Jail for Glenn Wheatley… Online ratings revolution… Childcare politics… Workplace helpline runs hot…

Jail for Glenn Wheatley

The business world is reeling on news that music entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley is off to jail for 15 months after receiving a sentence of two and a half years in jail for tax evasion, some of which was suspended.

Entrepreneurs, tax advisers and lawyers being investigated as part of Operation Wickenby, which has targeted offshore havens used to avoid paying tax in Australia, will be shocked at the severity of the sentence.

Journalist Michael Laurence who has covered the operation since 2005 when almost 300 officers from the Crime Commission, tax office and Australian Federal Police raided 85 homes and offices.

Laurence says: “Everyone will be staggered. Wheatley came forward, apologised, cooperated with authorities, was a very well-known person with excellent character witnesses… this sends a stinging message to all the others being investigated and to anyone else involved with tax evasion.”

Wheatley, who was in the band Masters Apprentices before building a successful career in the entertainment industry, managed singers including John Farnham and Delta Goodrem.

He admitted to gaining a financial advantage after avoiding paying tax of $318,000 on income earned from the promotion of a boxing fight in 2003 and John Farnham’s Talk of the Town tour.

Wheatley is the first scalp: there will be many more to come. Wheatley reportedly looked stunned at the sentence. Judge Tim Wood told him that without his cooperation he would have been handed a custodial sentence of three years and nine months, with a two year non-parole period.


Shockwaves for online audience measurement industry

Major online media companies and advertisers are moving to resolve concerns about the accuracy of page view measures of internet usage by formulating a new online audience measure that could become an industry standard.

And in another potentially significant move for the online marketing and advertising sector, The Australian reports today that internet metrics firm Hitwise is in negotiations with Telstra to get access to usage data for BigPond internet subscribers.

The move to come up with an Australian standard for online audience measurement is reportedly being co-ordinated by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Australia, which represents major online media players such as Google and Fairfax Digital, and involves representatives from across the industry.

Advertisers’ need to better compare internet audience data with other forms of media is one explanation for the move, Ovum internet analyst David Kennedy says.

What this reflects is that the media market is expanding and internet media is increasingly complimentary to other media, so media strategies are now across these all these channels and they need a more integrated perspective, but it won’t be an easy thing to do,” Kennedy says.

A recent decision by the US arm of online metric company Neilsen NetRatings to give weight to the amount of time internet users are on a site in addition to the more traditional measure of pages viewed could also be a factor.

New web technologies such as Ajax that allow users to access content within a site without clicking into a new page may mean page visits will become a less valid measure of internet usage.

Meanwhile, Neilsen NetRatings’ competitor Hitwise could strengthen its share of the internet metrics market if it is able to do deal to access usage data from the 45% of Australian internet subscribers who use Telstra’s BigPond ISP.

Ovum’s Kennedy says the massive share of the internet market BigPond commands and the more conservative profile of its users could make a difference to Hitwise’s internet usage reports.

“Anecdotally we know that the typical BigPond user is a less intensive internet user who makes less data downloads than others – it is more the mum and dads who will be light email and internet users than your leading-edge tech types,” Kennedy says.

It would be a coup for Hitwise’s Australian operations if it is able to do a deal with Telstra, search engine marketing firm Reseo’s chief executive Chris Thomas says.

Thomas says the recent sale of Hitwise to British company Experian for $288 million could be driving the move. “The sale was huge in terms of multiples [of Hitwise’s profit] so the pressure to really get this stuff happening would be huge,” he says. “They want the best data and this would enable them to really sell it at a higher premium than they already do to some of these top corporates who will pay for really accurate results.”

– Mike Preston


Rudd’s pitch on childcare

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd made some broad policy statements in favour of increasing access to childcare in a speech at the Sydney Institute last night, but failed to reveal details on how he would increase childcare places or put downward pressure on fees.

But he did announce the establishment of a new “office of work and family” that would form part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet if he wins government. The office would provide information to parents on fees, publish breaches by child-care providers, require providers to give two months’ notice of fee increases and look at ways to increase workplace-based care.

And he suggested that fringe benefits tax for employers on childcare on the premises should be adjusted. He challenged Treasurer Peter Costello to throw open the books so he could cost the idea.

– Jacqui Walker


Workplace Authority defends itself

The Federal Government’s workplace relations helpline says it has received a 30% increase in queries from worried employees. The Workplace Authority director, Barbara Bennett, has come under fire from Labor for appearing in the Government’s TV advertisements promoting its latest workplace relations law changes.

She said in a statement yesterday, according to The Australian Financial Review, that recent changes to the law mean there is a greater need to explain the system to Australian employees. The Authority will be posting out to employers the fact sheet that must be handed out to all staff by 20 October.

– Jacqui Walker




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