Sunday, 31 March 2013

Tasmania the ungovernable State

There was a touch of irony during last week’s tortuously long deliberations by Tasmania’s Upper House on the contentious Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill when it paused for a moment to consider the Mental Health Bill. Many Tasmanians would have been happy to see the latter Bill amended to make Parliament a proscribed organisation and closed.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The MIS phoenix

The MIS phoenix has risen.

AgriWealth’s 2012 Softwood Timber Project demonstrates memories are indeed short. The MIS industry pronounced dead after the disastrous insolvencies of Timbercorp, Great Southern, Willmott Forests, FEA and Gunns still has a pulse.

It is sometimes said we aren't predisposed to philanthropy but AgriWealth's latest offering suggests it too is alive and well. There is no other reason than philanthropy for becoming a AgriWealth grower. The massive upfront fees mean there is little chance of return on a before tax basis.

The tax driven Project differs from failed MISs in that it relies on Div 394 of the Tax Act which was enacted to overcome increasing problems with MISs prior to 2008.

But Div 394 has made it worse as prepaid expenses, some not due for 26 years are allowable deductions.

The upfront fees due to the loading of all prepaid expenses are ten times those charged by the old MIS projects.

Policy makers have taken their eyes of the ball probably thinking the MIS industry is dead.

Alas it’s not dead, as AgriWealth uses its cash to once again distort the pattern of agriculture in areas such as the beautiful Tallangatta Valley in northern Victoria as described in a recent Weekly Times article.

A closer look at the AgriWealth project follows but first a quick overview of how MISs used to operate, the issues and pitfalls.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

How your taxes bailed out an insolvent Gunns

The federal election scheduled for September means it's a double header over the next 12 months for Tasmanian voters, with a state election due in March 2014. That means lots of Canberra visitors, lots of promises and at least a few presents, and this might be one: according to The Weekend Australian, Julia Gillard is yet to rule out assistance to get the Tamar Valley pulp mill off the ground.

Coincidentally, Gunns' voluntary administrator also recently circulated his detailed report to creditors (Gunns planned to build the original pulp mill).

The pattern of behaviour of the Gunns Group over its last 12 months suggests it was insolvent for a while. Maybe it was insolvent as far back as August 2011, when Gillard and Premier Lara Giddings signed the inter-government agreement on forestry, promising $276 million in funding -- some of which was used to save Gunns.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Costello's privatisation propaganda

Peter Costello’s Queensland Commission of Audit inquiry is recommending large scale privatisation of public assets especially electricity and port assets.

Something similar in Tasmania would not surprise as the ideologues in the Liberal Party ponder the possibility of majority government.

Cameron Murray who posts as Rumplestatskin on the site has a short discussion of the issues and a few interesting comments follow.

If the exercise was genuine we would see some public discussion about the merits of public debt and the financial benefits to the State from privatisation.

Would you decide to sell your business simply because you had debt, even if that business was profitable and had solid future prospects? No. The best thing is to keep the debt and the business, as the returns from the equity in the business outweigh the cost of debt.

By definition the price the government would receive for any asset sales is a price that reflects a market level of return on equity, which would surely be higher than the rate of interest on the debt that is being repaid. Thus, by definition the government is in a financially better position to own the assets.

And in Comments

All you are doing as a State is selling assets to pay debts when there is no reason to do so, and the net public financial position will be worse for it. Imagine that the government raises $10 billion from all these asset sales. If the private sector thinks these assets are worth $10 billion, they probably expect an annual return in the order of $800 million. The cost to government from $10 billion in debt is probably about $600 million. So they are making the budget position worse by $200 million per year by privatising.