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)

Sick kids and paying upfront

(0)

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The Australian Treasurer rang me today about tax reform

 

The Australian Treasurer, Joe Hockey, rang me this morning to ask me to make a submission to the Government on taxing the rich in response to the tax discussion paper Re:think.

He thought that as a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation in the Australian Tax Office and a political economist, tax academic and socialist I could contribute a lot to his and the nation’s thinking about tax reform. He said I had some good tax reform ideas. Mr Hockey especially praised my slogan of taxing the rich.

The Treasurer said that he wants to seriously explore my suggestions of an annual wealth tax, estate and gift duties, taxing the capital gains on houses sold for more than $2m, taxing incomes greater than $250,000 at 100 percent and getting rid of the tens of billions worth of tax concessions for business and the rich.

‘Nothing is off the agenda and your exciting ideas about taxing the rich should be part of the national conversation,’ Mr Hockey told me.

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Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen: Some deaths are more important than others – Part II

Australia’s SBS News led off with the Germanwings story for 15 minutes when it happened.

Nothing so far tonight on the same channel about US ally and repressive authoritarian dictatorship Saudi Arabia bombing a refugee camp in Yemen and killing 40 civilians and injuring 250.  Oh hang on. Thirty minutes in there was a one minute report in which the Yemeni President blamed the Houthi rebels for hiding in the camp and bringing the bombing on themselves.

Some deaths are more important than others. Why?

In this case Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabism and the intellectual and spiritual root of much fundamentalist Islam, is a close ally of the United States in the region and is doing its dirty work in Yemen.

After the bombings, it looks likely Saudi Arabia will now invade. For a good article by on the situation click here.

The bombing and the invasion are perhaps a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. (Despite the rhetoric it is not clear Iran is involved to the extent being portrayed.)  The bombings and invasion cold have ramifications in Saudi Arabia’s oil rich eastern province where there is, according to some reports, a Shia majority and, just across the water from the Eastern province, in Bahrain where the regal dictatorship is Sunni while the majority of the population are Shia.

Of shit sandwiches, tax ‘reform’ and taxing the rich

On Monday morning, Joe Hockey, the Australian Treasurer, released Re:think, a tax discussion paper. It is no accident that he did so at the Australian Council of Social Services office.  Let’s hope ACOSS don’t fall for the 3 card trick that is the tax discussion paper.

Given the widespread opposition to the 2014 Budget, the one percent have drawn an important lesson from that debacle – consult with the intended victims before launching attacks on poor people and workers.  That is what the tax discussion paper is about. This Damascene conversion to talking to people begs the question – is a tax shit sandwich no longer a shit sandwich if it has consultation sprinkles on top? To ask the question is to answer it.

Like oher commentators I was going to ask how Abbott and Hockey could sell us this anti-working class tax package or aspects of it while one third of big business has an effective tax rate of less than ten percent and companies like Apple and Google pay very little tax here. It now appears Hockey will announce a diverted profits tax in the Budget to supposedly tax the likes of Google. Without having seen the detail it looks like it an attempt to tax Google and the like on their Australian sourced income. This in the case of Google might be difficult to apply because on the scant information so far it appears to be contrary to the Singapore Australia Double Tax Convention. Of course the Australian government could override that but this may be a step too far and adopting a new tx approach for treaties will have ramifications for more than just Singapore. It may represent real, shock horror, sovereign risk.

So a diverted profits tax might be part of the snake oil to sell a greater tax burden on us, the 99%. Hockey can loudly proclaim he is dong something about big business tax avoidance while not actually doing anything that is effective or will stand up to judicial scrutiny.

Re:think is aimed at generating tax outcomes that benefit the 1% under the guise of consultation with the 99%. There will be debate and discussion, but a narrowly focused debate and discussion within the tax parameters set by the one percent about tax efficiency and the like. This is code for further reducing tax equity and increasing the tax burdens of the poor (e.g, the GST rate increase and base broadening) and the working class (through bracket creep).

Equity gets little mention in the paper and does not figure in the deliberations about suggested reforms. Thus there is for example almost no discussion about wealth taxes in the paper apart from a fleeting reference to estate duties. A wealth tax is a progressive tax that could be levied on the top twenty percent of wealth holders since they hold almost fifty percent of the wealth in Australia. Such an annual tax at one percent would yield on my back of the envelope calculations $30 billion and have little impact on business or investment.

In the paper there is lots of discussion about ‘tax system sustainability’ or similar. This is code for making working class taxpayers pay more tax or receive less social wage, or a combination of both.

For example the discussion paper suggests that technological and other changes threaten the Goods and Services Tax base. So it asks ‘To what extent are the tax settings (that is, the rate, base and administration) for the GST appropriate? What changes, if any, could be made to these settings to make a better tax system to deliver taxes that are lower, simpler, fairer?’

If we are having a truly national conversation then my answer would be abolish the GST and tax the rich on their wealth and their income, or, to use the language supposedly of a former right-wing UK Labor Chancellor, squeeze the rich until their pips squeak.

Piketty and others argue that growing inequality threatens social stability and abolishing regressive taxes and replacing them with more progressive ones addresses to some extent those concerns. However tax is a second order issue when it comes to inequality. The real reason for growing inequality is the lack of working class struggle over the last 3 decades.  The share of national income going to labour is at near historic lows and that going to capital historic highs. The best response to that is to strike to win big real wage increases and to cut the working week to 30 hours.

Let’s be clear. We aren’t having a national tax conversation; we have been served a tax reform program that reflects the wider agenda of neoliberalism, first introduced into Australia by Labor in 1983,  of shifting more and more wealth from workers and the poor to capital and the rich. Tax over that period of time in Australia has become less progressive, another indicator of the wealth shift to the rich and powerful.

Hockey will try to buy us off with promises of tax cuts if the GST is increased and/or its base broadened to include health, education and fresh food. Bracket creep will erode these tax cuts ina few years just as it did the ‘compensatory’ tax cuts when the GST was introduced.

Company tax cuts mean that those many big businesses who are, according to the Tax Justice Network/United Voice report ‘Who pays for our common wealth?’ tax leaners,  will get even more rewards. The paid poppinjays of the 1% argue that company tax cuts lead to more employment and higher wages. This assumes the extra profit in the hands of the bosses is reinvested in labour and more competitive pricing. In fact the general tendency of capital is to reinvest their profits in capital in the form of labour saving machinery, etc. Ireland has a company tax rate of 12.5%. That didn’t save it from the ravages of the global financial crisis. In fact it may have worsened the situation. Ireland’s unemployment rate in early 2012 was over 15 percent and would have been over 20% except for mass migration.  A 12.5% company tax rate didn’t save it.

Despite the fact Joe Hockey has said nothing is off the table, there won’t be any discussion of a carbon tax or rent taxes. In fact the paper doesn’t mention environmental taxes on the big polluters at all or getting back any of the super profits (economic rents) the banks make and the mining companies used to make. The only real reference in the paper to them is the government bragging about their repeal.  So too there will be no discussion of wealth taxes, of estate duties or of soaking the rich till their pips squeak. It will be a carefully stage managed consultation process within narrow limits.

In 2013 Labor bought forward proposals to abolish the outrageous section 25-90 which allows interest and other deductions against certain untaxed income. Joe Hockey after some pressure from his big business mates abandoned the proposal. There goes $600 million that could have come in handy to spend on public schools, hospitals, transport.  No doubt this proposal is back on the agenda eh Joe? Ha! The Re:think paper doesn’t mention it.

Budget speculation has been on a tax of 0.05% on bank deposits up to $250,000. This is supposedly to help pay for the government guarantee on such deposits, a guarantee which assists the banks to raise money and which is unlikely to ever be used. Details are unclear and it wasn’t mentioned in the tax discussion paper, but if it goes ahead the banks will pass on the tax to customers. This will be a further tax on workers and the poor.

Another sleight of hand in the paper is to offer up for consideration a few sacrificial lambs like the massive benefits the tax system delivers to rich superannuants and rich will be superannuants. [After writing this, while the Treasurer might be keen to wind back some of the superannuation concession going to the uber rich, the Prime Minister has attacked Labor support for such changes as being a great big new tax, tax, tax, tax. Funny how the Prime Minister thinks restoring some modicum of equity to the tax system and taking away a tax rort for the rich is all about increasing tax. Well, not funny really; sad, very sad.]

The paper also asks does the capital gains tax 50% exemption ‘and negative gearing influence savings and investment decisions, and if so, how?’ While addressing these legally sanctioned tax rorts is a step forward, the fact that they are discussion points to justify cuts to company tax rates and to increase the rate and broaden the base of the GST confirms this is tax discussion paper is a document of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.

The answer to the tax and budgetary dilemmas seems pretty clear. Tax the rich.

Should mass civil disobedience be the next step for the refugee movement?

From left, former chief minister Jon Stanhope and former refugee Ismail Hussaini in Garema Place for the rally. Photo: Melissa Adams

The letter I sent today to the Canberra Times o the refugee rally on Sunday.

I read Ross Peake’s report on the Palm Sunday Rally for refugees in Garema Place on Sunday ‘Gallagher to push for refugee policy change’ (The Canberra Times page 2 Monday March 30.) I must have gone to a different rally. For example Ross made no mention of the vibrancy, loud chants, the cheering, of the 3000 who attended. He did not even mention the various groups such as Unionists for Refugees, the faith based groups, students, gays and lesbians, that marched under their own banners to join together to defend asylum seekers.

Ross spends most of his time quoting newly installed Labor Party Senator Katy Gallagher. Gallagher did not speak at the rally but according to Peake’s report will seek changes to Labor’s refugee policies at the next Labor Party National Conference. This is at odds with what Jon Stanhope, former Labor Party ACT Chief Minister who did speak at the rally said. According to Jon Labor’s national policy already opposes mandatory detention and offshore processing but as the sorry history of Labor shows national conference decisions are mostly bits of paper the parliamentary party ignores.

Gallagher is a member of Labor for Refugees. Let’s be clear. The Labor Party leadership cynically manipulates this group of good Labor Party members to give the impression that mere members can advocate for and win real change. At the same time the Parliamentary Party will continue its brutalisation and demonisation of refugees in its bidding war with the Liberals to implement crueller and crueller refugee policies irrespective of what national policy says.

As Sister Jane Keogh made clear at the rally a vote for Labor is a vote for the bastardry that is, in my view, the bipartisan policy of murdering, raping, beating and torturing refugees (including children) in concentration camps here and offshore.

The three thousand at the rally want something very different. Some of us are looking for ways to advance our fight to defend asylum seekers.

In my opinion, and as the great US civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the struggle for women’s liberation and for gay liberation all show, being polite and playing by the rules of the oppressors and their allies doesn’t work.

My own view is that for the refugee movement in Australia to defend asylum seekers and to defeat the rotten, cruel, inhuman and rights abusing policies of both the Liberals and Labor we need to begin to have a discussion about civil disobedience as the next step in our campaign to free the refugees from Australia’s concentration camps here and offshore and from the hellholes in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Ross Peake’s article can be found here. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/…/palm-sunday-rally-for-ref…

Maybe Joe Hockey could tax the super profits of the banks instead of our bank accounts

Mainstream media is abuzz with suggestions Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey will introduce a 0.5% tax on deposits into bank accounts with up to $250000 in them. This latter figure is the level up to which government underwrites and guarantees payment in the event of a run on the banks.

Instead of a tax on bank accounts, how about a super profits tax on the most profitable banks in the world. Price control their offerings too.

Why Solidarity: some early thoughts

I wrote this in response to a question on a Facebook thread about the differences between Solidarity and Socialist Alternative:

‘… it is not appropriate to go into comparisons.The comrades in Socialist Alternative have chosen a different approach. So be it.

Some of ‘the positives for me about joining Solidarity are that I have rejoined a socialist group, and am part of the struggle with others to win a new world. It is democratic and open, full of intelligent, active and, in Canberra branch anyway, young people involved in various campaigns and building them and building their understanding of the world including by working with others in the struggles of the day as best we can but also through our own education. It is such a joy to go along to branch meetings and hear the discussions and debates, all in a comradely and welcoming fashion.

‘In terms of a more general approach the commitment to socialism from below in the form of the state capitalist analysis and the fact it is at the heart of its analysis of relevant events (e.g. the 25 th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall anniversary, Cuba etc) and reflects a commitment to socialism from below and its public promulgation as a sign of that ongoing commitment is also very very important to me. There are more positives but that will do for starters.’

Who are the socialist group Solidarity in Australia?

For readers who may not know, two weeks ago I joined Solidarity, a small socialist organisation in Australia. The first step in explaining my decision is to explain who Solidarity are. Their ‘About Us’  section on the Solidarity Online website set out below does this very well.

WHO ARE SOLIDARITY?

Solidarity is a socialist group with branches across Australia.

We are opposed to the madness of capitalism, which is plunging us into global recession and misery at the same time as wrecking the planet’s future. We are taking the first steps towards building an organisation that can help lead the fight for an alternative system based on mass democratic planning, in the interests of human need not profit. The name Solidarity invokes one of the basic values of working class struggle—standing together in the fight for our rights. But it also stands for the wider solidarity we want to see uniting those fighting for change around different issues into a united fightback against the capitalist system and the ruthless drive for profits that dominates our world.

We’re committed to building social movements and the wider left, through throwing ourselves into struggles for social justice, against racism and to strengthen rank-and-file unionism. We’re active in the movement for refugee rights, the student movement and the fight for education, the campaign to scrap the NT intervention and as activists in our unions.

Solidarity is a member of the International Socialist Tendency, a network of socialist groups around the world that shares a common political outlook.

Join us in the struggle to end the wars, inequality and environmental destruction that threatens our world. Please get in contact with us or find out more about our events and the campaigns we are involved in, or come along to our regular meetings. Join our Facebook page for regular updates. United we can win a better world.

Read what we have to say on current issues: climate change and the carbon taxthe Abbott government,refugee rights, Aboriginal rights, Egypt’s revolution and the Arab Spring and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WHERE DO WE COME FROM?

Solidarity was formed in February 2008 when three socialist groups—Solidarity, Socialist Action Group and the International Socialist Organisation—voted to merge into a new organisation. All three groups shared a common commitment to the politics of the International Socialist Tendency and the traditions of socialism from below. As a result our three former publications Red Alert, Socialist Worker and Solidarity have been replaced by the publication of a monthly magazine, Solidarity and the Solidarity website.

WHAT DO WE STAND FOR?

Solidarity 2009 Conference agreed to this statement of our basic principles:

What we stand for

Capitalism is a system of crisis and war

Capitalism is a system of competition, crisis, and war based on exploitation of workers, in which production is for profit not human need. Through environmental degradation and climate change capitalism has become a threat to humanity’s future and life on the planet. Although workers create society’s wealth, they have no control over production or distribution.

Capitalism stifles democracy and smothers creative freedom, creating a society of insecurity and alienation.

Workers power and socialism is the solution

We stand for socialism, a society that would be based on democratically elected workers councils which control and plan the economy to produce for human need and environmental sustainability.

The authoritarian states like the USSR/Russia and China were not socialist but a form of state capitalism where workers had no control over society and were denied even basic rights.

The working class – because of its role in production – has the power to challenge and change the existing system and create a better world. To help realise this potential we are active building our unions and the confidence of rank and file workers in their own power.

What about elections and parliament?

Parliament, the army, the police and the courts are institutions of the capitalist state. The state’s role is to maintain the dominance of the corporate ruling class over the rest of society. It cannot be taken over and used by the working class.

While parliament can be a platform for socialists and while the outcome of elections matter, real change doesn’t come through parliament. It is won by mass action in strikes, protests and demonstrations.

We are internationalists
The working class is international and the struggle for socialism has no national boundaries. We oppose everything that turns workers from one country against those from another. Only by struggling together can we successfully challenge the power of the multinational corporations and our own nation states. We oppose imperialism and support all genuine national liberation struggles.

Australia is an imperialist power in its own right. We oppose Australian nationalism and immigration controls. We welcome migrants and refugees.

Respect and liberation

We oppose sexism, racism and homophobia. We stand against the oppression of women, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. We oppose discrimination against Muslims and Middle Eastern people.

Discrimination and oppression demoralises and denies rights to its victims. It weakens working class solidarity by dividing workers against themselves.

We campaign to defend and extend all democratic rights.

Linking up the struggles

We are active in movements for environmental, social and economic change. We develop the ideas and strategies needed to help campaigns win their demands. We bring together activists in the working class and the other movements to strengthen each movement and build a common struggle against the system.

Educate, agitate, organise

Socialism cannot be introduced from above – through parliament or a coup or by a party acting in the name of the working class. The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself. Power can only be taken from the ruling class by the conscious action of the vast majority of the working class.

We are an organisation of activists, anti-capitalists and revolutionary socialists committed to socialism from below.
A democratic revolutionary party is necessary to deepen resistance to capitalism and to build a movement to overthrow and replace the system.

Solidarity members are beginning to lay the basis for a party by actively participating in today’s struggles.

Another world is necessary. Another world is possible. If you want to help build the struggle for a better world, join us.

You can contact Solidarity via the contact section of our website, via Facebook or via email at solidarity@solidarity.net.au

Alternatively, you can also contact our national office in Sydney.

Phone: 02 9211 2600 (or +61 02 9211 2600 if ringing from outside Australia.)

Post:

PO Box 375
Sydney South NSW Australia 2012

My 23 March Razor Sharp interview with Sharon Firebrace

This is the link to my 35 minute radio interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Monday 23 March. Among other things we discuss the backpedalling of this sneaky government, the genocide of driving Aboriginal people from their lands, a double dissolution and strikes and demonstrations to drive Abbott and co out and shift Labor to the left.  And much much more.

Not all deaths are the same – Part 1

 

If only the 24 women murdered by their partners or former partners in Australia so far this year had died in a plane crash we might hear about them and have some debate about how to address this systemic issue.

Instead we have by and large ruling class  silence on these women. Yet SBS can devote 15 minutes as its first lead article to an airplane crash in France in which 2 Australians died. Australian politicians pontificate about how sad it is.

These are the same politicians who say nothing about domestic violence other than appoint Rosie Batty as the Australian of the Year to salve their consciences and hide their lack of real action.

Worse than that Abbott and co have and are cutting funding for women’s support services.

Violence against women, whether by partners or strangers, is a systemic issue and addressing it would require a real examination of the system that produces it, something no capitalist government will do in any real and substantial way; certainly not the Abbott government.

Abbott still wants cuts

Abbott may be on the ropes, but we need more strikes, protests and grassroots resistance to fight the Liberals’ agenda and finish him off write the Solidarity editors. To read the whole article in Solidarity online click here.