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John Passant

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July 2013



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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)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Saturday’s socialist speak out

Hundreds in Sydney today sit down in protest against Labor's rotten refugee policies

Reactionary Kevin Rudd has attempted to outflank reactionary Tony Abbott on asylum seekers by denying sanctuary in Australia to those fleeing war, rape, murder, torture and imprisonment. Genuine refugees (that is, most asylum seekers) will be resettled in Papua New Guinea. Labor is using its imperialist dominance of Papua New Guinea to impose this ‘solution’ on it.

In doing so it is effectively abandoning the Refugee Convention.

The denial of the right to refuge in Australia for those who come here by boat seeking asylum is a denial of all that is compassionate and humane as well as being possibly a breach of Australian and international law. A government which viciously attacks asylum seekers will eventually turn its viciousness on workers here.

It is the act of a Labor Party whose only interest is power, not principle, and the exercise of that power for the rich and capital. I will write more about this when or if my anger and disgust subside and I can be more rational, but how can anyone defend Labor as a home for progressive politics let alone progressive people, especially when we see Labor left figures like Doug Cameron supporting the move?

Clearly the left must mobilise against this. The Refugee Action Committee in Canberra has called a demonstration for 12 Pm on Saturday 27 July in Petrie Plaza. In Brisbane the demo is on tomorrow (Sunday.) Sydney’s is going on as I speak. Hundreds have sat down in protest. In Melbourne over 500 turned out at short notice in the rain to protest. Here is a link to a short video of this brilliant demo. In Perth about 200 people demonstrated, according to ABC News.

As Greens’ Senator Ludlam said at the Perth demonstration: “This is a proposal so offensive that even Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott hadn’t thought of it.” What we have now is the HowRudd government.

The way forward lies in more and more and bigger and bigger demonstrations. Let’s build a Parliament of the streets to defend refugees. Given the outrage expressed too by the Greens I hope that they seriously help build an extra-parliamentary mass movement against Labor’s abandonment of refugees.

The Labor Government has also as part of the package to bring forward the move to an emissions trading scheme announced changes to the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) treatment of cars. The statutory valuation method allows a crude determination of private taxable use. Twenty percent of the value of the car is the car fringe benefit value.

Thus if I use a car provided by my employer and that car’s worth for FBT purposes is $40,000, the statutory method means the FBT value is $8000. (That amount is then grossed up by a factor of about 2 depending on the circumstances and taxed in the hands of the employer at 46.5%.)

The problem with the statutory method is that while it is simple and easy, it generally underestimates the amount of private, taxable use of the company car. The Treasury Tax Expenditures Statement estimates the amount of revenue foregone last year under the method at $930 million and this year (before the change) at $780 million.

The Treasurer has said there are about 320000 people salary sacrificing under the statutory method. My back of the envelope calculations (for a more expansive article on the issue to be published here) are that the change means those using the statutory method will be on average about $2500 worse off. In today’s Australian Financial Review Katie Walsh interviews a number of experts who come to much the same conclusion if not more.

Will those worse off include workers? Absolutely. The Treasurer himself says that two-thirds of those using the statutory method earn more than $100,000. So one-third earn less than $100,000 and are very likely to be workers, including those in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector. Some people earning more than $100,000, for example mine workers, mid-ranking public servants, are still workers.

The changes will impact on low paid workers in the NFP sector. In that sector employers are in effect exempt on fringe benefits per employee up to $17000 or $30000 depending on the particular NFP employer. So salary packaging is rife int eh sector to help address the very low pay many of the workers are paid. The tax free fringe benefits package costs employers less too than paying salary, so in times of government underfunding, the fringe benefits become one important option for after pay living standards in the sector.

Given that car fringe benefits under the statutory method make up a large majority of fringe benefits on offer in all sectors, including the NFP sector, the change will cut their living standards by $2000 to $3000 per year.

None of this is to deny that there is a lot of bullshit being sprouted by the various industry sectors about the change, much like the bullshit about the havoc that the Resource Super Profit Tax would produce.

The change won’t wreck the car industry. The global market is doing that. In any event any industry dependent on a tax expenditure to survive has little prospect of long term survival.

Instead of propping the industry up with tax grants and direct grants worth billions a year – OK instead of propping up GM, Ford and Toyota profits – maybe the time has come to think outside the box.

Climate change threatens the existence of humanity and with it the capitalist system. Converting the current car plants to plants that build buses, solar panels and solar and wind plants presents a visionary option for defending manufacturing industry in Australia and helping address climate change. The current billions per year in direct and indirect subsidies to the car industry could fund part of that change.

Any such re-positioning would have to be part of a wider program of moving Australia to being a totally renewable energy society in a decade, something Beyond Zero Emissions has made a very cogent argument for.

The cost is estimated at $370 billion over ten years or $40 billion a year . That is a lot of money but $40 billion is only about one percent of the wealth of the top 20 percent in Australia.

Rudd has bought forward by a year a move from a fixed price (of currently $24.15 a tonne on CO2 emissions) to a floating price, which is likely to be around $6 a tonne. The Greens got into a tizz over a change they have supported in principle since 2010. Neither a fixed price nor a floating price will address climate change. Maybe the Greens should lead demonstrations for real action on climate change. Make the country ungovernable until Government gets serious. Greens?

Fixing up the carbon tax, attacking refugees, reforming the ALP, show that Kevin Rudd is clearing the decks for an imminent election. Clearing the decks means moving to the extreme right, at least on refugees. On the carbon tax Rudd continues the inaction that capitalism imposes on capitalist politicians in addressing the issue.

In the US a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. When the legal game is rigged in favour of killing young black men as part of societal racism, what do you expect? Justice? Really? I have a bridge in Sydney you might be interested in buying.

Rolling Stone put an angelic photo of one of the Boston Bombers on its front page. The photo challenges the stereotype of Muslims as evil murderers.

Detroit has filed for bankruptcy protection. The market rules and reliance on an auto industry shows the shortsightedness of capitalism and its contempt for the ordinary working people who built the city and the profits of the car companies.

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