Tuesday, December 13

A Life on the wicked stage

My wife and I performed in many Musicals and Reviews. The first photo was taken of me rehearsing as Lieutenant Daniel Gilmarton for “Calamity Jane" seen here in a scene with Calamity.

Next we are both together in the Musical operetta “The New Moon” my wife as a Flower girl enticing “Alexander” on her left and me as the landlord on her right. I recall it was quite stressful with our youngest of 3 only 2 combined with long dress rehearsals which didn't finish till midnight. The show was mainly an amateur production but the producer had sunk a lot of money into the show with elaborate sets, a fully paid orchestra and engaged the services of a well known professional for the role of the leading man. So he needed to sell a lot of tickets which fortunately came to fruition but not without a lot of real life drama I will elaborate on later.     

In the Gilbert & Sullivan production of “The Gondoliers” I was “The Grand Inquisitor” (character in the black costume) and next you see us both performing the song and dance number entitled “We’re a couple of Swells”.

“The New Moon”, was probably the most memorable, considering its beautiful music by Sigmund Romberg, creative staging and because of added  drama during the performance. Songs include "Marianne", "The Girl on the Prow", "Georgeous Alexander", "Softly as in the Morning Sunrise", "Stout Hearted Men", "One Kiss", "Wanting You", "Funny little Sailer Man", "Lover Come back to Me", "Love is quite a Simple Thing", "Try her out at Dancers", "Never for You" and "Lover Come Back to Me" .

Magnificent costumes and sets were hired from the Australian Opera including genuine 16th century cutlasses. Effects were further enhanced with the use of electrical charges for realistic explosions and puffs of smoke to denote cannon fire.
The story begins in New Orleans in 1792, at the home of Monsieur Beaunoir, a wealthy merchant, where preparation are being made to welcome Viscount Ribaud. the "Secret Eye" of King Louis XV1 of France, who is seeking to arrest Chevalier Robert Mission for his connections with the beautiful and impetuous Marianne Beaunoir, who is betrothed to Captain George Duval, of the Brig "New Moon".
Meanwhile, Robert's faithful servant, Alexander , has succumbed to the charm of Marianne's maid Julie, Clotilde Lombaste, to reclaim him. Using Marianne as an unwitting decoy, Ribaud contrives to capture Robert, but hoping to help him escape, Marianne professes her love for Duval so that she can sale with them in the "New Moon " to Paris. Aided by the opportune ariival of his friend,  Phillipe, Robert overthrows Duval's authority and leads the crew, woman-hater, bos'un Besac, and the passengers, to found the free Republican colony of the Isle of Pines. One year later, knowing the ships of the French Navy are approaching the island, Ribaud reunites Marianne with Robert and stirs the people to revolt, but his plans are thwarted when the ships prove to be  envoys come to propose the inclusion of the settlement in the newly - formed Republic of France.                                   
As you see from the plot it was a long production and we were on stage for nearly 3 hours.

The first real life drama occurred on opening Night as the men marched on to the stage. It was the custom on all opening nights to wish everyone metaphorically to “break a leg” but one chap performing in his very first show did that, within a few seconds of his first appearance in front of his friends and family, to stunned disbelief.

I remember there was an almighty crack; as he first twisted and broke his leg while marching out boldly onto the stage for the first time. An ambulance man administered oxygen to him back stage to help alleviate the terrible pain prior to his hurried stretcher removal to hospital. The show continued on after a short break.
The second drama occurred on the final night and involved the pirates. At that time it had proved difficult to find volunteers to act as pirates since they were only required for a few minutes on stage each night for what was nearly a 3 hour show. The local Cricket club came to the rescue with the required man power in exchange for our donation and slab of beer for each pirate. Except for the over zealous use at times of the cutlasses it worked well except for the grand finale on the Saturday evening as the boys then had decided to pay a trick on us, much to the fury of the Producer. They entered from the opposite side of the stage as was intended, to the amusement of a capacity audience as we appeared frozen in time as they crept up behind us.

In the confusion the Stage Manager panicked and let off some additional charges and pulled down the sails with the ropes onto the stage as the intended scene became a chaotic smoke filled confusion. Fortunately the audience concluded this must be an intended twist to insert local comedy to the traditional storyline.

After hastily pulling down the curtain amidst all of the turmoil and mayhem we regrouped and carried on as if nothing untoward had happened.

Wednesday, December 7

Did Attorney General George Brandis run dead on 300 million in tax?

Laura Tingle (AFR 2nd December 2016) reports that what is at play is “About a government’s responsibility to protect the revenue due to taxpayers and its responsibility to protect the constitution”.

Here is the story so far:
It’s all about a $1.7 billion pot of money. 

Central to the issues is a pot of $1.7 billion of money arising from a settlement in 2013 by the Bells Group bankers (the Bell group went into liquidation in the early nineties) who lost their case.
Creditors making claims included the cash strapped Western Australian State Government whose state -owned Insurance Commission of Western Australia had already spent $240 million in litigation.
Other creditors argued the government-owned Insurance Commission of Western Australia’s subordinated bonds ranked further back in the creditors’ queue. The Commonwealth of Australia Taxation Office was a substantive creditor with its tax liabilities approximating $480 million. 

According to the Attorney General in April 2015 there had been an exchange of letters between the WA Treasurer and the then Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, in relation to settling the Australian Taxations claim(s).
This exchange of letters occurred just before the Western Australian Office proceeded to introduce a bill to enable it to gain control of the winding up proceedings in a timely manner as it saw fit. The inference here is the WA claims would be secured.  But in any event such a move appears to be extremely unusual step to usher in state legislation over a matter already before the courts and under federal jurisdiction the constitution is quite clear under section 109 where there is inconsistency between state and federal laws then the Federal laws shall prevail.    

A Bill by Western Australia to take control of winding-up proceedings. 

Nevertheless in May 2015 the Western Australian parliament introduced the Bell Group Companies Bill 2015 (WA) to cover winding-up proceedings in a "timely manner". By 19 November 2015, the bill was law but on 27 November 2015, unsurprisingly some Bell creditors launched a High Court challenge to the validity of the Bell legislation.

High Court Challenge and involvement by the Attorney General.  

On 3 March 2016, the Attorney General claimed his first personal involvement (apart from that of his office) and that this was also the first time he became aware of the arrangement with former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Apparently after discussion the decision was taken that the Australian Taxation Office should intervene in the ongoing High Court proceedings. The Australian Taxation Office lodged an application to the High Court to take part in the case and be represented by the then Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson.

On 16 May 2016, the High Court of Australia ruled against the WA Government and the Bell Legislation, finding that the legislation was invalid under section 109 of the Constitution (Cth), because of inconsistency between its provisions and the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth).   

Report in the News Daily  
But in the News Daily it was reported "The West Australian‘s report claims the deal was scuttled by Mr Gleeson, who wrote a scathing submission to the High Court on behalf of the Australian Tax Office — which was separately trying to claw back $300 million — and that this strengthened the case against Western Australia.
Mr Gleeson’s intervention reportedly led to a “blazing row” between Senator Brandis and his West Australian counterpart Michael Mischin, and contributed to the break-down in the relationship between Mr Gleeson and Senator Brandis.

The Solicitor-General resigns
Justin Gleeson SC (SC equivalent of a QC) was the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia until his resignation effective 7 November 2016, claiming his relationship with Attorney-General George Brandis is "irretrievably broken".

In his letter which you can read in the links here to the ABC article Gleeson claims a lack of consultation on laws on marriage equality and anti – terrorism laws. But what may have been the final straw concerned proposed provisions to preclude him from providing legal advice to anyone in the Government without the permission of the Attorney-General. This was a matter about which he claims he was not consulted but which the Attorney argues he was. Gleeson also maintains he was careful to set up protocols to ensure the Attorney-General was always copied in to all matters before him or arising independent to that which arose from the Auditor General.    

Mr Gleeson's intervention (as I have previously outlined) in the legal case before the high court was reportedly the reason for a "blazing row" between the Attorney General and his West Australian counterpart.
This event and matters leading up to it is reported as the reason for the break down in the relationship between the Solicitor-General and the Attorney General.

Laura Tingle aptly concludes her article “knowing what the Attorney General did about $300 million of taxpayer’s funds being siphoned off in a clear breach of the constitution, and why, should remain a question that doesn’t go away”.