The Law

Online advertising to stay on Government’s most popular website

With over 470 million visits a year,  it’s no surprise that the Bureau of  Meteorology (BOM) website is one  of the most popular in Australia. 

Whether you’re a farmer growing  crops, a surfer looking for the best  break, or if you just want to know if  you can leave the washing on the line,  we all love to talk about the weather. 

The BOM is renowned for being  the leading authority on weather  forecasts, warnings and advice and  it provides critical information  to individuals and organisations  responding to the harsh realities of  the Australian environment. 

Recouping the cost of delivering  this service is possible by selling  advertising space on the BOM  website. After a successful 12-month  trial of advertising, Parliament has  allowed the BOM to continue to  capitalise on this opportunity. 

The Meteorology Amendment  (Online Advertising) Bill 2014  requires the BOM Director to  develop guidelines on the types of  advertising permitted. 

Environment Minister, Greg Hunt  (Flinders, Vic), said weather-watchers  need not worry that the presence of  advertisements will affect the quality  of the website. 

“The Government wants to provide  certainty to ensure the Director  of Meteorology’s powers include  advertising in connection with the  Bureau of Meteorology services, and  determine the types of advertising that  the bureau displays,” he said. 

“This particular Bill ensures that the  director has the power to prohibit  advertising considered to be not in  the Commonwealth’s or the bureau’s  interests—advertising of things such as  tobacco, alcohol, gambling, violence  and weapons, and advertising that has a  sexual content.” 

Pop-ups over the page or floating ads  that can obscure content on screen are  not allowed, so that users can still access  information quickly in an emergency. 

“This Bill will also remove any doubt  and make it explicitly clear that the  BOM can accept paid advertising. This  allows the bureau to further diversify its  sources of funding … as has been the  consistent goal of governments of both  persuasions,” Mr Hunt said. 

The BOM is one of the first federal  Government websites to be allowed  online advertising.

Although the profitability of accepting  paid advertising is yet to be established,  this new law may pave the way for  other government agencies to use their  online spaces to generate income. 

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New offence for importing designer drugs

Alternative illicit drugs, sometimes  marketed as “legal highs”, will be  subject to seizure if imported into  Australia. 

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)  is a term used to describe drugs that  fall outside international drug treaties,  according to Justice Minister Michael  Keenan (Stirling, WA). 

“NPS are designed to mimic the  psychoactive effects of illicit drugs,  however their chemical structures are  not captured by existing controls on  those drugs,” Mr Keenan said. 

Often described as synthetic or  designer drugs, NPS create a challenge  for governments around the world.  This is because once an NPS is banned,  manufacturers can quickly create a  new, alternative substance that has  similar features but is not on the  prohibition list. 

The Justice Minister said when  substances are presented as “legal  highs”, it creates an improper  assumption that they are safe. 

“These substances are potentially very  dangerous. They have been directly  linked to deaths and serious injury.  They are untested chemical compounds  which masquerade as illicit drugs but  are presented as being legal analogues  of those drugs,” Mr Keenan said. 

The current regulatory system has been  proven to be inadequate, as Australia  has struggled with the increasing  number of NPS available. 

Under the Crimes Legislation  Amendment (Psychoactive Substances  and Other Measures) Bill 2014,  Australian Customs and Border  Protection Services, officers will be able  to seize NPS and substances presented  as alternatives to illicit drugs. 

The Justice Minister said the onus will  then be on the defendant to prove that  the substances are not prohibited or  that they qualify for an exemption. 

“It will be up to a person whose goods  have been seized on suspicion of being  a new psychoactive substance, to show  why they should be returned to them.  If an importer cannot do this—for  example, by showing that the goods  have a legitimate use—their goods will  be destroyed,” Mr Keenan said. 

The new law will not apply to  psychoactive substances that are  imported for a legitimate purpose.  Foods, medicines, and industrial,  agricultural and veterinary chemicals  are examples of psychoactive substances  that would be exempt from the new  law. 

States and territories will cooperate  with the Commonwealth to stop the  sale of NPS. Health, law enforcement  and education initiatives will align  across jurisdictions to complement the  national framework for NPS that the  Law, Crime and Community Safety  Council announced on 4 July 2014. 

“The Bill will stop people from  importing these dangerous chemicals  for use as alternatives to illicit drugs  and pretending they are legal or  safe. In combination with state and  territory initiatives under the national  framework, we can prevent [NPS] from  becoming as great a challenge as other  illicit drugs,” Mr Keenan said.

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Swiss treaty prevents tax evasion

The image of Swiss  bank accounts as tools  for tax evasion is about  to be given a shake-up. 

New laws amending  the International Tax  Agreement Act (1953)  mean Australia and  Switzerland will share  information to prevent  people evading tax  payments or being  required to pay tax  twice and encourage  greater trade and  investment between the  two countries. 

Steven Ciobo  (Moncrieff, Qld)  says Australia has 44  bilateral tax agreements  with different countries. 

“Tax treaties facilitate  trade and investment  by reducing barriers  caused by the double  taxation of residents in the two  countries,” he said. 

It is expected there will be a stronger  relationship between Australia and  Switzerland as a result of the new  agreement. 

“The new treaty will update the  existing bilateral tax arrangements  between Australia and Switzerland, to  align them with current Australian and  international tax treaty policy settings,”  Mr Ciobo said. 

“This is expected to further encourage  bilateral trade and investment.” 

The new agreement with Switzerland  replaces a previous agreement from  1980.  The establishment of effective  exchange-of-information arrangements  with Switzerland is expected to  discourage the use of Swiss banks to  conceal untaxed income and assets.

“The new treaty will also modernise  the bilateral taxpayer information  sharing arrangements and permit,  for the first time, the exchange of  taxpayer information for the purpose  of preventing tax evasion. This greater  transparency includes access to Swiss  bank information that could help  Australia better enforce its tax laws,”  Mr Ciobo said. 

Asked about the extent of tax evasion  between Australia and Switzerland,  the Australian Taxation Office  acknowledged the difficulty of placing  a dollar figure on the issue but told the  Joint Standing Committee on Treaties  that over 188,000 transactions took  place between the two countries during  the 2012-13 financial year involving  over $41 billion. 

Sharing information will lead to better  transparency and enable both countries  to better enforce their own tax laws. 

The new agreement will also create  a more reliable tax framework for  business between Australia and  Switzerland. This certainty is expected  to encourage economic growth and job  creation as investors can better plan for  their businesses. 

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Winning the race against doping

Australian legislation has now aligned with the World Anti-Doping Code  (WADC), ensuring athletes are treated under the same rules everywhere, regardless  of nationality or sport. 

Sports Minister, Peter Dutton (Dickson, Qld), said the Australian Government is  committed to clean sport. 

“Not only is doping a serious risk to an athlete’s health and wellbeing, it is  fundamentally about cheating and debasing all that is good about sport, which we  hold close to our hearts—from improved health through physical endeavour to the  pursuit of athletic excellence and the values it teaches,” he said. 

The Australian Government is also a party to the United Nations Educational,  Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s International Convention  against Doping in Sport, which requires signatories to implement conditions  imposed under the WADC. 

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014 will address  the requirements of the WADC by focusing on athlete support personnel who  are involved in doping by imposing longer periods of competition ineligibility for  athletes caught doping, and by placing an additional emphasis on information  management and investigation of drug cheats. 

The Sports Minister said athlete support staff involved in doping will be subject to  Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs). 

“Appropriately, athletes or athlete support personnel who are found to have  committed anti-doping rule violations are subject to sanctions such as ineligibility  to compete and disqualification of results from sporting competitions,” Mr Dutton  said. 

“The international anti-doping community has agreed that it is time to take action  to protect sports from those support persons who orchestrate systematic doping  programs.” 

Mr Dutton said the new law is also intended to encourage better informationsharing  across sports administration bodies. 

“With investigations and intelligence-gathering now forming an integral element of  any strategy for detecting doping, the revised code emphasises the need for effective  information flows between government agencies, sporting bodies and anti-doping  organisations. Accordingly, amendments to the information-sharing provisions in  the act are proposed to ensure clarity and simplicity,” Mr Dutton said.

(Editor’s Note: Hon Sussan Ley (Farrer, NSW) is now Minister for Sport.) 

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