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. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (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
(0)

Real debate?
(0)

System change, not climate change
(0)

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How about free buses, instead of light rail, for Canberra?

Back in November 2013 Shane Rattenbury, the Territory and Municipal Services Minister,  announced that  ACTION buses was going to spend $41.1 million on 77 new buses to be delivered between May 2014 and mid-2017.

The cost of the light rail on the government’s figures will be almost$800 million, although as M Silex argues (Canberra Times Letters 22 December) if you include interest payments and operating subsidies that figure could be between $1.9 bn and $2.4 bn over 30 years.

Instead of so much money going to a white elephant and the property developers who appear to be the main beneficiaries,  why doesn’t this Labor/Greens government buy more buses and phase in free bus travel over the next few years?  That is a subsidy I could support and one that benefits all Canberrans and our environment.

And since it won’t cost $786 million to do, we could abandon the light rail project and save money.

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The GP co-payment and the Goods and Services Tax – more than $60 to go to the doctor?

Through the back door the Abbott government has introduced  what is in effect a $5 co-payment on visits to the doctor and also frozen the indexation of the Medicare rebate until 2018.

At the moment, the Medicare rebate is $37.05. This is well below the rate needed to cover the real cost of attending the doctor.

The Australian Medical Association for example recommends doctors charge $75 for each standard consultation and many, including mine, do.  That rate will increase to $85 by 2018.

The Abbott government has by regulation reduced the Medicare rebate to $32.05. Now keep in mind this will be the rate until 2018 unless the Senate disallows the regulation next year when it sits.

Even if it does disallow the reduction to $32.05, the freezing of the rebate was done by administrative action and cannot be overturned by the Senate. So the rate for the next 3 years will be frozen at either $32.05 if the Senate doesn’t vote down the cut or $37.05 if it does.

I will work through an example in a minute, assuming the rate is $32.05.  However we also need to be aware of likely GST developments and the impact that will have on the cost of going to the doctor.

Treasurer Joe Hockey the other day announced there won’t be an increase in the GST. It will stay at 10%. The money just wasn’t there, he claimed, to pay for the necessary compensating income tax cuts (and increased welfare payments.)

income tax cuts in compensation for a shift to consumption taxes are smoke and mirrors. As wages increase over time it pushes taxpayers into higher tax brackets.  The compensation is eroded by bracket creep.

For example the GST income tax cuts were clawed back by bracket creep within four years, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, echoing one of its unions.

It shows how much the ideology of budget crisis and its incessant parroting has infected the Abbott government that one of their underlying goals, increasing consumption taxes on the poor and working class  and tax cuts for the rich and companies is not on the agenda.

While Abbott and Hockey may be idiots, they aren’t complete political idiots. They are incredibly unpopular for their unfair Budget.  This may be why the white paper on tax has been put back to early next year; to rewrite it to argue against increasing the rate at this time.

That just leaves extending it to fresh food, health and education.  Hockey hasn’t ruled this out, so maybe they are more stupid than I thought.  That should be a big vote winner at the next election. If they can’t sell a Budget that attacked poor people with specific proposals like the then $7 GP co-payment, imagine how well they’ll go selling increased prices  for fresh food, for going to the doctor and on education outlays, especially if they don’t have the money to pay for income tax cuts. The imposition of GST on these non-taxed categories will raise about $12 bn.  News reported these figures in May this year.

According to Deloitte Access Economics figures, applying the GST to health and education would raise $6 billion a year.

Broadening it to include fresh foods would raise another $6 billion — a combined $12 billion annual saving from closing loopholes in the GST base.

Even if they do scrape a bit of money out of the lurks and rorts the rich and powerful get to  give some sort of income tax cut for workers, or use some of the $12 bn to give a bit to workers and those on welfare payments, the whole point would be to limit that compensation. It will more likely be used to help cut the budget deficit and/or give tax cuts to companies.  Maybe they can pull a rabbit out of the hat that will have us cheering in the streets for paying more for fresh foods and going to the doctors but I can’t see it.

In 2014 the cost of seeing a non-bulk billing doctor would be $75 (the standard AMA charge) less the Medicare rebate of $37.05, that is $37.95. What about in 2018?

Let’s imagine a worst case scenario. It is 2018 and the GST has been extended to fresh food, health and education, and the Medicare rebate is frozen at $32.05. The standard AMA approved consultation fee has risen from the 2014 rate of $75 to $85 to cover increased  costs. So here is a typical situation for a person on the average wage (about $78,000) and their family going to the doctor.

You see your doctor and because you are working you are charged $85. On top of that you have to pay ten percent GST, so you pay $85 plus $8.50, meaning you pay $93.50 just to go to the doctor. Under the 3 year freeze on the cut Medicare rebate you get back just $32.05. That simple ten or 15 minute trip to the doctor has cost you 0ver $60 ($61.45 to be precise).

The price of seeing the doctor has risen in just over 3 years under Abbott and Hockey from $37.95 to $61.45, or $23.50. That is almost 62% over that time, or about 14% per annum every year for four years.

Your wages haven’t kept pace with inflation and are falling rapidly in real terms.

You realise the cost so you don’t go to the doctor.  You save yourself $60 but at what cost to the long term health of you or your family?

Socialist candidate for the Senate welcomes asylum seeker and activists stopping forced deportation

Independent socialist and A.C.T. Senate candidate John Passant today welcomed the failure of the Abbott government to forcibly deport asylum seek Wei Lin back to harm in China.

Refugee Action Coalition and other activists leafleted passengers as they boarded about the forced deportation. When on board, Wei Lin, handcuffed, spoke out on the plane against his refouelment by Scott Morrison. He said:

I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come the airport & board on the airplane against my will…

It appears that 7 passengers supported Wei by refusing to take their seats until he was taken off the plane.  After twenty minutes, the captain declared the situation unresolved and taxied the plane back to the departure lounge. He refused to take off with Wei on board. Some of the passengers then clapped as Wei was led off the plane.

‘This is a great victory for asylum seekers resiting the criminal actions of the Abbott Government,’ Mr Passant said. He expressed the hope that more forced deportees would follow Wei’s action and praised the activists for their actions.

‘This is unfortunately just a short tem victory,’ he said. ‘The government will continue to try to send asylum seekers back to harm.’ Mr Passant called on the Abbott Government and the future Labor government to stop forcibly deporting asylum seekers.

‘I condemn the silence of Labor on this issue and call on Labor’s Senate appointee in the ACT, Katy Gallagher, to denounce this attempted forced deportation and to support the fight for refugees,’ Mr Passant said.

Socialist Senate candidate calls for price controls on high petrol prices in the A.C.T.

John Passant, independent socialist and prospective ACT Senate candidate, today welcomed the call of Chief Minister Andrew Barr for the ACCC to investigate high petrol prices in the ACT.

However, Mr Passant pointed out that former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher made the same call and nothing happened.

Mr Passant called on Chief Minister Barr to introduce legislation immediately to control the price of petrol in the ACT, a power that the executive clearly has under our Self-Government Act.

If he doesn’t do this, we’d have to ask why not, Mr Passant said. Perhaps, he suggested, Barr’s call for an ACCC investigation is an attempt to give the impression of doing something about the rent seeking activity of Coles and Woolworths without actually doing anything.

Senate socialist candidate calls on ABC workers to strike indefinitely to defend the public broadcaster

Independent socialist and prospective ACT Senate candidate, John Passant, today called on ABC staff to walk off the job indefinitely to stop the mass sackings taking place right now.

Mr Passant said that such action would be ‘illegal’ under Labor and Liberal industrial laws and the workers would face fines and possibly jail for striking.

Good luck with any government trying to fine or jail Leigh Sales, Barry Cassidy, Virginia Haussegger or Annabel Crabb if they or other similar well known ABC journalists did have the courage to take justified strike action to defend the ABC, Mr Passant said.

ABC workers would have massive public support if they did strike, Mr Passant said. The unions have the perfect opportunity to defend jobs, defend the ABC and smash the rotten laws restricting our freedom to strike he added. Mr Passant said that workers at the ABC have little to lose and a lot to gain by striking until the Abbott government and management back down.

They can win but only concerted strike action offers that possibility, Mr Passant said. The time for pussyfooting around and letting the government and management destroy jobs and with it the ABC is past. Militant action can win, Mr Passant said. He urged all ABC workers to organise in their workplaces now to strike to defeat the jobs massacre.

Put a socialist in the Senate

Independent socialist and prospective Senate candidate in the ACT, John Passant, today welcomed the selection of former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher as the Labor Party’s replacement for retiring Senator Kate Lundy.

Mr Passant said that he looked forward to debating the neoliberal and pro-austerity Ms Gallagher on the big economic and social issues of the day.

Mr Passant, a member of the Canberra Refugee Action Committee and its newly formed Unionists for Refugees, challenged Ms Gallagher to debate him on the ALP’s rotten refugee policies and program.

Mr Passant also said that Labor’s neoliberalism would be a particular target of his campaign. Unlike Ms Gallagher, I oppose the Orwellian named ‘efficiency’ dividend, he said.

We need more public servants, not less, he added.

The Tax Office for example has just cut 3000 experienced and talented staff and will get rid of another 2000 over the next 3 years, Mr Passant said. He pointed out that will of necessity mean rich and powerful taxpayers will be able to get away with even more tax dodging.

He added that, unlike Labor, he is committed to rebuilding the ATO to enable the Office to crack down on the rich and powerful.

We also need more teachers, nurses, hospital beds, and better public transport, Mr Passant said.

In light of the sacking of hundreds of workers at the ABC, Mr Passant called on ABC staff to walk off the job indefinitely to stop these attacks. Such action will be ‘illegal’ under Labor and Liberal industrial laws and the workers would face fines and possibly jail for striking.

Good luck with any government trying to fine or jail Leigh Sales, Barry Cassidy, Virginia Haussegger or Annabel Crabb if they or other similar well known ABC journalists did have the courage to take justified strike action to defend the ABC, Mr Passant said.

They’d also have massive public support, he pointed out.

He said that ABC unions have a unique opportunity to not only defend the ABC by strike action but also to smash the rotten laws of Labor and the Liberals that make such action ‘illegal’.

Taxing the rich and getting rid of the rorts and concessions they enjoy will provide more than enough to improve our public schools, hospitals and transport system, Mr Passant said. It will increase employment.

Mr Passant stressed that the time for us to address climate change was now. It would cost around $400 billion over the next decade to turn Australia into a fully renewable energy society, he said.

That is a lot of money, about $40 bn a year, but a one percent annual wealth tax on the top ten percent of wealth holders in Australia would raise $20 bn a year. That’s half the money needed to become a totally renewable society, and it would little impact on the majority of Australians, Mr Passant said. A two percent annual wealth tax on the very wealthy would cover the cost, he pointed out.

Renewable energy jobs will cut the unemployment lines. The car plants could be turned into factories for solar panels, wind farms, buses, trains and trams, creating even more jobs, he said.

Mr Passant said that abolishing the superannuation tax concessions for the top ten percent of income earners and restricting rental losses to being offset against rental income would raise up to $20 bn to be spent on public health and public education.

A real rent tax on not just the miners but the banks would raise tens of billions, Mr Passant said. That could then be used to make public transport in our big cities workable, he added.

Making the current individual income tax system much more progressive, halving dividend imputation and abolishing the general capital gains tax concession, plus fixing up some of the international tax rorts the Abbott government won’t attack will give us an extra %15 bn a year which could be used to abolish university fees and improve the TAFE sector, Mr Passant said

Our politicians on their $200,000 a year salaries and perks are divorced from the effects their austerity measures have on ordinary working Australians, he said. If elected Mr Passant promised he would introduce a bill into the Senate limiting politicians’ pay to the average wage, currently $78,000 a year. That way, he said, politicians will feel the effect of their austerity program like the ordinary voters they supposedly represent.

Labor, like the Liberals, is a party of war, Mr Passant said. Unlike Labor, I will not only vote against any pro-war war measures, I will campaign against any wars our government involves us in, and use my office if elected as a centre to mobilise millions against the madness of war and the war criminals in our society who run it, he said

Mr Passant said there was much more to a radical socialist program making these sorts of demands on capital but that ultimately the way forward was the working class democratically producing goods and services to satisfy human need.

If elected Mr Passant said that his Senate Office will become activism central for unionists and those struggling for a better world, such as refugee activists, LGBTIQ activists, for those fighting against the ongoing Aboriginal genocide, for women’s liberation, for equal pay, to name a few.

Mr Passant said he was standing to give hope to those who have watched Labor become just another party of neoliberalism and who wanted a radical alternative to what was offer from Labor and the Greens.

I want disaffected Labor voters who despair at the Party’s abandonment of ordinary workers to not only vote for me but to be inspired to fight back against the austerity of the Abbott and forthcoming Shorten government, as well as the attacks by the bosses on their jobs, wages, conditions and safety at work, he said.

Let’s shake up politics in Australia. Put a Socialist in the Senate.

Further press releases will focus on individual issues, including jobs, nationalising the mines and banks under workers’ control, Aboriginal sovereignty, a treaty, removing all restrictions on the right to strike, mandating equal pay for equal work, taxing the rich, increasing social welfare spending and spending on public health, education and transport, moving Australia to a totally renewable energy society by 2024 and other issues of the day as they arise.

Joe Hockey is the best friend big business tax avoiders have

Heath Aston has an excellent article – Hockey backflips on tax laws … – in today’s Age and Sydney Morning Herald lambasting Joe Hockey as the friend of tax avoiders. He quotes me from an article in October 2014 about the Abbott government’s failure to follow through with Labor’s proposed changes to some provisions used for tax avoidance purposes.   The quote is:

John Passant, an outspoken tax expert from the Australian National University, recently wrote about the government’s decision not to abolish section 25-90 deductions.

“It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Treasurer and Treasury have listened to a group of rent seekers being unjustly rewarded by not repealing section 25-90. But since this is a government of the 1% that is not surprising and we can conclude in fact that Hockey’s bluster about addressing tax avoidance by his rich mates is just that – complete and utter bluster,” he wrote.

The Treasurer has now issued a rebuttal of sorts, although it is more spin than anything else. Relying on an unnamed expert (presumably a vested interest tax adviser from the private sector) he claims that Fairfax is wrong again on corporate tax.

Hockey getting advice from advisers to the one percent on tax laws that would apply to the one percent, only to be told by them not to go ahead with those laws, sort of proves the point, doesn’t it?

To explain, this government decided not to go ahead with Labor’s proposal last year to abolish section 25-90 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. That section breaches basic income tax standards by allowing deductions against certain exempt income. It is at the heart of a number of big business tax avoidance arrangements. According to the Labor government of the time this would have seen an extra $600 million a year collected from the tax avoiders.

Instead of changing tax laws to catch tax avoiders, Hockey wants to charge us $5 to go to the doctor, wants to double the debt of University students, wants to cut hospital spending by $940 million … On and on it goes, the attacks on the poor and workers. Truly it is all about priorities isn’t it Treasurer?

When announcing that the Abbott government wouldn’t go ahead with the repeal of section 25-90, Hockey said they would introduce more targeted changes to address the issue. They abandoned even this pretence in Monday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Evidently it would be impractical to go ahead with any changes. Impractical for whom Mr Hockey? Your rich and powerful tax avoiding mates.

I have a simple question for the Treasurer. Why don’t you tell us what the Australian Tax Office thinks about section 25-90?

Joe Hockey is the best friend big business tax avoiders have.

Not your average siege

It certainly wasn’t your usual ‘cross to the scene for a minute’ siege. This was constant, ongoing, never-ending reporting of a man who took hostages in the Lindt café in Martin Place in Sydney. There were live crosses, experts, politicians, police, passers-by. On and on it went for hour after hour.

Why was this siege any different to all the other sieges that happen? Why did this dominate the  Australian media to the exclusion of almost everything else for 24 hours?

Why? Because it fed our fears. Or perhaps because it fed what the media and ruling class hope are our fears.

 

If Man Haron Monis had been a white Christian barricaded in his home holding his wife hostage, it would have rated at best a few minutes on local television, and no or little comment in our newspapers.

On average, a woman dies every week at the hands of her male partner. No 24 hour reports, live crosses, experts, politicians. Just a brief shot of the family home and the body being removed. Domestic violence is part of the background that is Australia, part of who we are, evidently. Nothing to see here, move on.

Indeed, it is the Abbott government which is cutting funding to women’s refuges, places where some women escaping domestic violence flee to escape their violent partner.

Of course Man Haron Monis wasn’t a white Christian. What he was isn’t clear, other than mentally disturbed. The fact that he got his hostages to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing on it (the Shahada as it turns out, with a simple message, ‘There is only one God, and Mohammed is his prophet’) saw the media, the creatures as well as creators of Islamophobia, go into overdrive. Here’s the 2pm front page from the Murdoch owned Sydney newspaper, The Daily Telegraph:

 

 

IS (Islamic State) wasn’t involved.  The reference to death cult echoes our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott who called Islamic State just that a few weeks ago, without acknowledging the death cult that is Australian capitalism for indigenous Australians, women, refugees, building workers, Iraqis and Afghanis. In fact, Man Haron Monis had no connection with IS.

Piers Akerman in the same rag was clear. ‘Sydney [has been] catapulted into the horrific realm of Islamo-fascism.’

None of this is true, and to be frank the mainstream media doesn’t care about the truth when a bit of Muslim bashing is possible.

Monis acted alone. He was a nutcase with grievances against the State and life who decided to take out his anger against society by grabbing some hostages, and using the Shahada as a convenient way to focus attention on him.

This anti-Muslim hysteria was helped by the fact he was an Iranian Shia who apparently converted, at least in his own mind, to Sunni Islam so he could express sympathy with Islamic State. Couple that with a history of sexual violence and charges of accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife, and he is the perfect evil Muslim target for our stereotyping press.

Don’t imagine it was just the Telegraph, the tabloid that is the second most read newspaper in Australia, who knee-jerked with massive doses of Islamic terrorism. The day after the siege began, the  front page headline of the bosses’ paper, the Australian Financial Review, read: ‘Islamic State-linked terror grips Sydney’. It too was creating a false story.

The Prime Minister said Sydney had been touched by terrorism.

Why this false flag of terrorism narrative when even Abbott admitted Monis was deranged and living out fantasies? Why do the media and politicians fantasise these deranged fantasies? Because they fit into their agenda and reinforce our mainly state induced fears.

Our rulers have spent a lot of time since 9/11 creating real enemies in the war on terror. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the death and destruction they unleashed, not to mention the drone killings of thousands of civilians, have made millions of enemies for the West the world over.  Our ruling class, the one percent if you like, and their media,  have created the image of the Muslim terrorist and used it to frighten us into obedience.  Whenever a whiff of the possibility of Islamic terrorism arises, the one percent spring into action to reinforce the evil ‘we’ are all fighting together. The common enemy helps creates bond between workers and bosses, between rulers and ruled while helping to obscure the class war the one percent are waging against us.

Let’s hope that the ruling class rush to make this a terrorist event, rather than the actions of a mentally ill man, exposes the ruling class and its media for the manipulator of events that it is.

Many workers respond to this crude racism because capitalism alienates us from our selves.  However there is hope. The #illridewithyou campaign, where thousands upon thousands of Australians have offered support to Muslims who feel threatened or in danger, shows the basic sense of humanity, decency and solidarity workers and others have with those threatened by racism and xenophobia.

 

Unemployment is rising rapidly in Australia

The most revealing figure in the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook is the predicted 6.5%  unemployment for this financial year and next.  This is up from the Budget prediction in May of 6.25% and the current 6.3%. Growth at 2.5% won’t be enough to change this (you need at least 3%) and in fact the unemployment figure may be an underestimate.

Mark David cartoons

The Abbott government has no plan or even idea how to address this rapidly rising unemployment. Well, that is not quite true. Evidently a $5 GP co-payment, increased and de-regulated higher education fees, with student debt doubling according to MYEFO to $52 billion by 2018, and cutting a further almost $4 bn from the foreign aid Budget on top of a $7 bn cut in May will lead us to capitalist Nirvana. It would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.

This is a government which abandoned car manufacturing in Australia as part of their dirty dealing for fair trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea.  It is the government which refused to support SPC cannery at Shepparton. It is the government which is destroying many jobs at the Australian Submarine Corporation.

This is also the government which has got rid of up to 20000 public servants and with the proposed abolition or merger of 175 government agencies will get rid of thousands more. Key departments like the Australian Tax Office are only part way through their government sanctioned jobs massacre. Three thousand tax officers are gone already with another 2000 by 2017.

Government action to increase unemployment looks like a deliberate strategy from the Abbott government. Rising unemployment puts downward pressure on real wages. Both Labor and Liberal governments, in conjunction with the trade union leadership, have been cutting real wages in recent times. In 2013/14 wages rose 2.6% while inflation was 3%. For workers in the private sector, the real wage cuts were even greater, with wage increases of only 2.4%.

Lower wages supposedly mean more profit for the bosses. Shifting wealth from labour to capital has been the strategy of neoliberal governments both Labor and Liberal since 1983 and cutting real wages in a time of economic decline (in part because of the fall in growth in the Chinese economy) is one logic of neoliberal capitalism.

However slashing real wages has impacts on consumption and retail capitalism.

Despite urgings from the out of touch Treasurer Joe Hockey to spend up big for Christmas, without the money in our pockets and with the threat of being sacked hanging over our heads, we won’t be spending up big over Christmas. Retailers will cut staff or even close their doors.

Many resource and other commodity prices have fallen markedly  (although sales volumes are up).  Marginal mining operations are already closing down.  The mining maggots, the same people who threw 15% of their workforce on to the scrap heap during the GFC, are sacking thousands and thousands.  Retail and mining sackings, on top of public service and manufacturing job losses, will spread through the economy. The 6.5% unemployment prediction for this year and next could be an under-estimate.

Indeed, the latest hit to company tax collections is part of a more long term decline in company tax payments. This hints at deeper problems in Australian capitalism than just the end of the mining boom.

We live in an irrational world. We could use the car and other manufacturing plants to produce green energy outputs like solar panels, wind farms, trains, buses and trams. Profit stands in the way of us doing so. Profit prevents us from acting rationally.

Is there an alternative to rising unemployment? Workers could take over the factories they are being sacked from and begin to produce socially useful products.  In the current climate that isn’t going to happen.

We could address the Budget ‘crisis’ by taking back the $9 billion Hockey gave to the Reserve Bank, getting rid of negative gearing ($5n) on investment housing, scrapping the $15 bn in superannuation tax concessions going to the top ten percent of income earners, and imposing an annual wealth tax of one percent on the top ten percent of wealth holders (for starters). That of itself won’t address rising unemployment.  The revenue could be used to provide green and useful infrastructure jobs (rather than roads and ports for Gina Rinehart).

However because unemployment is built into the capitalist system, we will have to fight the bosses and government to stop it. That means using our industrial muscle to stop the bosses sacking us and paying us more than pittance wages.

America’s torture chambers

Nicole Colson in Socialist Worker US analyzes the Senate report documenting the use of torture by the CIA – and explains why none of those connected to it are likely to face justice.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (Eric Draper)

“THIS GOVERNMENT does not torture people.”

Turns out that George W. Bush’s indignant pronouncement in 2007 was a bald-faced lie.

We’ve known that for quite some time, of course. Since 9/11, there has been a steady stream of reports about the brutality inflicted on detainees of the U.S. government, including those “rendered” to black-site prisons around the globe, where they could be more easily tortured by foreign governments, as well as CIA operatives and other intelligence personnel.

However, with the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA use of torture–nearly 600 pages in all, and still less than 20 percent of the full, heavily redacted document–we’ve been given a staggering picture of the horrors inflicted on detainees at the hands of their American captors.

Various scandals, leaks and media reports since the September 11 attacks made it clear years ago that the CIA and U.S. military personnel routinely engaged in torture–euphemistically described with terms like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” What’s different about the Senate report is its description of just how depraved the torture methods were–and how useless torture was in extracting any information of value from supposedly “high-value” detainees.

Waterboarding of detainees, the report says, was nothing more than a “series of near drownings,” with at least one detainee needing to be medically revived after he stopped breathing. Others were subjected to sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours, along with severe “stress-and-duress” positions designed to inflict maximum physical pain. One detainee, Gul Rahman, died as a result of hypothermia after being stripped and chained to the wall in his cell at the Cobalt prison in Afghanistan (nicknamed the “Salt Pit”).

Conditions at the Salt Pit were so dire, according to the report, that they led to “psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.” Detainees were kept in total darkness in isolated cells, while loud music played constantly.

At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” and/or “rectal feedings”–humiliating and painful assaults that in at least one case included administering a pureed lunch to a detainee through an enema. These “procedures” were in no way medically necessary, as was claimed.

Adding to the psychological torment of detainees, interrogators sometimes threatened to rape or kill their family members, including their children. Some of those in charge of detainees, the report admits, “had workplace anger management issues” and had “reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”

According to the New York Times, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, former military psychologists, helped advise the CIA on the use of waterboarding and other torture methods. For their “expertise,” Jessen and Mitchell were well compensated:

In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multiyear indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE SENATE report details a litany of abuses that would have been at home during the Spanish Inquisition.

But then again, these practices are nothing new. Waterboarding dates back to the Spanish Inquisition and has been used around the globe ever since. Today, Israel uses many of the same techniques as the U.S. against Palestinians because, according to Rania Khalek at the Electronic Intifada, “[t]hese are techniques that are thought to inflict maximum suffering while minimizing the risk that they will leave telltale signs of torture on the victim’s body.”

As for creating a legal rationale for torture, the CIA again looked explicitly to Israel, the Middle East’s dominant colonial-settler state. The torture report documents that the CIA repeatedly cited a ruling by the Israeli high court that in theory outlawed the use of torture, but which in reality created loopholes that legally allow torture when it is employed in the service of stopping an “imminent” threat to life.

The problem with this logic, no matter which government is using it, is that the CIA used torture on detainees who had no knowledge of terrorist attacks. More than 20 percent of the detainees subjected to torture–26 out of 119–were wrongfully held, according to the report:

These included an “intellectually challenged” man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information, two individuals who were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources, and two individuals whom the CIA assessed to be connected to al-Qaeda based solely on information fabricated by a CIA detainee subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

Obviously, such detainees can’t be described as the “worst of the worst,” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once described them. Instead, they resorted to making up stories to satisfy their CIA interrogators–saying what they believed their captors wanted to hear in order to make the abuse stop.

In one of the biggest blows to the interrogations program, the Senate Intelligence Committee report disputes the claim that Osama bin Laden would not have been found if not for the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees. In a review of cases where the spy agency claimed that torture techniques produced useful information that wouldn’t have been collected otherwise, the report found little connection between this and “counterterrorism success.”

In other words, the Senate report underlines the CIA’s own opinion prior to 9/11. In a 1989 report to Congress, the agency said that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.”

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PREDICTABLY, THOUGH, the right-wing response to the Senate torture report has been all but apoplectic.

On Fox News, Outnumbered co-host Andrea Tantaros accused the Democrats of using the torture report for partisan reasons, before breaking into incoherent cheerleading:

The Bush administration did what the American public wanted, and that was do whatever it takes to keep us safe…The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome. We’ve closed the book on it, and we’ve stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome.

But the response of Democrats was little better. While Sen. Dianne Feinstein is posing as a champion against torture now, having pushed for the release of the report, in reality, she has repeatedly lined up with intelligence officials to keep information about the extent of U.S. torture, as well as spying on U.S. citizens, a secret–including repeatedly arguing in favor of the prosecution of whistleblowers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

Likewise, despite his promise as a candidate that “If I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our constitution is nobody above the law,” Barack Obama has refused to take action against the torturers.

Obama initially endorsed the idea of a “truth commission” to investigate the CIA’s actions, but soon dropped the idea. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder closed an investigation into torture (including torture which led to the deaths of at least two prisoners) by announcing that no charges would be brought against any individuals, whether the interrogators who engaged in physical torture or those in the CIA and Bush administration who authorized its use.

As Politico reported:

Despite the White House’s claim that Obama “strongly supports” making the report public, the CIA and Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough have been wrangling for months with Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to limit disclosure of details that Democratic senators say are crucial to understanding the narrative of the program.

The day after the release of the report, the Obama administration went to court to quash a Freedom of Information Act request made by the New York Times to disclose more than 1,700 pages of documents from the Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees–including documents explaining why no charges were filed.

In a cruel irony, the Huffington Post pointed out that while the Obama administration continues to refuse to prosecute anyone who engaged in torture or authorized its use, there is one person in jail as a result of the torture scandal–former CIA agent John Kiriakou, a whistleblower who is serving a prison sentence for revealing the name of a covert agent to a reporter. “I believe I was prosecuted not for what I did but for who I am: a CIA officer who said torture was wrong and ineffective and went against the grain,” Kiriakou said last year.

In response to the Senate torture report, calls for the prosecution of those who engaged in torture are growing internationally. Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, told the Associated Press that the report shows “there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed [it] to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law…The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

But such accountability is unlikely. The Obama administration is fundamentally committed to the same project as the Bush administration – pursuing a failed “war on terror” and projecting U.S. power around the globe – so there will be no justice for those whose lives were destroyed by U.S. torturers.