John Passant

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Me quoted in Fairfax papers on tax haven use
Me quoted by Georgia Wilkins in The Age (and other Fairfax publications) today. John Passant, from the school of political science and international relations, at the Australian National University, said the trend noted by Computershare was further evidence multinationals did not take global regulators seriously. ”US companies are doing this on the hard-nosed basis that any [regulatory] changes that will be made won’t have an impact on their ability to avoid tax,” he said. ”They think it is going to take a long time for the G20 to take action, or that they are just all talk.” (1)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



A people’s history of taxation – an abstract for a paper


This is an abstract I have drafted for a paper on tax, war, democracy and revolution.  It is early days yet – I have just started doing the research – and the Conference is six months away so I hope to be finished before then. The history is necessarily truncated, and so will be a potted history.

Each area of examination deserves its own much deeper and thorough analysis but that would lose the sweep of history I am trying to capture. And I only have about 30,0000 words. It will be an important part of my PHD. I would be grateful for any suggestions, thoughts, comments, especially about useful works on the various areas mentioned in the abstract below I am looking at.


What is striking in the battles over tax or those rebellions sparked by tax is that at their heart they are struggles for democracy, or depending on the societal and historical context, democracy for a minority, one section of the hostile brothers if you like, challenging the governing body, another section of the hostile brothers.

Struggles over tax or struggles sparked by tax have been about a say in what a ruler or autocratic government does in both its right to extract money from the various classes and its spending of that money. In earlier times that say was demanded by sections of the ruling elite, and in times of acute crisis the common people joined the battle, often encouraged by a section of the hostile brothers to help them win.

However tax battles and battles sparked by tax are not just about some general ideas of democracy and representation. They are the struggles of particular classes for democracy and representation. The combatants in these battles often start off as sections of the elite themselves wanting to rein in the taxing power of the sovereign and to ensure there is some common consent (narrowly understood to be consent among sections of the exploiters or the ruling class) to taxation. The danger to all of the ruling class is that the common people, the oppressed and exploited, may themselves mobilise around the struggles that sections of the hostile brothers have unleashed, especially if one or both sides appeal to them for support.

As feudalism developed and the first signs of capitalism arose in the interstices of the system, the common people entered more and more onto the stage of history, not as adjuncts to the elite and their pursuits of limited democracy and limited representation, but as the bearers of ideas for a new society based on equality and common ownership. Their visions of democracy frightened and threatened (and still do) the ruling classes. The depth of representation the oppressed and exploited classes demand challenges the rule of the oppressors.

In this article I will also look at the new fiscal sociology and the idea that the history of taxation has been a history of the development of the tax state. I argue that this is a top down view of history and ignores the role of the common people in the shaping of tax history. This article then is a small contribution to a people’s history of taxation, drawing on tax, war, and the growing role of the common people in the historic events of the Magna Carta, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the English Civil War, the American revolution, the French Revolution, the impact of the Napoleonic Wars and the drivers for income tax in the United Kingdom, the role of colonialism, the spark for Eureka stockade, the impact of World War I and II on tax in Australia and the role of social democracy in quelling people’s rebellions over tax (and indeed other matters) in Australia.


Defend building union organiser John Lomax against the criminalisation of union activity

This is a letter I sent on Sunday to the Canberra Times on the arrest and charging of building union organiser John Lomax. It has not yet been published.

Tally: Not published on Monday. Not published on Tuesday. Stay tuned.


John Lomax leaves the ACT Police Watch House after being charged with blackmail.


CFMEU organiser John Lomax has been charged with blackmail. (David Ellery and Michael Inman, ‘Former Raiders star on blackmail charge’ The Canberra Times Saturday July 25, page 1.) What is Lomax’s alleged ‘crime’? According to the union it is forcing an employer into an enterprise agreement and winning higher wages. That is precisely why unions exist.

Unionists and union leaders should be very very worried about this attempted criminalisation of industrial activity. If successful it will undermine every union in Australia. The charges against Lomax are an attack on unionism.

It should come as no surprise that the ‘back to the past’ Abbott government is trying to take us to the pre-1820s era and the idea of that unions per se are a criminal conspiracy. In the most famous anti-union witch-hunt of the time, in 1834 the six Tolpuddle martyrs were sentenced to be transported to Australia for the crime of forming a union and demanding higher wages.

John Lomax and the CFMEU stand in that proud Tolpuddle tradition of unions fighting to exist and to improve workers lives. Every unionist must support him and the CFMEU against Abbott’s Tolpuddle style Royal Commission witch hunt aimed at destroying the one union in Australia that always stands up for its members and wins real gains for them.

One final point. Every media report I have seen on the Lomax charges also mentions the blackmail case against Halafihi Kivalu. To conflate the action against Lomax involving an industrial matter with that against Kivalu, allegedly involving personal gain, means, in my view, that John Lomax cannot receive a fair trial (assuming this travesty of justice gets that far.)  But that conflation is the whole point, isn’t it? It is a further attempt to tar the legitimate activity of unions with the brush of illegality.

Dare to struggle, dare to win.


Here is a link to the CFMEU statement on this politically motivated act.

My interview on a Peace of the Action on Radio Adelaide

This is the podcast of my interview with Sue Gilbey and Clayton Werner today on Radio Adelaide FM 101.5 Digital in their 30 minute segment called a Peace of the Action.

We discussed among other things the lack of mass struggle in Australia today, social media, tax and tax avoidance, and I mentioned socialism, my background, the struggles around refugees and same sex marriage to name a few things.

A letter to disillusioned Labor Party supporters


The decision by Labor’s National Conference on Saturday not to ban turning back asylum seeker boats has shocked, outraged and upset many members and supporters. And so it should. It puts Labor on the same moral dung heap as the Liberals.

However we need to see this vote not as some shocking break with the past but as its logical outcome.

It was Paul Keating, together with left-wing Minister Gerry Hand, who introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers. A year later they made indefinite detention possible.

It was Kim Beazley in 2001 who stood four square with Howard on turning the Tampa back.  (Rather than neutralising the issue Labor’s support boosted Howard and he won the election in a canter. And of course Rudd won in 2007 promising to be much less harsh on refugees, including ending the Howard Pacific Solution.)

Julia Gillard re-instated the ‘Pacific Solution’ (ie. re-opened Manus and Nauru) and developed the regional solution. It was the second Rudd administration which ruled that no asylum-seeker arriving by boat would be resettled in Australia. Now, as part of the ongoing stampede to the right, a future Labor government will support turning back asylum seeker boats.

All of these actions opened the door for the Liberals to preach and implement a more inhumane response and shift the debate to the right. Labor politicians, despite opposition from members and a sizeable section of Labor voters, then followed the Liberals down the path they had set for both parties, instead of leading opposition to scapegoating and demonisation.

There will not only be turn-backs under a Shorten Government. The concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru will continue.

Labor heavyweights offered some concessions to win support for turning back desperate people fleeing persecution, war, rape, death, imprisonment or torture. They will, by 2025, increased the refugee intake to 27,500 from its current 13500 under the Abbott government. First, why can’t this be done immediately? I’ll tell you why. Because Shorten et all have no intention of implementing it. If you think that in ten years they will increase the intake to that figure I have a bridge in Sydney to sell you.

Second, there are upwards of 50 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people in the world. The figure Labor is talking about, 27500, is a drop in the ocean.

Third, under Labor, the figure for refugee places was 20,000, before Abbott cut it. So what Shorten is proposing is to increase that 2010 figure by 7500 over the 15 years from then. Hardly magnanimous.

The strategy the Labor leadership is adopting here with supposed ‘sweeteners’ like increasing the refugee intake is putting lipstick on a pig, or as one friend put it, polishing a turd.

In the 1970s and 1980s two thousand Vietnamese asylum seekers arrived by boat. The other about 98000 arrived at Mascot Airport. We sent Immigration officials to transit countries to quickly process them and bring them to Australia. We could of course do the same again.

Those asylum seekers currently in refugee camps in Indonesia and Malaysia for example will continue to languish there. Estimates are that on average it will take over 100 years for an asylum claim to be heard, processed and accepted and for the refugee to find a home in a country that recognises the Refugee convention.

Turn-backs do not save lives. They merely outsource the possibility of death to other countries. Quick but thorough Australian processing in transit countries, as well as being cheaper than the billions wasted on border forces and offshore and onshore concentration camps, would save all the lives at risk at sea.

If Labor (and their twins in the Liberal Party) were really concerned about the lives of asylum seekers, you’d think they’d be enquiring about what has happened to those turned back, or those rotting in camps in Malaysia or Indonesia, or even what is happening to the kids locked up indefinitely in our camps on Manus Island and Nauru for no crime whatsoever. But politicians aren’t asking about their welfare. Instead Labor and the Liberals have united to pass legislation to jail doctors and nurses who report on the real situation on Manus and Nauru, including reporting on the abuse of children.

But not to worry. Labor has promised to spend more on addressing mental health problems in Australia’s offshore concentration camps. That might seem generous to someone who is easily fooled. However give that the detention centres are the cause of the mental health problems, closing them down would solve the problem.

So what are Labor Party members and supporters who feel betrayed by the Conference decision to do? The first is to continue the fight against whichever government of whatever colour implements cruel anti-refugee policies. Join us in the various refugee action committees and collectives around Australia to continue to build the struggle for a humane and caring policy. Your focus should not be the ALP but creating a mass movement outside the Labor Party that can force change on what I regard as the moribund Party leadership.

Second, some will be tempted to resign from the Party. I suggest a ceremonial burning of hundreds of your membership cards in Melbourne and Sydney, for example, perhaps next weekend. However I don’t want to see that as the end of your political engagement. I hope it is the beginning of a new period of political engagement, free of the dead hand of Labor bureaucrats, timeservers and hacks.

Some will, I am guessing, be tempted to join the Greens or vote for them first, and then vote for Labor ahead of the Liberals. But all that means is when (or now, more likely, if) Labor forms government they will continue policies that increase inequality, that keep the lid on unions and wages, (the major cause, according to the IMF of rising inequality, that see the gender pay gap widen, that keep kids locked up indefinitely on Manus and Nauru, that cut funding over time to public hospitals, public schools and public transport.

For those who stay in the ALP, or who shift actively or passively to the Greens, can I suggest that instead of imagining you can change the world through being part of a party of reform (whether that party of reform be Labor or the Greens), that the reality is that Labor and the Greens are parties of the capitalist status quo. Their aim is to manage capitalism and from this fundamental objective flows their sell-outs, capitulations, backsliding and treachery. Couple that with the ongoing crisis of capitalist profitability in the developed world and managing capitalism means in essence dismantling the welfare state, attacking public goods like hospitals, schools and transport, and duchessing or even further restricting unions and wages.

There are groups on the revolutionary left that offer a different perspective to even the most left-wing of Greens and Labor politicians. If such left wing Labor people exist in any Australian Parliament today is a moot point. There are no Jeremy Corbyns in Labor’s parliamentary ranks.

The reformist project is dead. It has died on the shoals of falling profit rates. The role of Labor in power is to bury it while (sometimes) singing its praises.

I am not saying that you must join us. I want to work with all those good activists who are or were in or near or supportive of the Labor Party and who are now reviewing their membership or support.

Let’s work together in fighting for a better Australia here and now and in doing that learn the lessons flowing from this latest Labor leadership betrayal, not as a one off but as a consistent pattern.

I am a member of Solidarity, one of those small revolutionary socialist groups. At least check us out here. And here is the link to our Facebook page.

Come along to our Keep left Conference in Sydney on the weekend of Saturday 22 August and Sunday 23 August. Details are here.

For those of you interested in exploring the more sustained arguments about the changing nature of the ALP (in my view from a capitalist workers’party to a CAPITALIST workers’party on the way to becoming a capitalist party,) can I suggest you have a read of my academic article about that, viewed through the prism of the Resource Super Profits Tax/Minerals Resource Rent Tax disaster? This is the link to the article on the University of Wollongong website. Passant, J. (2014). The minerals resource rent tax: the Australian Labor Party and the continuity of change. Accounting Research Journal, 27 (1), 19-36. Once in there you can hit the download button on the middle left for access to the article.



CFMEU statement on the politically motivated arrest of union organiser John Lomax

Image related to  Arrest is nothing but politically motivated act: Media Release


Arrest is nothing but politically motivated act: Media Release by Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union

The arrest of ACT CFMEU official John Lomax for trying to negotiate better pay and conditions for workers is an absolute disgrace, according to CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan.

“It is unprecedented and an absolute disgrace that the Abbott Government is using the police to intervene in what is purely an industrial matter,” he said.

“Mr Lomax was arrested this morning. He was denied the right to have a lawyer present during the time he was at the police station. He has not been provided with any written document setting out allegations against him.”

Mr Lomax was told by police that he was accused of forcing an employer to enter into an EBA and that as a result the employer suffered financial loss due to paying workers higher wages.

No allegation has been made that Mr Lomax obtained any personal financial benefit.

Mr Noonan said that the government was criminalising the work of unions.

“Anyone watching the Royal Commission this week will have seen a number of union officials being questioned about going on sites over safety issues and their desire to build memberships, the inference being that this is not a legitimate activity.

“With all the important issues that the police are required to deal with, I expect – as would most of the community – their resources are better utilised dealing with Ice related crimes, violence against women or indeed, terror related activity.”

“The criminal jurisdiction is not the domain of industrial matters and this is nothing but another vicious political attack on unions and the right to defend and improve pay and conditions for working people.”

Dialectics and tax – a walk with Cacus

This article, Cleaning the Muck of Ages from the Windows into the Soul of Income Tax, will be published in Volume 5 Issue 1 Spring 2016 British Journal of American Legal Studies. It is available through SSRN in pre-publication draft form.


The aim of this paper is to provide readers with an insight into Marx’s methods as a first step to understanding income tax more generally but with specific reference to Australia’s income tax system. I do this by introducing readers to the ideas about the totality that is capitalism, appearance and form, and the dialectic in Marx’s hands. This will involve looking at income tax as part of the bigger picture of capitalism, and understanding that all things are related and changes in one produce changes in all. Appearances can be deceptive and we need to delve below the surface to understand the reality or essence of income and, hence, of income tax. Dialectics is the study of change. By developing an understanding of the processes of contradiction and change in society, the totality, we can then start to understand income tax and its role in our current society more deeply. To do that, we need to understand the ways of thinking and approaches that Marx and others have employed. Only then, armed with the tools we have discovered, can we begin the process of cleaning the muck of ages from the windows into the soul of tax and move from the world of appearance to the essence of tax.


Passant, John, Cleaning the Muck of Ages from the Windows into the Soul of Income Tax SSRN Copy Pre-Publication Volume 5 Issue 1 Spring 2016 British Journal of American Legal Studies.

To view the article hit the link in the first sentence above. Once you get into the site hit the download button.

Of fascists and guns

One of the fascists on the bus from Sydney to the Melbourne Reclaim Australia rally had a gun.

Remember when Man Haron Monis took over the Lindt cafe in Sydney and held people hostage in December?  He too had a gun. The difference was he was identifiably different, a Muslim. He got some of his hostages to wave an ISIS flag at one stage.

There was 24 hour reporting of this’terrorist’ action. Except it wasn’t terrorism. It was a deeply disturbed man going off the rails.

Facts do not matter when the media and politicians – Tony Abbott calls the siege a terrorist attack – have an Islamaphobic agenda to pursue, push and propagate.

Thus only ten months ago 800 police raided homes across Australia to charge one man with terrorism. There has been silence since. But the real reason for the raids, raising the climate of fear against Muslims, succeeded.

No doubt there will be hundreds of police raiding the homes of fascists across Australia any day soon, with the mainstream media in tow, to find guns, knives and other weapons and to stop their plans to attack the left. No doubt.

The treatment by the media and the politicians of the fascist with a gun story has been very very subdued. You do not have to be a genius to figure out why. First, fascists with guns don’t further the Islamaphobic agenda so the media remain quiet or even silent. Second, the ruling class finds the fascists and racists in Reclaim White Australia useful for pushing their agenda. Talking too much about fascists with guns might undermine Tony Abbott’s specific anti-Muslim campaign of fear and division.

It is no accident, as Julie Bishop informed us, that of the 400 people under surveillance by the ‘intelligence’ agencies, none are right-wing, anti-Islam campaigners. Fascists seemingly are not a threat in the eyes of the ruling class. The fascists are their useful idiots, their allies, or so the ruling class politicians think.

It is not just ruling class politicians who think like this. Victoria Police are now using the fascist with a gun incident, and the cops unprovoked pepper spraying of anti-racist protesters and street medics, to argue for further restrictions on the right to protest, that is for further restrictions on the left.

Thus, according to Bridie Jabour in The Guardian, ‘Victorian chief police commissioner, Graham Ashton, has signalled a change in protest laws after anti-Islam and racist protesters clashed with anti-racism groups at the weekend, saying both sides were as bad as each other.’ As bad as each other eh? Who has the guns Commissioner? Who has the pepper spray?


The only bad sides, as I have reported before, were the fascists and racists, and Victoria Police. Victoria Police high fived their mates, the fascists and racists, helped them, escorted them and showed clearly they were on their side.  On the other side, they pepper sprayed medics.

This is not an accident. In Greece, for example, in the 2012 election there, the fascist Golden Dawn received 7% of the vote. Over half of all the police voted for Golden Dawn. This is not a solely Greek phenomenon. It is an expression of the role of the police in our society. They exist as the armed thugs of capital to repress any challenge to the rule of the bosses. Their training reinforces this.

The police see protests against any of the rotten aspects of capitalism as attacks on and threats to the system. Those, like the fascists and racists in Reclaim Australia, are about defending the old order, the old way, the polcie way. The cops see in the fascists their non-institutional brothers and sisters, people who wll join with them in putting down threats to the social order.

We live in dangerous times. The fascists have guns. One tried to bring a gun to a Reclaim Australia rally. A complicit media and political elite remain silent. We must continue our struggle against racism and Islamaphobia and build a mass movement against the extreme right and its puppet masters.


Is former ALP A.C.T Chief Minister Jon Stanhope about to jump from Labor’s sinking ship?

Former Labor Party Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has an article in a local Canberra weekly newspaper, City News, condemning Labor for voting for the Border Force Act. In the article, The horrors of the matey bipartisanship, Jon says something very interesting.

‘… the Greens are, these days, the only members of the Parliament who reflect my views on asylum seeker policy or, indeed, what I understand to be the true values and beliefs of the ALP.’

Essentially my view is that Labor has moved from being a capitalist workers’ party to a CAPITALIST workers’ party on the way to becoming a capitalist party. Part of my task is to patiently explain to good Labor Party members why their leadership sells out like this on refugees and that there are admittedly small socialist groups they should look at and join with on the streets and in the campaigns to mount a militant fight for asylum seekers.

I replied on the site. I said:

This was written no doubt before Shorten and Marles tried to preempt the debate at the Party conference on Saturday by adopting the turn back the boats policy. That ‘me too’ on boats is yet another nail in the coffin of the idea that Labor is a progressive party.

By playing footsie with the Liberals, Labor, the party that introduced mandatory detention and then offshore processing on Manus and Nauru, only shifts the debate further and further to the inhumane right.

The parties that demonise and attack asylum seekers will soon be demonising and attacking workers more and more.

The logic of Jon’s comment about the Greens representing what he understands to be true Labor values. is for him to join the Greens.

I don’t agree with his analysis. I think the Greens are just another party (like Labor) that wants to manage capitalism.

Their track record when in power (Nick McKimm in Tasmania attacking public schools for example) and overseas shows that they too are subject to the same pressures to capitulate to capital when in power, pressures they invariably give in to as well.

I think the alternative [to joining the Greens] is to build a left wing party based in the working class and on the struggles of today, both economic and political. Our final goal should be not like Labor or the Greens to manage capitalism but to win socialism, the democratic control of society so that production is to satisfy human need, not to make a profit. That is why I am proud to be a member of small socialist group Solidarity (

I have written more extensively about the nature of the Labor Party and its degeneration, viewed through the prism of the MRRT in this academic piece if anyone is interested. The minerals resource rent tax: the Australian Labor Party and the continuity of change (


So let me say to those good Labor Party members fighting for a better world against the Abbott Government and their own leadership,  at least consider a socialist alternative like Solidarity.  Join us on the streets and in the campaigns for refugees and asylum seekers.

Labor is the party that leads in attacking refugees


Anyone else notice a pattern here?

Gary Foley: the farce of recognition

Gary Foley has written the following on Facebook about the recognition campaign:

I have seen it suggested that the debate about constitutional recognition merely involves discussion about the wording of proposed change. The simple truth is that there is NO argument in Black Australia about the wording. That is an illusion generated by the tiny minority of mostly black middle-class advocates of recognition.

The fact is that a clear majority of ordinary Aboriginal people are NOT interested in constitutional recognition! It is regarded by most Aboriginal people as a meaningless token gesture that will do nothing to alleviate the appalling imprisonment rates, shocking health statistics and complete lack of land rights and self-determination.

Furthermore, anyone who thinks that any federal referendum held today that involves Aboriginal issues has any chance of being passed in this country today is deluding themselves. The fact is that since the era of Pauline Hanson most Australians now feel entitled to openly express the deeply embedded racism that has been a major defining feature of Australian society since Federation. Consequently there will NOT be a repeat of the result seen in the famous 1967 referendum. One does not have to be a clairvoyant to predict this.

So if you believe constitutional recognition is the way to go then dream on. It will never happen.