centres, regional penalty centres, penalty units and review units for execution of penalty proceedings, such that a penalty order is issued correctly and undergoes review before being issued to an assessee.

For appeals, an assessee can approach the commissioner looking after appeals or the national faceless appeal centre.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes said in the notification that till the time the faceless penalty centres, both at national and regional levels, are set up, the penalty actions will be undertaken by the faceless assessment system.

All communication between units and assessees will be done either via email.or through mobile app, while physical hearing will be allowed only with approval from CBDT.

The government has been trying to make faceless taxation a reality, having introduced faceless assessment and faceless appeals last year.

More than 58,000 cases identified for faceless assessment in the first phase, final orders have been passed in more than 24,700 cases, revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey had said in an interview earlier this month.

The government has been relying heavily on technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to plug as evasion and in turn making assessment of taxes for assessees as seamless as possible.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said last month that the government was inclined to introducing faceless assessment for indirect taxes as well.



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Locked out – Britain’s refugee-resettlement scheme remains moribund | Britain


HANI ARNAOUT and his family, refugees from Syria, arrived in Ottery St Mary, a small town in Devon, in 2017. Locals offered them a home, English lessons and help for Mr Arnaout to find work as a handyman and gardener. “I called my daughter Mary because I love Ottery St Mary,” says Mr Arnaout. “The first time I came here I saw that it was all green and nice. I felt like I had died and come back to life again.”

The family owes its new life to Britain’s participation in the United Nations’ refugee resettlement scheme, which in 2019 moved some 63,300 refugees to rich countries from crowded host nations such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Under the same programme, Naseem, a Syrian carpenter, and his wife Celina, a graphic designer, were due to be resettled from Beirut to Dundee in March 2020. But with two days to go, the move was cancelled. Covid-19 had struck, Europe had locked down and the whole programme was suspended.

The couple had sold their belongings to pay for their move. Naseem lost his job because they were leaving and cannot get another. Having renounced their right to stay in Lebanon before their planned departure, as they are required to, they fear deportation. Naseem leaves their flat only to buy food and medication. When they have phone reception, which is intermittent, they try to learn English by watching subtitled films. They have no outside window; to get fresh air, they climb onto the roof.

Under the UN programme, Britain has promised to take 5,000 refugees a year. Just over 800 arrived in 2020, before the March lockdown. No more were admitted under the scheme last summer, even when holiday travel resumed. The pausing of this rare, legal way for refugees to get into Britain may be one reason for the surge in numbers attempting to cross the English channel in small boats last year.

Other countries resumed resettlement. The International Organisation for Migration, a UN agency, resettled 18,140 refugees worldwide between June and December. America took 3,740 between May and November. Data for other countries are patchy, but France took at least 420 in the second half of 2020 and Norway took 247.

Britain’s Home Office said in November that it would begin to admit another 232 people, to meet the annual target of 5,000 it was due to admit by the end of March 2020. In 2019, the government said it would take another 5,000-6,000 by April 2021, but there have been no further announcements. In 2020 Germany took only 1,178 of its annual commitment of 5,500, so it has said that in 2021 it will take the remaining 4,322, and another 5,500.

Resettlement increasingly happens with the help of local groups, such as the one that gave the Arnaouts a hand. Around Britain, such groups have been paying rent for unoccupied properties, drawing on funds raised from local businesses and through events such as sponsored cycle rides and cake sales. In Wendover, a town in Buckinghamshire, a three-bedroom house prepared for a family arriving in March lies empty, its freezer overflowing with home-cooked food. In the drawers sit neatly folded T-shirts and donated jumpers. Two dozen volunteers who had spent a year planning, training, sourcing furniture and securing school places for the expected arrivals are still waiting.

Life is harder in Beirut since a gas explosion in the port in August that killed nearly 200 and made thousands homeless. Mr Arnaout is hoping that Naseem and Celina manage to get to Britain. He wants to pick them up at the airport. “When I hear of Arabic people coming…I want to help them settle in. I like to feel they are happy. I like to touch this happiness.”

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Locked out”

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Malaysians with Singapore PR can now apply for PCA scheme to travel home


SINGAPORE: Malaysia citizens who are permanent residents (PRs) working in Singapore are now eligible to apply for the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) scheme. 

Applications to travel under the scheme open from Monday (Jan 11), said the High Commission of Malaysia last Friday. Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) also updated its SafeTravel site on Monday with details of the scheme.

“The inclusion of this category of workers in the PCA scheme will allow more Malaysian workers in Singapore to apply for short-term leave after working in Singapore for at least 90 consecutive days,” said the High Commission in a Facebook post.

Previously, the PCA was open only to Singaporeans and Malaysians who hold long-term immigration passes in the other country.

READ: Implementing Singapore, Malaysia cross-border travel schemes was ‘right decision’ – Johor Chief Minister

According to Malaysia’s immigration website, PCA travellers entering the country will have to serve a seven-day Home Surveillance Order and undergo a COVID-19 test.

All PCA travellers, except for Singapore PRs, arriving in Singapore must take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test within 72 hours before departure, according to the ICA website.

Travellers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result in English from recognised or accredited laboratories in Malaysia.

After entering Singapore, all PCA travellers, including Singapore PRs, have to serve a 14-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility. They will also have to clear another COVID-19 swab test before they can leave the facility.

While in Singapore, they must abide by local public health requirements and safe distancing measures, and use the necessary mobile apps such as TraceTogether, ICA said.

IN FOCUS: How COVID-19 has disrupted the close links between Singapore and Johor

READ: ‘Way beyond my budget’: Malaysians entering Singapore for work under PCA scramble to find rental options

PCA travellers can only enter or exit via the two land checkpoints in Woodlands and Tuas.

Travellers who develop COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days of their entry into Singapore will have to seek medical treatment at their own or their employer’s expense. If symptoms occur after 14 days of their return, the costs of their treatment will be borne by the Singapore Government, ICA said.

Singapore-based companies that wish to sponsor PCA applications for their employees can do so online.

More details on the PCA can be found on ICA’s website or Malaysia’s immigration website. 

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developments

Download our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak: https://cna.asia/telegram

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Australia’s overseas arrival scheme overhauled in face of new virus strain


People wearing masks walk in Brisbane, Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by Yuheng Wu/Xinhua)

Several measures to tighten Australia’s borders against the strain include halving arrival numbers limits, mandating face masks on all flights including domestic.

SYDNEY, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) — Fears that a more contagious variant of COVID-19 being reported in Britain could spread to Australia prompted an emergency meeting of state and territory leaders on Friday in order to bolster the country’s international arrivals process.

Shortly before the meeting, news emerged that the strain had been detected in a worker at a quarantine hotel in the state of Queensland, prompting an immediate 3-day lockdown of the state capital Brisbane.

Several measures to tighten Australia’s borders against the strain were subsequently announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, including halving arrival numbers limits, mandating face masks on all flights including domestic, and requiring passengers to return a negative test before they travel to Australia.

“What we do know is that this new strain is some 70 percent more transmissible than the previous strains of the virus (and is) likely to become (the) more dominant strain of the virus globally,” Morrison said.

“This virus continues to write its own rules and that means that we must continue to be adaptable in how we continue to fight it.”

A significant point of concern was that so far Australia’s international arrival and repatriation scheme has been plagued by issues leading to several serious outbreaks, the most severe of which was in the state of Victoria peaking at over 700 daily cases in early August.

More recently, an outbreak in the city of Sydney continued to yield new infections as of Friday, and totaled close to 200 community cases. The cluster of what is believed to be an overseas variant was detected in the city’s north shortly before Christmas, however health officials were unable to determine exactly how it entered the country.

People wearing masks walk in Brisbane, Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by Yuheng Wu/Xinhua)

Biostatistician and epidemiologist at the University of South Australia, Prof. Adrian Esterman told Xinhua it was “absolutely imperative” that Australia keeps the new virus strain out of the country.

“As a country, we’ve done incredibly well, one of the best in the world. Both Melbourne and Sydney are in control through really good contact tracing, isolation and compliance with the population. But that might not work against the variant,” Esterman said.

Esterman blamed instances of the virus spreading from overseas into the community on gaps within the hotel quarantine system, aligning with the findings of a recent inquiry into the Melbourne outbreak.

The inquiry found that, “99 percent of Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 cases in the community came from transmission events related to returned travelers infecting people working at (quarantine hotels).”

Based on the difficult lessons learned from Victoria’s outbreak and subsequent three-month lockdown, the state overhauled its quarantine system, making it stricter than that of other jurisdictions.

“For example, we’ve just seen the escape of the new virus strain in Brisbane and that’s because they’re only testing their hotel staff every week, whereas Victoria tests them every shift,” Esterman said.

One of the measures implemented by the leaders meeting on Friday was to ramp up the testing of hotel workers to a national standard of daily testing.

Regardless of the new measures, Esterman says that as long as there are people returning to Australia from overseas there will be a risk to the community.

“No matter how good your systems are it’s almost impossible to stop leaking,” Esterman explained.

“There could be just a few virus particles floating around in the air and someone walks through them and that’s it.”

People wearing masks line up in front of a supermarket in Brisbane, Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by Yuheng Wu/Xinhua)

Figures for November 2020, revealed approximately 29,800 people arrived in Australia in November 2020, a 98.3 percent decrease compared with the same month in 2019 but still more than enough to see thousands of people testing positive while in hotel quarantine.

Roughly 22 percent, or 6,202, of Australia’s official COVID-19 infections were contracted overseas before showing up in the hotel quarantine system.

Among the measures announced Friday was a 50 percent reduction on international arrival limits, lasting until Feb. 15. While a number of states are already adhering to a reduced figure, the new rules will see the States of New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland drastically reduce their intake.

University of Sydney epidemiologist, Dr. Alexandra Martiniuk told Xinhua it was wise for Australia to reduce international arrivals, as well as mandate masks on flights, while information regarding the new strains of the virus was still emerging.

“I do understand there are a few Australians overseas and particularly in Britain trying to get back and that probably is not good news for them. But I do think it is a wise decision by the government to do that,” Martiniuk said.

The reduction in passenger numbers reflects a continued concern by Australian leaders and health experts of the virus leaking through the quarantine system and into the community.

An empty street is seen in Brisbane, Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by Yuheng Wu/Xinhua)

If the virus does enter the community again, Esterman says that current containment measures, for instance, those being deployed to handle the Sydney outbreak, will be insufficient to cope with more highly transferable strains of the virus.

“They’ve shown in Britain now that even with the current lockdown they’ve got until mid February, it is still not enough to stop the epidemic with this new variant,” Esterman said.

“That’s why they’ve done this three-day lockdown in Brisbane, which I think is very sensible. And it might end up being more than three days because if it does get out then Australia might be in deep strife.”

Martiniuk agreed that the new measures were warranted in the face of this latest challenge in the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going for a suppression strategy, so it’s hotel quarantine and transport workers and similar at airports, that’s really the risk,” she said.

“So it makes sense to try and batten down the hatches in those areas so as to stop these little embers that can burst into fire.”■

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Call Trump’s Scheme for What It Is: Autocracy


Yesterday, mobs of President Trump’s supporters encircled and stormed the US Capitol as Congress was confirming incoming president Joe Biden’s election victory. Congress was evacuated as rioters smashed windows and breached the Senate floor; there was evidently an armed standoff, and one woman was killed after a shooting. Rioters hung a noose on the west side of the building, and law enforcement discovered multiple improvised explosive devices on the grounds.

What happened was first and foremost the fault of Donald Trump and his allies and enablers—his children, his White House aides, his right-wing media amplifiers and cronies, the Republicans who, moments before the Capitol building was invaded, stood on the floor in antidemocratic efforts to overturn a legitimate and concluded election. Trump in fact spouted his baseless election-theft claims to the crowds earlier that day. It was, in a very dark sense, a team effort, a network of individuals stoking the flames for their leader.

The storming of the Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon—with a full session inside, two weeks from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration—also showed, yet again, the vital importance of words in describing threats to democracy. These problems will not vanish into thin air come January 20, and the underappreciation of language in American political discourse by traditional media and social media platforms alike only threatens to obscure naming these dangers for what they are.

The gravity of word choice was discarded all too often in the last four years. After a white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the president equated anti-racist protesters with right-wing terrorists wearing Nazi insignia and chanting “Jews will not replace us”—“there is blame on both sides,” he said, after a woman was murdered—many media outlets, or pundits for that matter, would still not call Trump “racist” or “antisemitic.” We can’t know Trump administration officials’ exact intentions, one political reporter told me.

When Trump lied thousands and thousands of times, in many cases regurgitating the same blatant falsehoods ad nauseam, the same hesitance was applied (at least for a while, for some) to using the word “lie.” Yet as Masha Gessen writes in Surviving Autocracy, “A journalist who assumes that Trump’s intention is unknowable, that repeated false statements—when the truth is indeed knowable—do not, factually, constitute lying, is abdicating the responsibility to tell the story, to provide the context of what happened a year ago, yesterday, or even in parallel with the lying.” It patently defies the reality: continued lying when the truth is widely known. Social media companies calling Trump’s lies “misinformation” instead of disinformation—the former projecting a lack of intent, the presence of accident—fit this same mold. It took years of Trump’s lies for platforms to apply a mere label to them and until a coup attempt yesterday for Trump’s Twitter account to be suspended for the first time.

This apathy for rhetorical accuracy—not saying “racist” or “liar,” parading out claims of Trump “being presidential” the second he managed a half-coherent sentence not openly laced with vitriol—contributed to downplaying Donald Trump’s threat to democracy. This was on full display yesterday.

Immediately following election day in November, Trump began filing legally baseless challenges to ballot counts in multiple states, nothing more than an authoritarian ploy to seize power by whatever means possible. Again, imprecise descriptions of the scheme—a “sideshow,” a “distraction,” the mere temper tantrum of a man who cannot accept loss—downplayed its autocratic nature and its violence-inspiring force. For if it was a “sideshow,” he devoted many hours of his time, as did countless enablers in Washington and country-wide, to convincing supporters to believe in the “fraud” and donate money to steal the election in the courts. If it was a “distraction,” it certainly captivated those angry individuals plotting violence on right-wing forums and organizing yesterday’s events on social media platforms weeks in advance. If it was a temper tantrum, it was conducted by an adult, was aided by other adults, and inspired other adults to violence in the nation’s capital.

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What’s the Right Set-and-Rep Scheme for You?


One of the most common workout questions is, “How many sets and reps should I do?” The answer starts with the rep range. The rule of thumb for reps is to do 4-5 reps to get stronger, 8-12 reps to build muscle, and 15-20 reps for endurance. The more-detailed answer is that reaching your fitness goal will depend on a variety of factors, including training frequency, nutrition, fitness level, and the amount of weight used. Also key is the way you use those three rep ranges throughout the year, a concept called periodization of training.

Periodization is the logical and systematic sequence of training styles used in order to achieve peak performance at a specific point in time. Let’s say your goals are to get stronger, build muscle, improve endurance, and become more athletic in general. To accomplish all of those goals, you set up a yearly workout plan in which the reps and sets change over time.

Here’s how to put together your all-around athletic workout plan.

Plan Your Training Year

Divide the year into four periods: offseason, preseason, in-season, and postseason. You’ll switch up your training during these times to achieve your best condition in-season, whether that means actually competing in a sport (e.g., bodybuilding, CrossFit, obstacle racing, running) or just getting in fitness model shape.

Phase 1: Offseason

This phase is further divided into two periods: hypertrophy, or building muscle, and strength.

Hypertrophy, 1 month: Use 50-75 percent of your one-rep max (1RM) for 3-6 sets of 8-20 repetitions. If you’re more of an endurance athlete, focus on 15-20 reps at 50-60 percent of your 1RM. Bodybuilders and strength-power athletes should aim for 8-12 reps of 65-75 percent of their 1RM. The goal here is to increase lean body mass and/or develop muscular endurance, so you can alternate between hypertrophy and endurance workouts from week to week, day to day, or even within a workout. Someone looking to get the best of both worlds would vary the weights during this phase.

Strength, 1 month: The singular goal here is to increase the strength of the muscles involved in your sport. Squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, and bench presses are great exercises to include. Use 80-95 percent of your 1RM for 2-6 sets of 2-6 reps for these compound lifts, followed by hypertrophy work in the 6-8 rep range.

Phase 2: Preseason

The preseason, which lasts 3-5 months, focuses even more on strength and power. You’ll use the muscle you’ve built to make more strength gains while also doing plyometric exercises to work on power. You’ll definitely want to include a “deload week” at the end of each month, or perhaps every eight weeks, when you do fewer reps and sets and use lighter weights. Try 85-95 percent of your 1RM for 2-5 sets of 2-5 reps in the compound barbell exercises listed above.

During the preseason, incorporate power exercises like box jumps, leaping bounds, lateral jumps, and power skips. For weighted power moves like barbell snatches, barbell power cleans, and Smith machine bench press throws, use 30-70 percent of your 1RM.

After the preseason, you should be approaching peak strength, power, and speed.

Box jump/ Barbell front squat

Phase 3: In-season

This competitive period lasts for months for team sports like football, basketball, and volleyball, but for a bodybuilder or powerlifter, true peaking occurs over the course of 1-2 weeks. Bodybuilders and powerlifters generally decrease the loads they lift as well as training frequency over time. For example, a powerlifter may do 1-3 reps for 1-2 weeks, varying the weight from 50-90 percent of their 1RM, depending on the day of the week and how they feel. Bodybuilders will be striking a perfect balance between enough cardio and adequate lifting to keep a pump in the weeks leading up to a physique contest. Nutrition is of upmost importance.

As for team sports, there’s a maintenance approach where weights, sets, and reps are varied within workouts, between workouts, and from week to week to allow for proper recovery from games and practices. Try 75-85 percent of your 1RM for 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps.

Phase 4: Postseason

Lasting about a month, this phase is for recovering from injuries and generally taking it easy. It’s the time for group fitness classes, practicing new exercises, intramural sports, vacations, and trying out new hobbies. Don’t use loads greater than 90 percent of your 1RM, as you’ll be lifting heavy again during the offseason. Once your month off is done, repeat the schedule, starting with the offseason.

Playing basketball outdoors.

About Frequency and Volume

Volume is the number of reps multiplied by the number of sets. Relative volume (RV) is the number of sets multiplied by the reps multiplied by the intensity. According to a 2016 study, it’s relative volume, not sets or reps, that accounts for fitness results.[1] The participants trained three times per week for six weeks using either low reps or high reps, but the load varied at each workout as follows:

Low-Rep Group

  • Day 1: 8 sets of 6 reps at 75% of 1RM = 36 RV
  • Day 2: 9 sets of 4 reps at 80% of 1RM = 28.8 RV
  • Day 3: 10 sets of 2 reps at 85% of 1RM = 17 RV

Weekly total relative volume = 81.8

High-Rep Group

  • Day 1: 4 sets of 12 reps at 60% of 1RM = 28.8 RV
  • Day 2: 4 sets of 10 reps at 65% of 1RM = 26.5 RV
  • Day 3: 5 sets of 8 reps at 70% of 1RM = 28 RV

Weekly total relative volume = 82. 8

Both groups had similar increases in muscle size, strength, and endurance, suggesting that the volume of reps per workout doesn’t matter as much as the combination of load, reps, and weight does. This is just one small study, but overall there can be a benefit to varying weight, sets, and reps at every workout to keep the body guessing.

References
  1. Klemp, A., et al. (2016). Volume-equated high- and low-repetition daily undulating programming strategies produce similar hypertrophy and strength adaptations. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(7), 699-705.



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South Australia records four new coronavirus cases as tourism voucher scheme expanded


Four new coronavirus cases have been recorded in South Australia — all of them in hotel quarantine.

The cases are three women in their 20s and a man in his 30s, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19 on their day one tests after returning from overseas.

The new cases bring the total recorded in South Australia to 583 since the start of the pandemic.

Victoria recorded three new locally acquired coronavirus cases today — all of them connected to a cluster at a That restaurant, which in turn traces back to the outbreak in New South Wales.

SA Health has warned that people travelling in or out of Victoria “should monitor the Victorian DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) website for the latest updates and get tested immediately if they develop any symptoms, no matter how mild”.

Premier Steven Marshall said he did not expect arrangements to change with Victoria.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

SA Premier Steven Marshall said he did not foresee any changes to the border arrangements with Victoria “at this stage”.

“The reality is the new cases in Victoria today, I am informed, are linked to previous infections and so not nearly as worrying as a new infection bubbling up,” he said.

“This is a very fluid situation. We did have for a very short period of time pretty much all borders opened up.

“That of course was brought to a halt by what occurred with the cluster in NSW.”

Most travel from New South Wales is restricted, apart from people living within 100 kilometres of the border, which includes Broken Hill.

While NSW recorded no new locally-acquired cases today, Mr Marshall indicated it was currently too early to say when SA would consider relaxing the hard border.

“We don’t lift that border immediately. We want to get 14 days of no new cases, that’s the benchmark.”

New tourism voucher scheme

Mr Marshall today launched the second round of the “Great State” tourism vouchers — this time also open to interstate visitors.

The first round in October had a quick uptake but not everyone who took up a voucher used it.

Two-storey beach houses
Country accommodation has fared reasonably well compared with city hotels.(ABC News: Alice Dempster)

The new round includes 50,000 accommodation vouchers with the aim of boosting the tourism sector during the pandemic.

The vouchers are worth up to $100 for stays in Adelaide’s CBD and $50 for suburban and regional accommodation, but cannot be used on Saturday nights.

Mr Marshall said the uptake should be higher this time around.

“We’re going to be opening it up to people who can come from interstate,” he said.

“We’ve now got open borders with Victoria — we know it’s a huge market for us in South Australia — and unlike the first Great State voucher, we’re going to be opening that up.”

Labor said the restrictions on when vouchers could be used led to a low uptake of the scheme, which was labelled a “failure” by Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas.

“Approximately only 20,000 of the vouchers out of a proposed 50,000 were eventually taken up, which is why it’s unfortunate that the Government has decided to adopt the exact same model more or less for round two of the scheme.”

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ACT will be $40 million better off over 20 years thanks to container deposit scheme: analysis | The Canberra Times


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The ACT’s container deposit scheme, which offers a 10 cent refund on returned bottles and cans, will leave the territory $40 million better off over the next two decades despite lower than forecast levels of use, an independent analysis has found. The analysis, written by Dr Sarah Yu from the University of Canberra’s faculty of business, government and law, found the scheme lessened the cost to the environment by $71 million over 20 years. But ACT consumers will bear a $49 million cost over the same period, which included both taxation and participation costs. The costs to the beverage industry were estimated to be $0. The benefits of the scheme included reduced landfill costs, avoided street sweeping costs and avoided waste collection, processing and transport costs. The largest cost of the scheme is the container redemption infrastructure and operating costs, valued at $40.7 million. The analysis found there would be a net benefit of $3.2 million for the ACT government. The analysis estimated the cost to Canberra households would be $2 million and the cost to businesses would be $3 million for participating in the scheme over a 20-year period. “These [household] costs include vehicle operating costs, travel time and container deposit redemption time … At the same time, businesses who are involved in the [container deposit scheme] will incur costs to take beverage containers to temporary storage sites, cleaners and other personnel involved in the larger storage infrastructure,” the analysis said. The report noted take-up of the scheme had been lower than forecast, but over the first 20 months of the scheme the difference between the number of containers forecast and returned has decreased. The difference would have little effect on the overall economic benefit. “The results of this analysis reveal that the scheme is highly beneficial to the ACT community, with total benefits exceeding total costs by nearly $40 million. One reason for this significant result lies in the estimate of the community’s willingness to pay for litter reduction,” Dr Yu wrote in the paper, which was published in Economic Papers in November. Not all benefits could be easily quantified and some were omitted from the analysis, including community recycling behavioural change, avoided resource depletion and a reduction in waterway litter. “Fortunately, these unqualified factors would improve the [cost benefit analysis] outcome even if they could be included,” Dr Yu wrote. Last year, City Services Minister Chris Steel flagged the government could increase the refund on each beverage container from 10 cents to 15 cents. Mr Steel said only 50 per cent of available containers were being redeemed or recycled, with the rest ending up in landfill.

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More recent Victorian politicians blocked from joining historic $100,000-a-year pension scheme


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The pension, available to MPs who served at least two terms, ranged from annual payments of $84,000 to $126,000, depending on how long the member served and what parliamentary positions they held.

The scheme was scrapped under the Bracks government in 2004 and MPs elected since then receive superannuation payments from the government, in the same way as other public servants, but do not receive pension payments. A 2013 review found it would cost between $6 million and $7 million a year to reopen the so-called “defined benefits” program.

Seventeen veteran politicians, including Premier Daniel Andrews, will be eligible for the pre-2004 pension when they leave politics, but approximately 110 more recent members are ineligible. About 200 former MPs currently draw the pension.

A group of Labor MPs made a submission to the remuneration tribunal on behalf of the Labor caucus, noting that more junior members were worse off. “Reopening the [pension scheme] and allowing current MPs who missed the opportunity to join to buy-back in would certainly remove a remuneration package difference that has effectively created two classes of current MP,” they said.

Labor upper house MP Cesar Melhem, one of three MPs who drafted the submission, said he was unsurprised by the tribunal’s decision and believed it would have been inappropriate to financially reward MPs during a recession.

But Mr Melhem said it was important politicians were paid enough to entice individuals with skills that could earn them high incomes in the private sector, but said politics should not be a “gravy train”.

Upper house MP Cesar Melhem, one of three members who drafted the Labor submission.Credit:Jason South

“People who enter politics because they want a pension, I’m sorry, but that’s not the right approach,” he said, adding that some younger MPs found it difficult to secure employment after short stints in politics.

The Labor members also called on the tribunal to increase separation payments for MPs who leave Parliament after one or two terms. Victorian politicians currently receive between three and six months’ salary if they lose their seat.

The tribunal dismissed the urgings of MPs, but found some politicians who served one or two terms could leave parliament with meagre retirement incomes. The tribunal recommended no changes to MP retirement schemes, but called for increased transitional assistance to help members find employment.

Victorian Parliamentary Former Members Association president and former Labor MP Peter Loney said there was an incorrect perception that retired MPs on the legacy pension system “all lived happily on millions of dollars of super”.

Peter Loney pictured during his time in Parliament.

Peter Loney pictured during his time in Parliament.Credit:Jason South

“That perception people have is generally based on those on the highest pensions and that former MPs all walk into board positions or company jobs,” Mr Loney, a visitor at Deakin University specialising in government accountability, said.

“The ones who do that are a remarkably small percentage [and] what we’ve found is many members of parliament have great difficulty finding work of any type.”

Mr Loney said there was some merit in the argument made in a 2013 review into Victorian MPs superannuation that said increased remuneration reduced the risk of corruption because elected members were less likely to seek ways to boost their income.

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To illustrate the difference in the retirement models, the remuneration tribunal used the example of a hypothetical 43-year-old who went on to serve 12 years in parliament. This person would accumulate about $700,000 in superannuation under the current scheme compared with $1.1 million in the pre-2004 pension program. Under the pre-1996 scheme the MP would have been eligible receive as much as $2.96 million.

Many public servants were on defined benefits schemes until the mid-1990s when the government closed them due to the high cost to the state. Some government employees, including certain judges, still have access to pensions when they retire.

The salary of Victorian backbenchers rose from $163,189 to $182,413 this year, while ministers and Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien received pay rises of 11.8 per cent, taking their pay packet to $352,057. The Premier received a $46,522 pay rise in July, making him the highest-paid state premier with a salary of $441,000.

Victorian politicians receive 15.5 per cent of their income as superannuation contributions, the highest of any jurisdiction in Australia, and will receive 16 per cent from next year.

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Cabinet clears modified scheme to enhance ethanol production


Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved modified scheme to enhance ethanol distillation capacity in the country for producing 1st Generation (1G) ethanol from feed stocks such as cereals (rice, wheat, barley, corn & sorghum), sugarcane and sugar beet.

It also gave its approval for deepening and optimisation of inner harbour facilities including development of Western dock on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode to handle cape size vessels at Paradip Port.

The estimated project cost is ₹3,005 crore, Union Minister for Shipping, Ports and Waterways, Mansukh Mandaviya, told reporters at a Cabinet briefing.

The Cabinet has also approved Industrial Corridor nodes at Krishnapatnam and Tumakuru. The Multi Modal Logistics Hub and Multi Modal Transport Hub at Greater Noida was also approved. The proposals have total estimated cost of ₹ 7,725 crore and an estimated employment generation of more than 2.8 lakh persons. This will position India as a strong player in global value chains with developed land parcels in cities for immediate allotment for attracting investments, an official release said.

Akash missile system export

The Cabinet also approved export of Akash Missile System and creation of a committee for faster approval of exports. Akash — surface to air missile with a range of 25 kilometres—is country’s important missile with over 96 per cent indigenisation. The missile was inducted in 2014 in Indian Air Force and in 2015 in Indian Army.

This initiative would help the country to improve its defence products and make them globally competitive, an official release said. The export version of Akash will be different from System currently deployed with Indian Armed Forces.

To provide faster approvals for export of such platforms, a committee comprising of Raksha Mantri, External Affairs Minister and National Security Advisor has been created.

The government intends to focus on exporting high value defence platforms to achieve $5 billion of defence export and improve strategic relations with friendly foreign countries.

Indian Missions

The Union Cabinet also approved the opening of 3 Indian Missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic in 2021. This is expected to help expand India’s diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations and enable bilateral trade growth, investment and economic engagements, facilitate stronger people to people contacts, bolster political outreach in multilateral fora and help garner support for India’s foreign policy objectives.

MoU with Bhutan

The Cabinet has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian government and government of Bhutan on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. This MoU was signed on November 19 by both sides at Bengaluru/Thimpu and exchanged, an official release said.



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