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February 2016

Slater and Gordon genii burn $1BN value in 6 month loss

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Here are the Slater and Gordon announcements to the ASX today as its shares resumed trading.

Announcements released as SGH

Date Price
Headline Pages PDF Edited
29/02/2016 asterix Reinstatement to Official Quotation  1 PDF -
29/02/2016   FY16 H1 Financial Results Investor Presentation  20 PDF -
29/02/2016   FY16 H1 Financial Results  6 PDF -
29/02/2016   Half Year Financial Report  35 PDF -
29/02/2016 asterix Appendix 4D  4 PDF -

Call it what you like - the company took $1BN in value during those 6 months and burnt it.  Gone.

Within the past year it paid $1.3BN for its UK acquisition Quindell - how big would the smiles on those vendors faces be now?You only get one Slater and Gordon in your life!   Only thing was Quindell wasn't worth $1.3BN (and Slaters paid using other people's money).  It was worth something like $814M less than $1BN.   Missed by that much!    Just as if they had piles of $100 notes on the kitchen table (like some of their clients do) and forgot to shut the windows.   Whooosh-ka, with a big gust of Slater and Gordon management hot air - gone.  Forever.

Slaters still has borrowings of $714M to service - money from lenders who are nervous.  MD Grech tendered his resignation but his fellow directors apparently didn't see the point - Grech remains at his post.

When you see revenues up (Slater and Gordon's were up 82% to $479.6 million from $226.9 million 12 months ago) it's usually break out the Bodega.  It takes a special skill in a service business to bugger up a profit result on that sort of growth - but Slater and Gordon is a special-needs company.  Profit same period 12 months ago - $50M.   Now, bugger all, not a sausage - the dog ate my profits and dropped a big loss on the kitchen floor.    $1BN worth in a nice smelly pile.  

Put the acquisition to one side and look at the cash burn each month - about $20M chewed up PCM.   That wasn't sitting in the till, prudently provisioned by management to see the company through a planned dry spell.  It's the result of a business out of control and without the support of its lenders insolvent.   If it was a good bet you'd back the lenders in continuing to shovel in the cash to the Grech boiler.   But Slater and Gordon a good financial bet?   You're kidding.   It's not what they know, nor is it what they do - it's who they know and what they know about them.

It pays to have powerful political friends in low places.

Still, look on the bright gives us another chance to enjoy the unique value proposition that only a company like this could bring to market!

Michael Smith editorial - Labor, Liberal and The Greens ganging up on taxpayers to fund their own lifestyles

Here's Labor's George Wright, one of the people who gets to decide who gets the political exchange program money to fund their travel wish list.   George knows a thing or two about a good milking opportunity!

How AusAID pays for Labor official’s salary

ALP’s national secretary George Wright says the ALP fully ­disclosed and accounted for all expenditure.
ALP’s national secretary George Wright says the ALP fully ­disclosed and accounted for all expenditure. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
by Pamela Williams | Editor at large

One of the Labor Party’s most powerful machine-men, ALP assistant national secretary Nick Martin, has a large portion of his salary paid from a $1 million per year federal government AusAID grant, which he administers and which is designed for the promotion of democracy in developing countries.

Continue reading "Michael Smith editorial - Labor, Liberal and The Greens ganging up on taxpayers to fund their own lifestyles" »

The $1M annual travel fund for members of the major political parties and trade unionists - paid for by you

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You may not have known about your gift of about $1M per year to fund overseas travels for young political apparatchiks.

Welcome to another special privilege available only to members of the major political parties and of course their trade union mates.

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Here are the people who decide who gets paid to go where.

Organisation of the Council

The Principals

The Principals of the Council are the Parliamentary Leaders of the four main political parties in the Federal Parliament. The Principals are:

  • The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia; 
  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Australian Labor Party;
  • The Hon Warren Truss MP, Leader of The Nationals; and
  • Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens. 

Council Membership


The Hon Alan Ferguson The Hon Alan Ferguson
Chairman of the Australian Political Exchange Council 
(appointed March 2014)


Members (in order of appointment)

Mr Brian Loughnane Mr Brian Loughnane 
Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia
(appointed February 2003)
Mr George Wright Mr George Wright 
National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party
(appointed June 2011)
The Hon Tony Smith MP The Hon Tony Smith MP
Member for Casey
(appointed June 2014)
The Hon John Cobb MP The Hon John Cobb MP
Member for Calare
(appointed June 2014)
Gary Gray AO MP The Hon Gary Gray AO MP
Member for Brand
(appointed August 2015)
Senator  Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Senator for South Australia
(appointed August 2015)

Past Chairs and Council Members


The Minister with portfolio responsibility for the political exchange programme is the Special Minister of State, The Hon Mal Brough MP.

Special Minister of State The Hon Mal Brough MP
Special Minister of State, Minister for Defence Materiel and Science

And who gets to use your $1M to fund their travel wish-list?

Council Activities


Outgoing Delegations

Each year the Council considers delegate nominations put forward by the parties of the Principals. Nominees are young Australians considered by their respective parties to have the potential to make a significant contribution to political life.

Delegates are required to be party members, Australian citizens and if possible, between the ages of 25 and 40 (with the exception of the exchange programme with the United States of America where the age limit must be 40). To maximise developmental opportunities, delegations comprise a representative, broadly-based group of young Australian political leaders. Delegates are selected from a range of political backgrounds including:

  • members of federal and state parliaments; 
  • party organisations, both professional and voluntary; 
  • industry associations; 
  • trade unions; 
  • members of ministerial and electorate staffs; and 
  • local government representatives. 

Nominations must be forwarded to the Council through political parties’ secretariats / nominated offices.



The Political Parties for Democracy program "re-emerged" after Tony Abbott shut it down - I've written to the PM and responsible Minister

As Seeker of Truth and others point out - the 51 documents in this FOI from DFAT set out the diligent and complete way Julie Bishop and her staff closed down the Political Parties for Democracy program in early 2014.

Here's the letter to the Labor Party advising it the carnival was over.

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I wrote to Julie Bishop's Department this morning to find out why the program appears to have re-surfaced.  It was a very pleasant surprise to receive such a helpful and prompt note from one of Ms Bishop's senior advisers a short time ago.

As a result of the advice I received I've written to the Finance Minister Mathias Corman and the Prime Minister Mr Turnbull - and to their most senior advisors.

Michael Smith <[email protected]>

5:52 AM (9 minutes ago)
Dear C, D and K,
I've written to Minister Corman and the PM - perhaps you could head this issue off at the pass and get back to me with a statement?   It refers to Shorten's comments this morning on the Political Parties for Democracy program.
Dear Minister Corman,
I am advised that the Political Parties for Democracy program which was cancelled by the Abbott Government in February 2014 has "re-emerged" within the Department of Finance.
Perhaps you could let me know when it "re-emerged" and why?
Michael Smith

More problems for DFAT and The Clintons over $70M we appear to have donated to a conman

In April 2015 we first reported on the Australian Government's donations to the Clinton Foundation.

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A few months later we brought you more details.

A few days ago the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade made this release under FOI.

Here is the summary table of donations the Australian Government has made to the Clinton's various entities according to DFAT.

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The DFAT briefing paper contained in the FOI Release describes the contractual mechanism for the donation of Australian taxpayer money to the Clinton Foundation.

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On 22 February 2006 Bill Clinton was in Sydney to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Foreign Affairs referred to in the briefing notes above.  Note that this is the document (released under FOI) that committed the Australian Government to $25M in donations to the Clinton Foundation.

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Here is the Annual Return for the William J. Clinton Foundation to US authorities for 2006.

The return reveals that William J. Clinton was not a director, officer or trustee of the fund during the 2006 calendar year.  He had nothing to do with the operation of the Foundation at all and thus had no authority to enter into or sign contracts or agreements on its behalf.

The Australian Government says in its records and reports that it paid out $25M in reliance on the MOU it released under FOI (above).   Clinton must have known at the time that he had no authority to sign.  

Here is the link to all of the Clinton Foundation's Annual Reports and financial returns:

Bill Clinton is not listed as a trustee of the main Foundation until 2013.  

On 18 January 2001 Bill Clinton was forced to release his Arkansas law licence and later that year his US Supreme Court license under a deal to avoid formal disbarment and further penalties at law for offences of dishonesty:

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In the matter of  Clinton v. Jones 

On April 12, 1999, Judge Wright found Clinton in contempt of court for “intentionally false” testimony in Jones v. Clinton, fined him $90,000, and referred the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct, as Clinton still possessed a law license in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Supreme Court suspended Clinton’s Arkansas law license in April 2000. On January 19, 2001, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension and a $25,000 fine in order to avoid disbarment and to end the investigation of Independent Counsel Robert Ray (Starr’s successor). On October 1, 2001, Clinton’s U.S. Supreme Court law license was suspended, with 40 days to contest his disbarment. On November 9, 2001, the last day for Clinton to contest the disbarment, he opted to resign from the Supreme Court Bar, surrendering his license, rather than facing penalties related to disbarment.

US law requires charities to make disclosures about certain offences and administrative actions signaling dishonesty.   

It appears that team Clinton decided, illegally, to have Bill run the Foundation without being an officer or director.   And the Australian Government appears not to have checked on Clinton's bona fides.

A colleague in the United States advises me of further deficiencies in the MOU between DFAT and the Clinton Foundation.

A second set of flaws has to do with the HIV/Aids effort itself...this was never validly authorized by the Internal Revenue Service.

The first controversy involves International Aids Trust, where Bill, Tony  Blair, and Nelson Mandela were involved.

Formed in Georgia on 29 January 2001, this entity was dissolved by 2005 apparently because IRS nixed their flawed application.

(One founder of AIT Brad Riley played pivotal roles in the Obama White House, including apparent attempts to cover up this mess).

Second is period from then through 23 March 2004, when Bill and Ira Magaziner illegally solicited and raised monies for HIV AIDS from governments and celebrity donors despite not having requisite authorities under US law.

Third is period from 24 March 2004 forward when Clinton Foundation HIV AIDS initiative, inc. was formed in Arkansas.

Application to the IRS around 29 April 2004 appears to have been turned down late in 2005...under US law, a charity must make full accurate disclosures especially concerning predecessor activities.

Late in December 2005. Team Clinton alleged it had merged the Initiative into the Foundation (this extract from the Foundation's 2006 report refers - MPS)

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My US Colleague tells me:

This was not legally possible as the Initiative would have had to have been authorized and the Foundation to control an HUV/Aids effort prior to the merger.

So certainly by 22 February 2006 in Sydney, Clinton must have known the MOU was a fraud.

Around that time his focus was on getting Hillary reelected and on tying up the fraudulent agreement to work w Unitaid (housed in WHO) that has since sent about US 580 million toward the Clinton Foundation (of which at least $100 million) has been diverted.

Like common fraudsters, Clinton drew marks in counting on the fact that government and other donors will not want to admit they are either gullible, crooked, or both.

In Australia's case, I imagine many will be mortified to understand a former US President would be mired in promoting charity fraud on global scale.


On my reading of the 2006 financial return there are some awfully heavy expenses - $16M in consulting fees not related to program delivery??? $6M in expenses associated with the Clinton Global Initiative conference (refer to description in the extract just above)?????   There's also a line entry in general expenses for about $6M in travel expenses.Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 4.15.31 am

And there are plenty more like that in the return.  

Money goes into the Clinton Foundation as donations. Clinton's Foundation operates accounts in countries where it appears he is likely to get away with the advantages of lesser scrutiny - this from the 2006 report:

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This whole debacle warrants explanations from the Australian Government.  If we want to make a contribution to the health of neighbouring countries, why the hell do we need the Clinton Foundation to do it for us?

Once our money is donated to the Clinton's it's treated by US law as just that, a donation.   $70M that we know about.

On the face of this information it appears we may have been taken in by a master conman.   I'll let you know what Julie Bishop and Turnbull have to say about that.



On 5 February 2014 Julie Bishop advised us the Political Parties for Democracy program had been scrapped

I've written to the Department of Foreign Affairs following its advice to me that it had cancelled the Australian Political Parties for Democracy program following our reporting on that matter in February 2014. 

Here are our first two reports:

Story two
Followed by this statement from Julie Bishop's department.
That last report was based on this email:


McDonald, Catherine [email protected] via 



to mail


Hi Michael

Background on the cancelled program…

The Australian Government established the Political Parties for Democracy Program in 2005-06 to support Australian political parties undertake international activities to promote democracy.

The Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia have participated since the program was established; the Australian Greens joined in 201

 In 2009, the Rudd Labor Government transferred the program from the Department of Finance to AusAID.

This program has been cancelled by the Abbott Government, as part of the recent reprioritisation of the aid budget.



Catherine McDonald | Senior Media Adviser | Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs


Today I sent this email first to Ms McDonald and to the Departmental media contact.


Michael Smith <[email protected]>

2:54 AM (4 minutes ago)

to Catherine [email protected]


Dear Catherine,

Thank you for your note of 5 February 2014.

I refer to media reports today quoting Bill Shorten in which he talks about Labor Party people working in the United States under the Political Parties for Democracy program.

Did the taxpayer fund the trips to the US that Shorten refers to here?  How?

Kind regards,



After our 5 February report on the cancellation of the program, on 14 February other media caught up with us - here's Fairfax:

Political parties stripped of millions in junket cash

February 14, 2014

Australia's big three political parties have been stripped of millions of dollars of taxpayer money they used to send their officials on overseas junkets.

The Liberals, Labor and the Greens shared out $2.2 million each year from an AusAID-administered fund, which was used to fly business class to catch up with their political sympathisers around the world.

It was even revealed late last year that a senior ALP official was having his wages subsidised from the AusAID's Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program.

But with the scrapping of the overseas aid agency by the Abbott government, part of $450 million worth of cuts to the foreign aid budget, they have been told that the party is over and this year's payments, due in July, will not be handed over.

The program was introduced in 2005 by the then Howard government and expanded in 2011 by his Labor successors to include the Greens.

The last deal, signed by the parties and AusAID in 2012, promised $3 million over three years to the Liberal and Labor Parties and $600,000 to the Greens.

But a DFAT spokeswoman has confirmed that the 2013 payments, of $2.2 million, had not been approved before her department's takeover of AusAID and that no more money would be forthcoming with the deal now scrapped.

“This program has been cancelled by the Abbott Government, as part of the recent reprioritisation of the aid budget,” the spokeswoman said.

She said DFAT was on firm legal ground pulling the pin on the deal less than halfway through their agreed terms.

“The contract between the Government and the three political parties allows for the termination of the agreement.”

The program has had a mixed recent history with media revelations of high-profile political figures being flown on taxpayers' money to international talk-fests with like-minded groups around the world.

In November 2013, it was revealed that ALP assistant national secretary Nick Martin, had a large portion of his salary paid from the AusAID grant.

Former prime minister John Howard, his party's federal director Brian Loughnane, Liberal international secretary Bruce Edwards, and former president Shane Stone used program money to fly to London in 2011 for a meeting of the conservative International Democrat Union, at a cost to the taxpayer of $70,000.

Three young Liberals spent more than $50,000 jetting to Columbia the same year for a get-together with the International Young Democrat Union Freedom Forum.

Labor figures, including former national secretaries Karl Bitar and Tim Gartrell, NSW state MP Luke Foley, and former senator Michael Forshaw have also enjoyed trips courtesy of the AusAID money.

In 2010 the Labor party spent $196,000 on journeys to Europe, New Zealand, Canada and the US for 24 of its members, and some return trips to Australia, to develop fraternal party relationships.

Under the funding agreement, at least 50 per cent of the money was required to be used by the political parties to promote democracy in developing countries.

The rest could be used for international activities in developed countries, an arrangement that led to criticism and claims parties could spend the money on whatever they liked.



Bill Shorten on Labor Party's "Pranksters" working illegally on Democrats Campaign in the US


This from The Australian today.

Shorten blasts ‘stupid’ US pranksters


Bill Shorten has blasted as unacceptable the “stupid” conduct of young Labor members working on a US presidential campaign.

The volunteers were secretly filmed boasting about using Australian taxpayer funds to work on US Democratic senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign and ­interfering with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaign signs.

Federal Labor national secretary George Wright is ­investigating their behaviour after conservative undercover campaign group Project Veritas Action posted video of the volunteers online.

“The behaviour which has been reported is completely unacceptable,” the Opposition Leader said. He hinted Labor might pull out of the program.

The four were in the US on the government-funded Australian Political Parties Democracy Program, which funds party officials to go overseas to “strengthen democracy internationally’’.



And here's The Guardian

Bill Shorten criticises Labor officials on Bernie Sanders' campaign

Opposition leader says ALP may pull out of taxpayer-funded program after ‘stupid’ behaviour of four officials is secretly filmed

 Bill Shorten
 ‘The behaviour which has been reported is completely unacceptable,’ Bill Shorten has said. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

The Australian opposition leader, Bill Shorten, says the “stupid” behaviour of a group of young Labor party members working on a US presidential campaign is unacceptable.

The opposition leader hinted his party could pull out of the government-funded Australian Political Parties Democracy Program, which paid for four ALP members to travel to the US and volunteer with a presidential election campaign.

The Australian volunteers were secretly filmed boasting about using their government’s taxpayer funds to work on the US Democratic senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign and interfering with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaign signs.

Federal Labor’s national secretary, George Wright, is investigating their conduct after the conservative undercover campaign group Project Veritas Action posted video of the volunteers online.

“The behaviour which has been reported is completely unacceptable,” Shorten told reporters in Melbourne. “Stupidity never paints anyone in a good light.”

Under the Australian Political Parties Democracy Program, established in 2005, political parties get access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to send party officials overseas to “strengthen democracy internationally”.

Shorten raised the prospect of Labor pulling out of the program. “I’m not convinced of the value of this program of sending people overseas, full stop,” he said.


Defence White Paper, long on climate change, diversity, inclusion and threats that have nothing to do with Islam

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I've now read the bulk of the Turnbull Government's Defence White Paper.

It frightens me.

It's long on climate change:

Six key drivers will shape the development of Australia’s security environment to of them is "state fragility",  caused by (amongst other things)  climate change.

Climate change will be a major challenge for countries in Australia’s immediate region . Climate change will see higher temperatures, increased sea-level rise and will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events . These effects will exacerbate the challenges of population growth and environmental degradation, and will contribute to food shortages and undermine economic development  

To help countries in our immediate neighbourhood respond to the challenges they face, Australia will continue to play an important regional leadership role . Our strategic weight, proximity and resources place high expectations on us to respond to instability or natural disasters, and climate change means we will be called on to do so more often.

We are planning to abandon some defence bases because of rising sea water

Climate change will also place pressure on the Defence estate, with sea level rises having implications for Navy bases and more extreme weather events more frequently putting facilities at risk of damage.

But there is nothing on Islam as a fundamental threat to Australia.   The closest the White Paper gets is a description of what it calls DAESH.   What's caused this "Daesh" to materialise, without anything to do with Islam?  According to the White Paper, it's  only arisen because of weak central governments:

The rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria and the group’s rapid spread across the Middle East, North Africa and South and South East Asia has resulted from Daesh’s ability to exploit weak central government authority and local ethnic, social and economic grievances to undermine stability and expand the group’s extremist ideology.

And not only does DAESH have nothing to do with Islam, according to the White Paper, the Islamic State's purist Mohammedan philosophy drawn from the Quran is apparently rejected by most Muslims.

The violent extremist ideology promoted by Daesh is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, and it is Muslims who have suffered the most at the hands of Daesh

According to us, it's "Daesh’s ability to exploit weak central government authority" that's created this threat that we are working to 'degrade, disrupt and ultimately defeat".   Nothing to do with Islam.   The threat is not based on The Quran.   Not from Muhammad.   Not from long term plans for an Islamic Caliphate.

As long ago as 2007 the US Vice President Dick Cheney visited Australia to warn that Islamists in the Middle East had:

....ambitions of empire. Their goal in the broader Middle East is to seize control of a country so they have a base from which they can launch attacks against governments that refuse to meet their demands.

Their ultimate aim, and one they boldly proclaim, is to establish a caliphate covering a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia. And it wouldn't stop there.

Cheney warns of terrorist caliphate stretching to Indonesia ABC PM - Friday, 23 February , 2007  18:18:00

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Before leaving the Presidency to Obama, President Bush was clear about the threat and intentions of the Islamists.

We are in fantasy land.   There is no mention of the hordes of invaders in and en route to Europe.   Nothing about the fifth columnists within Australia.   The word "enemy" does not appear in the White Paper.   Islam has nothing to do with the Islamic Caliphate.
But fear not, the Turnbull Government has the answers.  The thing that is "fundamental to achieving Defence capability now and into the future" is diversity and inclusion.

The strength of Defence’s leadership, and its ability to adapt and embrace a more diverse and inclusive culture, will be critical to attracting and retaining the workforce it needs for the future . Gender equality and increasing female participation in the Defence workforce and in senior leadership roles is fundamental to achieving Defence capability now and into the future . Defence has confronted the need for behavioural and attitudinal change with the release in 2012 of Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture . The cultural change program continues to strengthen Defence’s capability through creating an organisational climate focused on diversity and inclusion that will attract the best people for the job .

You thought Rudd and Gillard were gone and we could get back to normal?
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