Three tax alternatives to restore sovereignty to Australia’s states

Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

If it happens it will overturn nearly a century of the Commonwealth accumulating power at the expense of the states, commencing with the Engineers Case in 1920.

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The Uniform Taxation Act in 1942 helped to accelerate the process by giving the Commonwealth exclusive control over income tax.

The long-term consequences have been that while the states continue to deliver crucial services to the public, especially in health and education, they lack the financial capacity to fund those services without Commonwealth assistance. Hence, beginning in the 1950s, the Commonwealth began funding education, firstly universities and later schools, as the states proved incapable of providing sufficient funds for them.

This condition where the central government raises more money than it needs and the states are incapable of doing so is referred to as vertical fiscal imbalance. It means, in practice, that the Commonwealth is able to use its excess funds to dictate policy to the states. The states become subordinate entities to the Commonwealth.

It is interesting to note that Turnbull refers to the states as sovereign entities. They are in their areas of responsibility, but the power conferred on the Commonwealth through vertical fiscal imbalance has seriously eroded that sovereignty. The states have become mendicants who regularly go to Canberra to beg for money.

Equally of note is the use of the word “subsidiarity” in the Commonwealth government’s first federation issues paper from 2014:

“subsidiarity, whereby responsibility lies with the lowest level of government possible, allowing flexible approaches to improving outcomes.”

If subsidiarity is to be a fundamental principle of governing in Australia, then those responsible must also be financially responsible. Otherwise they cannot be sovereign and just become tools of the central government.

In the final analysis it all comes down to finance and financial independence.

The problem is that at present the Commonwealth holds the whip hand in financial matters. To achieve subsidiarity and make states genuinely responsible they will need to find sources of funding outside of going to the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against them as the High Court has ruled that “excise”, which Section 90 of the Constitution says is granted exclusively to the Commonwealth, also covers sales taxes. This is why the Commonwealth became the exclusive owner of the GST, which it distributes to the states.

As the states lost the capacity to levy income tax in 1942, their taxation options are very limited. There is land tax (including council rates), stamp duty and payroll taxes, none of which raises an enormous amount of money. They also run lotteries. This is why income taxes are viewed as the best way of restoring some of the financial independence of the states.

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If the states are to levy income taxes, it only makes sense if, in the longer term, each state can determine the rate of that income tax. The great fear is that this will contravene the principle of horizontal fiscal equalisation, or the idea that each state should have the same level of service as the others. Competition, it is argued, will lead to a “race to the bottom”, with the consequence that lower taxation will lead to a lower quality of service in health and education.

But to truly restore sovereignty and the principle of subsidiarity, some power to tax income must revert to the states.

Alternative options

Turnbull has sought to encourage innovation and “agility”, and perhaps there may be other ways out of this dilemma. Here are some possibilities.

Give states power over sales tax

As the High Court defines sales tax as excise, the wording of Section 90 could be changed so that sales tax is explicitly excluded from the definition of excise. This would require a referendum, but it would give the states much greater flexibility in their taxing regime. It wold mean that states could, in effect, raise their own equivalents of the GST, as happens in some other countries, thereby allowing the Commonwealth to lower the rate of its GST.

Expand land tax

Whenever this topic is raised one response that is invariably raised is that the states should look at ways of expanding their land tax. This could be done by increasing the rate at which land is taxed and/or lowering the threshold at which payment begins.

Restore inheritance taxes

The states once raised funds through inheritance taxes, but these were abolished some 40 years ago. Given the amount of money now locked up in real estate in places like Sydney and Melbourne, there could be significant sums to be raised in this way.

Moreover capital acquired by simply living in a house for a certain number of years can hardly be compared to the money one earns working at an occupation. Beneficiaries of an estate cannot be construed as having deserved their inheritance.

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In all of the cases listed above the imposition of any such state taxes would need to be matched by a decrease in Commonwealth taxes.

The restoration to the states of some power to impose income tax appears on the surface to be the best way of both restoring sovereignty and embedding subsidiarity into the practice of government in Australia. There is much to be said for doing it. But if we are to grasp the opportunities of the present we need to consider other possible options.

What matters is less the means than the end: to restore Australia to a genuine federation.

Gregory Melleuish receives funding from the Australian Research Council. He is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Menzies Research Centre

Aboriginal artefacts found at Sydney light rail site

Thousands of Indigenous artefacts have been uncovered during excavation works for Sydney’s light rail project in the eastern suburbs.

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The project managers have stopped work on the site for now, but there are calls for a complete halt, with concerns it could be a mass Aboriginal grave.

The New South Wales government is not confirming whether it will continue construction on a section of Sydney’s new light rail line where thousands of Indigenous artefacts have been found.

About 20,000 artefacts were discovered in excavation pits around the rail line’s proposed tram stable yard in Randwick, in the city’s east.

They include items believed to have been traded from the state’s Lower Hunter Valley which have never been seen before.

Transport for New South Wales recognised the significance of the find between late 2015 and January this year, but has not said if it will stop work on the $2.1 billion project.

Altrac Light Rail chief executive Glen Bentley says the company is communicating with all the stakeholders.

“With the heritage experts and Aboriginal stakeholders, with all that evidence, we’ll be able to put together the story of what happened here.”

Indigenous heritage advocates have called for the site to be classed as an Aboriginal heritage area.

Some of the excavations could contain graves.

A cultural heritage specialist with the consultancy Tocomwall, Scott Franks, says it is a significant find.

“This is a site of significance, nationally. Whatever means, we need to know. It’s holding the Australian government to account, or the Crown. It’s about understanding what happened here, so our old peoples can rest.”

Another cultural heritage specialist with Tocomwall, Danny Franks, says the range of objects is of major historical significance.

“The density of artefacts that were found go into the tens of thousands, and a higher proportion of them were tips, blades. Now this leads us to suggest there was conflict here, which very well was a high probability of meaning there was death associated with this site.”

Citing journals from 1791, Scott Franks says it could have been the site of conflict between traditional landowners and Governor Arthur Phillip’s troops.

“This site represents a clear confrontation of women, children and men who were taken from the land. Ripping this up and not treating it like a proper archaeological dig is criminal.”

While the objects have been recovered and catalogued, there is no guarantee the site will be protected.

Altrac Light Rail’s Glen Bentley says it is too early to tell what will be done with the discovery.

“So there’s no works happening in this area, where we’re continuing with this investigation. So, until we finish that investigation, there will be no further works. The social value of this to the local Aboriginal community is immense, and we’re very committed to continue working with Aboriginal stakeholders to unlock the puzzle.”

 

 

 

 

 

Kyrgios into Miami Masters semi-final

Like him or loathe him, Nick Kyrgios is the new king of Australian tennis after breaking new ground in Miami.

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Kyrgios will crack the world’s top 20 and leapfrog Bernard Tomic to become Aussie No.1 on Monday after upsetting power-serving 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6 (7-4) to reach his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final.

Three weeks shy of his 21st birthday, the volatile talent is the youngest man ever to make the last four in Miami and first Australian to do so since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

He next faces Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori for a likely shot at world No.1 Novak Djokovic in Monday’s (AEST) title match.

Raonic has been one of the hottest players on tour in 2016, downing Roger Federer to win the season-opening crown in Brisbane and racking up 17 wins from 20 matches.

His only previous losses this year came against Andy Murray in a five-set Australian Open semi-final thriller and to Djokovic in the Indian Wells Masters final.

But the Canadian was on the back foot from the outset after Kyrgios made a flying start by breaking Raonic in the opening game of the match.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to break during the match,” Kyrgios said.

“I came out really energetic and got pretty lucky. That definitely made me more relaxed.

“I really learned how to return this year. That’s the major thing this year. I am giving myself so many more chances and getting so many more opportunities to take over matches.”

On Monday, Kyrgios is guaranteed to rise to at least 20th in the world and eclipse Tomic to become only the third player to hold Australia’s top ranking in the past seven years.

Tomic ended Samantha Stosur’s unbroken six-and-a-half-year stint as the country’s highest-ranked player – man or woman – last September, but is projected to fall out of the top 20 next week after skipping Miami with a wrist injury.

Nishikori overcame five match points to deny Frenchman Gael Monfils 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in their quarter-final.

The 16th-seeded Monfils was soaked with sweat on a sweltering afternoon but rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the final set.

Nishikori fell behind 0-40 serving at 4-5 but erased those match points and another in that game, and overcame one more match point serving in the 12th game.

He played a solid tiebreaker and closed out the victory with a forehand winner.

Djokovic faces Belgian 15th seed David Goffin in the first semi-final on Friday (Saturday AEDT) before Kyrgios takes on Nishikori.

AFL Origin game lacks support: McLachlan

AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan would love to see a State of Origin comeback but concedes it’s unlikely to win the support of protective clubs.

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Almost 20 years have passed since the last Origin clash, with Victoria’s nine-goal win over South Australia in 1999 only attracting 26,063 fans to the MCG.

But with rugby league’s flagship series drawing strong crowds and television ratings, many AFL fans remain hopeful of seeing a return to state-based footy.

A recent AFL website survey found 92 per cent support from 76,000 respondents for an Origin return, and a number of players – led by Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell – have said they’d be eager to represent their state.

But the key question – how an Origin series would fit alongside a season which already spreads across 28 weeks, including the finals series – remains unresolved, and McLachlan admits he can’t see a comeback happening.

“I would love to (see it), as a guy who grew up in South Australia watching Tony Hall kick a checkside on the run from 50 metres,” McLachlan told 3AW radio on Friday.

“I know a lot of our supporters would. I get it – we’d love to do it, too. (But) our clubs are so strong and so tribal and so powerful that they protect their players.

“And if you don’t have every player available for State of Origin, as soon as you have one or two of the best guys not playing … I think it’s hard.”

An Origin return would be particularly tough to sell to Western Australian clubs, who already have a significant travel burden.

Heppell earlier said it would be “unreal” to represent Victoria in an Origin clash but admitted it would be difficult to squeeze it into the schedule.

“It’s a tough one trying to fit (a game) in, but I think that it would be something that players really get around,” he told SEN radio.

“I guess clubs may differ, and it may not be seen in the future.”

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said he would relish the chance to watch the game as a fan but would be reluctant to risk his players being injured.

“I think it’s a real challenge to fit it into the current fixture, and the players will tell you that the demands of the game are higher than ever,” he said on Thursday.

“I know the players would really like two evenly spaced byes throughout the year.

“State of Origin is always going to be driven, or mostly, by what the players want to do and, while they’re pushing for an extra break, it’s hard to schedule in another game.”

Moylan can make Lockyer change: Brandy

The last time club great Greg Alexander took a Penrith prodigy under his wing, Craig Gower and the Panthers went all the way to claim an unlikely NRL premiership.

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Now, more than a decade after pulling the plug on his coaching career, the Penrith legend has again volunteered to hold a clipboard as he aims to guide their young halves to stardom.

In the same week coach Anthony Griffin opted to move Matt Moylan to five-eighth, Alexander donned the club colours and took to the training paddock with the captain and Nathan Cleary.

And he hasn’t shied away from predicting success for Moylan, admitting he can see similarities in Darren Lockyer’s famous move from fullback midway through his career.

“I can. If I say no, it’s diminishing what I think of Matt. Lockyer played fullback and moved to five-eighth and was successful. I think Matt can do the same thing,” Alexander told AAP.

“Most of the fullbacks have the skills to play five-eighth. It’s just whether they can handle the frontline defence. I think Matt’s worked enough on his strength and his body shape.

“He’s much stronger than what he was a couple of years ago. I know he’s excited about it, so that’s the main thing. He’s certainly got the skills to make a great five-eighth.”

The skipper, who led the Panthers to their maiden premiership in 1991, Alexander revealed how he approached club boss Phil Gould to help Moylan and Cleary fulfil their potential as a pairing.

Moylan has already played for Australia and NSW but is still relatively young at 25, while 19-year-old Cleary only made his first-grade debut at exactly the same stage one season ago.

Despite living on the northern beaches, Alexander continues to play a significant role at the foot of the mountains as a deputy chairman, but wants to dip his toe again on the field.

“I spoke to Gus about it and I spoke to Anthony about it. It was just a general chat and something I wanted to do. I said I’d be happy to work with them,” he said.

“I said to Anthony I’d like to have a couple of sessions with Matt and Nathan and analyse their kicking from the previous week, look at their kicking, look at what we needed to focus on.

“It’s nice to be back and involved with the on-field stuff. We’ll have a session or two a week and just work on making sure that both of them feel comfortable in any situation.

“It’s been 10 years since I’ve done anything. When I first retired, I did those first five or six years with Craig Gower, basically, and our wingers Luke Rooney and Luke Lewis.”

Researchers examine time-restricted eating

Instead of fasting every second day, what if people enjoyed their food just over a shorter period of time and still loose weight?

Australian researchers are leading a study exploring how the timing of when people eat can influence the body’s natural body clock and impact their health.

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A recent UK study published in journal Current Biology found eating your meals a bit later can help reset your body clock due to changes in metabolic tissues that control blood sugar levels.

Dr Evelyn Parr from the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at Australian Catholic University says it’s believed disruptions to the body clock through a lack of sleep, physical activity and diet can be detrimental to overall health and contribute to obesity and diabetes.

The expert in exercise science is studying hundreds of overweight and obese men to measure the impact time-restricted eating has on their metabolic health.

Instead of eating breakfast at 7am, they will eat it at 10am and then cease all eating at 6pm.

This equates to a time window of eight hours as opposed to the average 12-15 hours a person could be consuming food.

“If you think of someone who gets up for work and is eating at around 6.30am and then maybe snacking late into the night before going to bed, there may not even be a very long period, longer than six hours, people aren’t consuming food for,” Dr Parr said.

The researcher will analyse metabolites, or molecules, in muscle samples taken from the participants every four hours for 24 hours to see the impact of the diet.

“We think that from animal research that the longer time of fasting will turn on what they call some fasting genes that may then improve metabolic health,” Dr Parr said.

It’s thought this diet approach may be easier and more enjoyable for some rather than restricting them to only 500 calories a day, every other day.

Intermittent fasting diets, such as the 5:2 diet, have been shown to work and are increasing in popularity.

In fact, the CSIRO has launched a new ‘Flexi’ fasting diet.

A 16-week trial of the weight loss program resulted in an average weight loss of 11 kilograms, improvements in cholesterol, insulin, glucose levels and blood pressure.

In addition to weight loss, psychological improvements were also observed, said CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr Jane Bowen.

However concerns have been raised by dietitians that intermittent fasting is hard to maintain long term and won’t suit everyone.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says intermittent fasting is no “magic bullet” and in reality any diet that encourages eating fewer kilojoules than you burn through exercise and daily activities will result in weight loss.

But for lasting, long-term health benefits, the DAA recommends finding an eating pattern people will enjoy and can stick with

School funding faces Senate examination

Unions, religious school representatives and parents will tell senators how the Turnbull government’s plan for school funding will affect them during an inquiry hearing.

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But the Senate committee isn’t expected to hear from state and territory education departments on Friday – despite them running about seven in 10 of the nation’s schools.

The government’s plan will put an extra $18.6 billion into schools over the next decade and move commonwealth funding to a consistent level for all non-government or public schools.

It needs to win 10 extra Senate votes to pass legislation setting up the plan.

Greens education spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said more money was needed and a tighter time frame than 10 years for its delivery.

She’s asked education department officials to look at the cost of moving all public schools to the federal government’s planned 20 per cent of the per-student standard within five years instead.

Nick Xenophon, who leads a team of three senators, said a time frame of eight years would be preferable.

The inquiry hearing in Melbourne will hear from religious school representatives from Jewish, Christian, Lutheran and Adventist sectors on Friday.

It will also hear from a group of parental organisations from both private and public sectors, and the Australian Education Union which represents public school teachers.

In the inquiry’s second hearing, on Monday, it is expected to hear from the independent and Catholic sectors, school principals and the federal education department.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek was outraged the state and territory governments appeared to have been banned from giving evidence.

“How can you have an inquiry into schools funding without speaking to state and territory governments that run around 70 per cent of schools?” she told AAP.

Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory made written submissions to the inquiry.

Pregnant diabetic women ‘safe’ to express

A landmark study has shown it’s safe for diabetic women to express breastmilk during late pregnancy, dispelling fears it can lead to early labour.

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Nearly half of all babies born to a mother with diabetes will develop potentially dangerously low blood sugar levels, known as known as hypoglycaemia, soon after birth.

This can affect a baby’s brain development and lead to seizures and even brain damage.

The best way to stabilise blood sugar levels is feeding the baby breast milk, says Professor Della Forster from La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre and the Director of Midwifer and Maternity Services Research at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

However for many women who experience diabetes during pregnancy their milk comes in late.

Despite widespread enthusiasm for antenatal expressing, previous studies had suggested the practice posed potential harm for the baby and mother.

But Professor Forster says they can now “confidently” say it is safe for low-risk diabetic pregnant women.

“Our research fills a significant global gap in knowledge and provides much-needed guidance to pregnant women around the world and those providing maternal care,” Prof Forster said.

According to the study published in The Lancet, most of the 600 participants safely expressed milk from 36-37 weeks of pregnancy and produced enough milk ahead of the birth to feed their baby adequately.

The mothers expressed an average 20 times before birth and on average produced 5mls of milk each time in total for the whole time of expressing.

Expressing also led to an increased proportion of mothers who exclusively used breast milk to feed their child for the first seven days after birth.

This is very positive, says Professor Forster, because it reduces the child’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.

“If your mother’s had diabetes during pregnancy then your’re more likely to develop diabetes later in life and if you have exposure to formula early in life that makes you more likely to develop diabetes later in life,” she said.

Sue Walker, Professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Melbourne and Director of Perinatal Medicine at Mercy Hospital for Women, says the findings allay any fears the practice puts the mother or their baby at risk.

“These findings do not apply to higher risk women, but provide invaluable data that could be used for further research,” Prof Walker added.

North’s AFL tall timber have room to grow

They’re already causing headaches for opposition teams but North Melbourne believe their potent forwards have barely scratched the surface ahead of Saturday night’s AFL clash with Richmond.

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The 13th-placed Kangaroos rank sixth in the competition for goals scored per game, narrowly behind flag favourites Greater Western Sydney.

Converting that firepower into better results remains a challenge for the Roos, who have lost several games by single-digit margins.

But with tall trio Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite and Mason Wood finally lining up together after a run of injuries, and youngsters Taylor Garner and Kayne Turner showing good signs, there’s cause for optimism at Arden St.

“There’s massive room for improvement there. There’s no doubt that they’ve only scratched the surface with what they can do together,” North forwards coach Leigh Tudor told AAP.

“They haven’t played a lot of footy together over the last few years, so it’s just great that we can have an unchanged team and they can get some continuity.

“The more these guys can play together, the more valuable and the better their performances are going to be, I’m sure.

“We’re just rapt that we’re finally getting them together.”

The Roos were quick to swing changes after losing their first five games but will line up unchanged for the first time this season against the Tigers at Etihad Stadium.

It means another week in the VFL for impressive rookie Braydon Preuss, who held his spot as a ruck-forward for the first four rounds.

North are eager to give the 206cm rugby league convert another run but have struggled to accommodate him alongside dual All-Australian Todd Goldstein, given both prefer to play primarily in the ruck.

Key forward Ben McKay, 19, will also push for a senior debut in the latter half of the season as he continues his recovery from a hip complaint.

The Roos have won seven of their past eight games against Richmond, and Tudor said keeping the likes of Alex Rance, Brandon Ellis and Bachar Houli accountable was vital to prevent gifting Jack Riewoldt easy shots at goal.

“It’s amazing how both teams have changed since the last time we played,” Tudor said.

“Houli and Ellis have moved down to the backline, they’re really aggressive now, and the same with Rance – he’s someone that you can’t just let him do his own thing.

“We need to compete in the air and bring our forward pressure because if we don’t do that, they’ll be able to get the ball down to Riewoldt very quickly.”

Raider Papalii raring for Manly NRL clash

State of Origin might have robbed Manly of one of their star forwards, but Canberra’s Josh Papalii will have no problems backing up for Sunday’s NRL clash.

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Sea Eagles prop Nate Myles has all but been ruled out of the match, with scans on Thursday confirming a torn ligament in his elbow.

Fellow forward Jake Trbojevic emerged unscathed from Wednesday night’s series opener, as did Queensland’s Papalii, the Raiders’ only Origin player.

Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson said he had no doubts about Papalii’s ability to back up from a bruising encounter.

“I’m sure he’s a little bit dusty, a little bit banged up after the game,” Hodgson said.

“(But) he’s a smart guy and he’s a professional.

“He knows how to look after his body and he wouldn’t put his hand up if he wasn’t right so I’m sure he’ll be all good.”

The Raiders will be out to avenge a round-eight golden-point loss when they meet the Sea Eagles on Sunday at Lottoland.

A third-consecutive win will build more momentum for the Raiders, who sit eighth and are rebuilding their season after a few earlier speed bumps.

“The past couple of weeks, we’ve really simplified things,” Hodgson said.

He said the combination of five-eighth Blake Austin and halfback Aidan Sezer had been a big factor in their past two victories.

“Aidan’s stepped up massively in terms of directing us around the park when we get close to their line,” Hodgson said.

“I thought we’ve been good the last couple of weeks but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

Hodgson said an improved completion rate and getting the ball to bullocking forwards Shannon Boyd, Junior Paulo, Sia Soliola and Joe Tapine more regularly were also behind the Raiders’ improvement.

And the addition of 112kg Papalii to their forward stocks is another major boost.

“When you’ve got people like that carrying the ball, they’re tough to stop,” Hodgson said.

“The more times you can get the ball in their hands, the better.”

Shorten won’t commit to lifting WA GST

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten agrees Western Australia is not getting its fair share of the nation’s GST revenue but will not commit yet to lifting it if elected.

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WA will get just 34.4 cents in the dollar of GST this year.

Despite both Mr Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull having described that as too low, the man responsible for recommending the figure, Commonwealth Grants Commission secretary Michael Willcock, this week said it was fair.

A per-capita distribution would deliver about $6.7 billion, but it is only getting $2.3 billion this year under the complex formula that is intended to provide “equalisation” in states’ abilities to provide government services but increasingly regarded as highly flawed.

“I get that Western Australia is not getting their fair share … I’m here listening, what we will do is come up with concrete proposals after we’ve spoken with business, we’ve spoken with West Australian leaders and we will do that sooner rather than later,” Mr Shorten told reporters at a press conference with Premier Mark McGowan.

“No doubt when you hear that figure of 34 cents in the dollar, how can that make sense?

“I don’t want to see any state disadvantaged, but no doubt Western Australia is not getting its fair share of support from the Commonwealth.”

Mr McGowan has proposed one solution to a new Productivity Commission review of the GST, calling for 25 per cent of WA’s iron ore royalties to be quarantined from the GST carve-up to boost the state’s share.

Mr McGowan said the process of producing the WA budget in September would be “very, very difficult”.

WA has lost $2 billion in forecast projected revenue since Labor was elected in March, including less iron ore royalties revenue, less GST and Commonwealth health and education funding, while dealing with a record $3 billion deficit and record debt tipped to reach $42 billion.

More items found at Leveson burial site

Further evidence has been collected and taken away from murdered man Matthew Leveson’s presumed burial site in dense bushland in the Royal National Park south of Sydney.

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Most of the skeletal remains police believe belong to the 20-year-old were taken away in cardboard boxes on Thursday some 24 hours after investigators first made the discovery off McKell Avenue at Waterfall.

But smaller pieces of evidence were collected and placed into brown paper bags on Friday as detectives continued their delicate investigation of the forested burial site using an excavator and industrial-sized sifter.

The bones collected on Thursday were taken to a morgue, a NSW Police State Crime Command spokeswoman told AAP on Friday, while clothing has also reportedly been unearthed.

“Other items of interest, consistent with the 20-year-old have been located,” she added.

A post-mortem examination has been conducted.

Detectives won’t yet say with “100 per cent confidence” the human remains belong to the 20-year-old but they believe more detailed analysis will prove Matthew has been found almost a decade after he was last seen alive in 2007.

The find has provided some relief for Matthew’s parents, Mark and Faye Leveson, who were back at the burial site again on Friday joined by close family friends.

The human remains were found below a cabbage-tree palm about 2.30pm on Wednesday on what was to have been the final day of the latest search by NSW Police.

Two previous unsuccessful operations were held in November and January.

Detectives will continue searching the site on Saturday, and Mark and Faye Leveson will be there as always.

Their 20-year-old son was last seen leaving Darlinghurst’s ARQ nightclub in 2007 with his then-boyfriend Michael Atkins who was acquitted of the younger man’s murder in 2009.

Mr Atkins led police to the burial site last year after he struck a deal with the attorney-general for immunity from perjury and contempt of court.

He’d previously been given a certificate by a NSW coroner meaning evidence he was compelled to give at the inquest into Matthew’s death couldn’t be used against him in any criminal proceedings.

Legal experts say it’s now unlikely fresh charges will be laid against Mr Atkins due to the deals.

Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery on Thursday said depending on what the police find “there is the remote possibility of a charge being resurrected against Atkins”.

“But I wouldn’t put too much hope on it,” he told ABC radio.

Ex-captive of IS sheds tears on return to village in northern Iraq

She broke down in tears as she approached the school where the militants rounded up the population of Kojo and separated the men from the women, part of a series of crimes the United Nations described as a genocide against the Yazidi minority.

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“I have been waiting for this day for nearly three years,” she said on the rooftop of the school, where she had studied for 11 years.

On her return, Murad went to see her house and emerged clutching some clothing left there since 2014.

A Yazidi fighter said it belonged to Murad’s mother, who was killed during the purge because she was considered too old to be taken as a slave.

“We hoped our fate would be to be killed like the men instead of being sold and raped by Syrians, Iraqis … Tunisians and Europeans,” Murad said after composing herself, speaking from the roof of the school.

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Several hundred men were gunned down on the edge of the village. Among them were six of Murad’s brothers and stepbrothers.

She said the Islamic State emir, or commander, who oversaw what happened at the school was an Arab from the area. “He demanded we change our religion but nobody agreed.

“We heard the sound of shots. At first we believed people had come to help us, but when we looked out of the windows… we saw them killing the men.

“We cried to the UN, Europe, Kurdistan and Iraq but nobody came to help us,” Murad said. “Today the village is surrounded by mass graves.”

Murad, now 24, was taken in the summer of 2014 to Mosul, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq.

She escaped in November 2014.

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She told her story to the UN Security Council in 2015, and since then she has become an advocate for the Yazidis and for refugee and women’s rights in general.

She and another Yazidi woman, Lamiya Aji Bashar, received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

Kojo is one of the villages recaptured over the past few days by Popular Mobilisation, an Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary force trained by Iran.

One of Murad’s brothers is now fighting with the paramilitaries who retook the area. The two were reunited in the village.

US-backed Kurdish forces dislodged Islamic State from other Yazidi villages in the Sinjar region in 2015. Mosul is about to fall to a US-backed Iraqi offensive.

The Yazidis are a religious community of about 400,000, whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Islamic State considers them devil worshippers.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represent Murad and other Yazidi victims, is lobbying the Iraqi government and the international community to allow a United Nations investigations into Islamic State’s crimes.

More than 3,000 women are believed still held captive by IS, according to the community’s leaders.

“All we want,” Murad said in Kojo, “is people to save 3,000 women in the Daesh prisons and to document our graves… until now, not a single mass grave has been documented.”

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