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

Real debate?

System change, not climate change



The Google tax and the tax office ‘auditing’ mutlinationals

My letter today to the Australian Financial Review


Without seeing the detail of the so-called ‘Google tax’, as a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation in the international area of the ATO it appears to me there is one possibly insurmountable problem, Australia’s double tax agreement with Singapore.  (Phillip Coorey and Fleur Anderson, ‘Treasurer poised to impose “Google tax”‘ AFR Tuesday 9 December page 1.)

Under that treay (and all Australia’s tax treaties) Singapore has taxing rights over the income of its resident companies. As a company incorporated there Google Singapore is subject to income tax in Singapore and not Australia, including on profits which are sourced from Australia.  The exception is when Google Singapore has a permanent establishment (PE) in Australia, for example a branch physically located here. Australia then has taxing rights over the income attributable to that PE.

I understand when an Australian contracts with Google Singapore (by for example placing an advertisement on Google) they do so through a server not located in Australia rather than by dealing directly with its branch here.  This means that our treaties, and indeed all our and other country tax treaties,  based as they are on 19th century concepts of physical presence, make collecting tax from Google Singapore almost impossible to do because Singapore, not Australia, has the taxing rights over Google Singapore profits arising in Australia.  (I am assuming the Australian PE of Google Singapore has little role in earning the income here.) Without a change to our Singapore, and indeed all the other tax treaties,  any income tax imposed on Google by Australia will in all likelihood be invalid under the treaty.

My suggestion is to impose an operating fee on Google and other taxpayers carrying on business in Australia but paying little tax here. Twenty percent of estimated turnover might be a starting point.

And while I have your attention on tax matters, Joe Hockey’s announcement that ten multinationals have ATO auditors embedded in them is a joke. Only ten?  Are the other hundreds of multinationals all squeaky clean?

Further, that doesn’t address the fact that for the last decade the International area of the ATO has been destroyed and its expertise wrecked, lost or dispersed.  With 2200 staff cuts so far in the last twelve months (and an extra 2500 planned for the end of 2017), more of that international and audit experience has been or will be lost. The beneficiaries of the massive job cuts in the ATO by the former KPMG partner and current Commissioner are the rich and powerful.

Putting a few auditors into ten multinationals isn’t going to change that. It is a smokescreen to cover the destruction of international expertise and capacity in the ATO and institutional changes within the organisation which favour tax avoiding big business at the expense of the rest of us.

Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, John Howard and …. Tony Abbott?

“The Howard government, the Thatcher government, the Reagan government all had rough patches in the polls, and I’m not the first leader to be subject to a bit of speculation,” Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Seven’s Sunrise.

Clearly sanity isn’t a strong point for the PM. Howard, Thatcher and Reagan were successful neoliberal bastards. (So too were Labor Party Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating, and by co-opting the trade union leadership, the most successful of all the sordid neoliberal gang.)  Abbott is a neoliberal bastard but he and his government haven’t got key parts of their neoliberal Budget through the Senate yet. He is a wannabe neoliberal bastard. He and Hockey have sparked a rebellion of the quiet against their unfair Budget.

Howard and Thatcher were competent. Reagan was as smooth as baby shit. Abbott and most of his front bench aren’t competent or smooth.

The ruling class can get away with having buffoons as leaders if they do what the elite want.  George W Bush and Reagan were successful politicians for the one percent and buffoons at the same time.

Given the rejection of Abbott and his government, the ruling class might be thinking it is time for a leadership change. The most obvious snake-oil salesman with a chance of being successful is Malcom Turnbull but his major disqualification is he can think beyond the needs of individual capitalists for immediate profit. That disqualifies him in the eyes of those Liberals who reflect and push the interests of the polluters and  other entrenched capitalists.

Some may think getting rid of Abbott would be a good thing. Not so. Palace coups are never for the benefit of the peasants.  They are to keep the lords as a group in power and their system intact so they can get more out of us. They hope that under the new leader we will smile while we are being whipped.


Some will even hanker for the ‘gold old days’ of Labor. There’s a reason they got thrown out in 2013. They were neoliberal bastards. On top of that Bill Shorten, their current leader,  looks out of his depth. He is a carbon copy of Abbot, without the ‘charisma’.  OK, without a personality.  He won’t be able like Hawke and Keating (and to some extent Rudd before Gillard cut him down) to string us along with neoliberal lies and some temporary results.

Of course voters waited with baseball bats to throw Keating out. After 13 years the Labor Party program of shifting more and more wealth from labour to capital with the support of the trade union leadership pissed off so many people that the arch neoliberal Howard swept into power. Eleven years later this neoliberal hero lost government, and his seat.

As the Victorian election shows, and the polls running in Labor’s favour by at least 52% to 48% consistently, people are no longer prepared to wait a few elections before turning on the neoliberals.

What is missing in this is any real fight-back by unions and workers against the enemy neoliberals, the conservatives, or the sneaky ‘on our side’ neoliberals, the Labor Party.  And what is missing as a consequence of that is a vibrant large left capable of challenging the dominant neoliberal parties and making the arguments for a new society based on democracy and production to satisfy human need.  We can hasten that process thorough our propaganda and our activity, but we cannot set it alight. That is the task of workers.

The choice is clear. One of the likes of Abbott, Turnbull, Bishop, Shorten, Albanese or Plibersek leading the neoliberal attack on our jobs, wages, freedoms and social spending? Or us  as workers defending jobs, wages and conditions and fighting for and winning better social services, better public health, public education and public transport,  justice for aborigines and asylum seekers and a managed decade long transition to renewable energy?



The Abbott government is in crisis so they’ll ramp up the attacks on their holy trinity – refugees, Aborigines and unions

The Abbott government is in crisis. Key parts of its brutal rule for the rich Budget are, seven months later, still stalled in the Senate.  (Labor disgracefully, but not surprisingly, did wave through $20 billion worth of cuts but that’s not enough for the one percent. They want de-regulated University fees, doctor co-payments and other atrocities against the poor ). The infighting is escalating. Even their most loyal backers the hacks and apparatchiks in the media, the likes of Albrechtsen and Bolt, have turned on them.

The first term Liberal government in Victoria was voted out last weekend. This weekend the South Australian Labor government,  in power for 12 years, won a swing to it of 8% in the Fisher by-election, and may even win the usually solid Liberal or Liberal independent seat for the first time since 1985. If Labor does win Fisher,  it would give the Labor Party majority instead of minority government in the State.

Federally the Abbott government has been unpopular almost since the day it was elected in September last. The latest Galaxy poll, out today in the Murdoch rags, gives Labor a two party preferred margin of ten percent, 55% to 45%.

I predicted a week or so ago that as the government went into deeper crisis it would try to salvage its position by increasing its attacks on the usual suspects – the holy trinity of refugees, Aborigines and unions.

This week the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, held asylum seeker children to ransom and forced the Senate to pass new immigration laws that effectively abandon international law on refugees and give this most cruel of Christians the power to destroy even more asylum seeker and refugee lives.

The more rabid supporters of the coalition have been mixing anti-refugee xenophobia with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks. The government itself has dabbled in anti-Muslim attacks through its national security laws and may heighten the fear of the other through that channel of hate.

On top of that Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs , has announced the government will adopt Twiggy Forrest’s recommendations for a remote area work for the dole scheme. This will basically force unemployed Aboriginal people to work 25 hours a week for the dole of $258 a week, or in other words a bit over $10 an hour.  The minimum wage in Australia is $640.90 per week, calculated on the basis of a week of 38 ordinary hours, or $16.87 per hour.

By the way Twiggy Forrest is one of Australia’s wealthiest billionaires. He got rich off Aboriginal land and will get richer off cheap Aboriginal labour. His company, Fortescue Metals Group, hasn’t paid income tax in Australia for the last 18 years.

[Update: I have received the following note from Byron Vale, Manager Media Relations, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, ‘A short note to alert you to some recent factual errors in your blog En Passant relating to Fortescue’s income tax payments. Every year Fortescue publishes its tax obligations in its Annual Report, which is available online and in print. In these you will see that Fortescue has paid more than $2 billion in company tax since its establishment in 2003, and our next payment will occur in January.’ Laura Tingle from the Australian Financial Review was the source for my information about 18 years of not paying income tax. She said in 2011 in the Australian Financial Review: Forrest has never signed a corporate income tax cheque for any of the listed companies he has run in the past 16 years. And FMG has another $700 million in tax losses still to bring to account before he will have to do so.’ It appears the difference may be that his companies overall (not just FMG) pay no income tax, although the comments by Tingle don’t seem to suggest that.]

I confidently predict the next target for some outrageous attack will be unions, even more so than the outrages to date of kangaroo courts, unsubstantiated allegations of criminal activity,  deaths at work because unions are hamstrung, fines for workers taking industrial action, cutting workers’ wages further etc etc.

The problem the Abbott government has is that it won government not in its own right but because it wasn’t Labor.  People threw the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor government out because of its neoliberal agenda (for example cutting real wages, cutting social welfare spending, extending the pension age, worsening the gender pay gap, condemning 80,000 single mums to deeper poverty, cutting University funding, and inadequate spending on public transport, public hospitals and public education) and its incompetence.

The Coalition came to power delivering more of the same cuts as Labor,  only worse. It too is incompetent. No amount of xenophobia about refugees, racism against Aborigines or lies about unions is going to save it at the next election.

Many voters retain a yearning for a social democratic Australia, an Australia of increasing living standards, better public health, public education and public transport, for jobs for all, an Australia which seriously addresses climate change and cares for those in need.  That yearning for a better world, born of the exploitative capital/labour relationship and the wages system, is clashing with the needs of capital around the globe for good profit rates. The falling rate of profit in Europe and North America and the spread of the contagion to Asia and the Pacific will see the Australian economy worsen over the next few years.

The Abbott government’s response will be to ramp up its attacks on asylum seekers, refugees and unions as well as cutting social welfare and other spending, However this  is a government of the walking dead. One push from unions and unionists could bury this zombie government right now.

Such union action would not only throw Abbott and co out now, and defend workers, it would force Labor to the left.

This type of action is unlikely to happen given the ACTU is a shiver looking for a spine. What it does mean is that we unionists, anti-racists and humanitarians will need to unite and fight this desperate sick government.

Some moral lecturing for Scott Morrison

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he ‘will not take moral lectures from Bill Shorten or Sarah Hanson-Young on border protection.’

Perhaps then he could try Jesus Christ for a change.

The cops murdered Eric Garner

New York police were captured on video in the act of killing Eric Garner


Danny Katch in Socialist Worker US  reports on the Staten Island grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case – and the bitter anger of opponents of police violence as they mobilize yet again. Here is a snippet.

But the video wasn’t the key. As in Ferguson, the real key was the unspoken rule of the criminal injustice system: Killer cops are above the law – and they can get away with murder.

Click here to read the article.





University fee de-regulation: the real fight against it starts now

Progressives can breath a sigh of relief after Tuesday night’s Senate result but now the real battle begins, writes Max Chalmers in New Matilda. His conclusion is:

For the unions and students fighting alongside Labor and the Greens, the job to convince crossbenchers and the public that deregulation is in itself a problem – the real fight – starts now.

Make Universities free

Alexis Vassiley in Red Flag argues for free higher education. Here is a snippet.

In one of its many position papers advocating fee deregulation, the Group of Eight (Go8) universities inadvertently let out of the bag just how affordable free education is.

In “No such thing as a free degree”, it calculated that the total additional funding required to fund free education between 2014 and 2030 is $132.8 billion.

It might sound a lot, but at $8.3 billion a year, it is less than the annual cost of state and federal mining subsidies.

The Go8 argued that free education would require the doubling of international student fees and the halving of total enrolments.

Actually, funding could come from many places: a modest increase to the corporate tax rate, which has plummeted from 49 percent in 1986 to 30 percent today; a reduction in the defence budget, which enjoys real increases every year; or, as flagged above, the abolition of mining subsidies.

You can read the whole article here.

The grim within

The Canberra Times published this poem of mine in 1996.

The grim within

There is a grim within that gathers and grows

And catches the grass in its throes

It flames the ground to its belows

And wells the land of our sorrow

The fire’s end is all we know

The phoenix rising has burst the snow

And the grim within gathers again

And the grim within grows its pain

My interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on 1 December

This is the link to my 30 minute interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on 1 December. We discuss the Victorian elections, the implications federally, the environment and much much more.

The Eureka Stockade

The 1854 Eureka Stockade in Ballarat was one of the defining moments in Australian history. It was a struggle for democracy against authority and for economic justice against establishment interests, which has inspired generations of militants in the workers’ movement and beyond. Jessica Lenahan in Red Flag tells the story of goldfields in revolt. Here is a snippet.

A monster meeting of more than 10,000 was held at Bakery Hill on the following day, 29 November. Here the miners were informed that their demand for the freedom of the hotel rioters was denied. Lalor gestured to Carboni: “I called on all my fellow-diggers”, he later recalled, “irrespective of nationality, religion, and colour, to salute the Southern Cross as the refuge of all the oppressed from all the countries on earth.”

Lalor then invited those present to pledged allegiance: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”