John Passant

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Lex Wotton
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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
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Real debate?
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System change, not climate change
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Invasion Day: a day of mourning not celebration

 

While the Australian flag is draped everywhere, and the speeches sing the praises of this supposedly free, multicultural society, the Indigenous owners live day in and day out with the consequences of the racism rooted in the colonial project of occupation writes Sandra Bloodworth in Red Flag.

To read more hit this link.

Ged Kearney to launch Canberra Unionists for Refugees

Ged Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, will launch the group Canberra Unionists for Refugees on 3 March. More details to come  as we organise rooms and times etc, but it is likely to be around 5.30 pm or 6 pm somewhere in Civic.

Neoliberalism and the destruction of the Australian Tax Office

I sent this to the Australian Financial Review today (Tuesday) after reading a report in it about a speech Second Commissioner of Taxation Andrew Mills was going to make and indeed did make on Tuesday at the Australasian Tax Teachers Association Conference in Adelaide. I was at his presentation that morning at the Conference. Update on Thursday: Not surprisingly the newspaper of the 1% in Australia hasn’t yet published it.

John

 

I was at the Australasian Tax Teachers Association Conference at which Second Commissioner of Taxation Andrew Mills spoke and talked about the issues (plus more) that Katie Walsh raised in her report about the ATO conceding separate reviews. (AFR Tuesday 20 January page 1.)

Time ran out before I was able to put my perhaps controversial questions to Second Commissioner Mills. As Ms Walsh reported he referred to the Tax Justice Network/United Voice ‘ Who owns our Commonwealth?’ report as both misleading and in some cases patently wrong. He offered no evidence in his talk for this assertion. In addition the Second Commissioner described the report as undermining confidence in the tax system. Many in the public might see getting rid of 3000 experienced tax officers with another 2000 to go by 2018 as doing that.

I was also going to ask Mr Mills if the statement by ATO Deputy Commissioner Jim Killaly in 2011 that between 2005 and 2008 40% of big business paid no income tax was also misleading or patently wrong and whether it too undermined confidence in the tax system. Does the ATO have the guts to release similar aggregated figures for later years? If not, why not? What are you hiding from the public Second Commissioner Mills and Commissioner Jordan?

Mr Mills also stressed the idea of building trust with taxpayers and I was going to suggest that in relation to big business and the rich this is naive (perhaps deliberately so) and fundamentally misunderstands the role of the state in collecting tax from companies. Businesses view tax as a cost while working class people view it as a contribution to the community. We comply; they don’t. This pandering by the ATO to big business under the guise of building trust and ease of compliance could well lead to less compliance activity on and revenue raised from the rich and powerful.

I was going to make a further point that the slogan cultural change being trumpeted by the ATO leadership represents the final capitulation of that leadership over a number of years to neoliberalism.

The outcome of neoliberal policy since 1983, when Hawke Labor began implementing it and laid out the red carpet for Howard and then Abbott, has been a massive shift in wealth in Australia from labour to capital. The process of neoliberal regulatory capture in tax policy and tax law has now, if Second Commissioner Mills’ speech is any indication, also successfully infected the administration of the ATO.

All the sweet words in the world will not disguise the fact that the fox is now in charge of the revenue hen house.

 

 

The one percent will soon own more than the rest of us

According to Oxfam:

The combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam warned today ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

This is the logic of capitalism. It is irreformable. Revolution anyone?

I won’t be singing Advance Australia Fair on Invasion Day

Invasion Day (aka Australia Day) is 26 January. It commemorates the day in 1788 when British troops and their prisoners arrived to begin the process of establishing capitalism in Australia and dispossessing and slaughtering the indigenous population.

One of the lackey Australia Day functionaries has suggested we all sing Advance Australia Fair, the sterile, lifeless national anthem of the Australian bourgeoisie, at noon on Invasion Day.

I won’t be celebrating by singing that song. Instead I hope to join my indigenous brothers and sisters outside old Parliament House for a demonstration against the Invasion and its consequences.

Rather than airbrushing history with nationalist claptrap like Advance Australia Fair, if we are going to sing I suggest it be Midnight Oil’s Beds are Burning. As they say:

The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back

Here is a link to a video of the song and set out below are the words. Enjoy.

Out where the river broke
The bloodwood and the desert oak
Holden wrecks and boiling diesels
Steam in forty five degrees

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back

How can we dance
When our earth is turning
How do we sleep
While our beds are burning

How can we dance
When our earth is turning
How do we sleep
While our beds are burning

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
Now to pay our share

Four wheels scare the cockatoos
From Kintore East to Yuendemu
The western desert lives and breathes
In forty five degrees

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back

How can we dance
When our earth is turning
How do we sleep
While our beds are burning

How can we dance
When our earth is turning
How do we sleep
While our beds are burning

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent now
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
We’re gonna give it back

How can we dance
When our earth is turning
How do we sleep
While our beds are burning

_________

We will also need something to toast our marshmallows on during this tub thumping Australia Day festival of reaction. How about a collective flag burning across Australia at noon on Invasion Day to celebrate opposition to genocide, murder, rape, torture and slavery?

Socialist Alternative's photo.

One massive back down, but the fight to defend Medicare must continue

The Abbott government has capitulated on one of its key proposals to destroy Medicare – its attempt to make poor patients pay $20 for short (ie less than ten minute) consultations.

Another parts of the first stage of this destruction were to cut the Medicare rebate for standard consultations (ie more than ten minutes) from $37.05 to $32.05 and help destroy bulk billing is still on the cards. According to the Australian Financial Year its starts from 1 July this year, unlike the $20 cut which was due to start on 19 January. This too will fail if the Senate disallows the regulation implementing it.

Given the government dumped the $20 cut after a groundswell of opposition from ordinary Australians and doctors, to which the cross benchers responded by vowing to block the move, we need to keep the pressure on those backbenchers to also block the $5 cut to standard consultation rebates.

The third tranche in this first stage of this government’s attack on Medicare was to freeze the rebate amount for the next three years. This they have done administratively so opposition in the Senate can’t change that.

To stop the $5 cut to standard consultation rebates and the freezing of those rebates we need to be out in the streets. The doctors called forums in most capital cities for 8 February against the now abandoned $20 cut as well as the $5 cut and the freeze and the Australian Council of Trade Unions supported them. Unfortunately since the government backdown on the $20 cut the ACTU has announced that the 8 February demonstrations are on hold. I suspect the ACTU fear mobilising union members more than they fear the Abbott government.

This is a backward step. So too are forums if they are a substitute for demonstrations rather than an adjunct.  The attacks are ongoing. The $5 cut to rebates and the 3 year freeze of rebate levels are still going ahead.

Let’s have demonstrations rather than forums across Australia to stop the $5 cut to standard Medicare rebates and the freezing of indexation of those rebates so that ordinary people can express their anger with this rotten government and its attacks on Medicare.

This is a weak government. They have already suffered one major defeat in their long term attempts to smash Medicare. Let’s make sure they suffer more defeats.  Let’s organise massive demonstrations on 8 February to defend Medicare.

Don Argus, superannuation and the end of the age of entitlement

Don Argus is the former Chairman of BHP Billiton and before that was CEO of the National Australia Bank.

Argus is in dispute with the Australian Tax Office over his superannuation. As a generalisation if you are over 60 years old any superannuation payments you receive are, thanks to Peter Costello, tax free.  The ATO is arguing that Argus breached certain age related payment requirements so that in fact the payments aren’t exempt from income tax.

The interesting thing in all of this is that for the year in question the pension payments (maybe to both Argus and his wife, rather than just Argus alone,) were about $1.2 million.

Assuming a five percent rate of return on the fund’s assets, this means the capital in the Argus superannuation fund is about $20 million. Now, in normal cases this $1.2 million superannuation income would be tax free.

That is fair isn’t it? After all it must be hard for a couple to live on $1.2 million a year.  That’s almost $12000 a week each, tax free.

Assuming an average tax rate of 45% on the $1.2 million, if tax were paid on that superannuation income it would total about $500,000. That would still leave the Arguses with $700,00 a year after tax to survive on.

In a fairly weak response to the disgraceful benefits the super rich get from the myriad of superannuation tax concessions, in April 2013 the then Labor government announced plans to tax fund earnings (not pensions) greater than $100,000 a year. The tax was to be capped at 15% and would have caught just 16,000 people, about 0.4% of the over 4 million retirees. Labor didn’t implement this minor tax before the September 2013 election and the current Abbott government, having pooh poohed the idea in Opposition, did not go ahead with it.

The top ten percent of income earners receive about one third of all the superannuation tax concessions, that is about $15 billion worth of tax expenditures annually. A couple in a similar position to the Arguses, if they stay within the rules, will get payments totaling $1.2 million per year tax free.

Far better to slug poor and sick people between $5 and $20 to go to the doctor or put the GST on fresh food than to tax the rich eh Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey? Tell me again about the end of the age of entitlement.

Socialism makes sense

Bertolt Brecht’s evaluation that socialism ‘is not madness, but the end of madness’ rings true, writes Ben Hillier in Red Flag. The main obstacle to the eradication of poverty, inequality and the accompanying violence remains the centralisation of the world’s productive assets in the hands of a tiny minority of the population.

Socialism – a world run to fulfil human need rather than fuel private greed, in which there is no privileged class of human beings – remains a sensible idea in a chaotic 21st century.

Anyone can understand it.

To read the whole article, including Brecht’s poem, In praise of communism, click here.

 

No Charlies here: a tale of two alleged threats

In December last year Khodr Moustafa Taha allegedly tweeted Victoria Police and said: ‘I’m going to hurt your officers.’

On 2 January police raided his home and according to the Herald Sun found threats to ‘journalists, bank staff and politicians, with intimidating images posted to Treasurer Joe Hockey and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and a death threat to US President Barack Obama.’ They also alleged that ‘one of his Twitter accounts ­featured a profile photo of an al-Qaeda flag.’

Among other things he has been charged with using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.

On Monday this week a magistrate released him on bail because she couldn’t assess the risk and because it was unlikely he would be jailed even if found guilty. His days locked up already were possibly enough of a shock for him.

The Victorian Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, while not specifically commenting on the case, said that ‘… the government’s primary concern is the safety of our community, particularly given recent events.’  He also stressed that ‘… police and the community more generally are entitled to be respected and are entitled to the protection of the law.’

I agree. As luck would have it the other week I received the findings into my complaint to the Victoria Police Professional Standards Command about someone (possibly even a police officer) posting on my blog from Victoria Police Headquarters, using abuse language. My complaint about this particular aspect was twofold – the abuse of police resources and the foul language.  Another complaint related to death threats, and a subsidiary point that these death threats could be the work of police friends or contacts of the police officer in Victoria.

Here is a summary of the issue from an article of mine about it on New Matilda.

Last October [2013] I reposted an article from the socialist magazine Red Flag about a demonstration in Melbourne. The article included an explanation of throwing shoes at police that was plausible at the time but turned out to be a lie to the working class. It was one of the reasons I resigned from Socialist Alternative.

I received a torrent of abuse in the comments section of the article. One respondent threatened to kill me. They wrote: ‘They should put a bullet in you, for the good of everyone else.’ Another said, with just a hint of Alan Jones: ‘I hope you drown next time you go and do one of your little aquarobics classes friend.’

Another commenter who called themselves Dirty Unwashedc*nts (DUC) among other things said: ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story hey cockhead?’ There were other abusive comments from them.

It turns out the IP address that DUC was using was the Victoria Police Centre at 637 Flinders Street, Melbourne.

DUC also used a fake email address with the words ‘german sausage’ (not visible to readers) in it. Another post also used the same fake email address but from a different IP (presumably home) address. It would be reasonable, based on the use of the same fake and not public email, to assume that the two are the same person.

After a no doubt thorough, ongoing and detailed one year investigation I recently received the following response in relation to the first posting by DUC.  ‘Finding: Unable to determine. The available evidence does not permit the investigator to establish whether the complaint is true or not.’  A second complaint along the same lines about a second posting from Police Headquarters was even more succinct. It merely said ‘Unable to Determine.’

In relation to the third complaint about the death threats the finding was ‘Unfounded: The available evidence clearly establishes that there are no grounds for the complaint whatsoever.’

So I have had two death threats against me, (and with ISP details of the posters) and a presumably Victoria police officer posting abuse and wasting police resources from Victoria Police Headquarters (where it may be that it is impossible to determine who that was but my techo friends could give advice on that, including why the name of a senior police officer is listed when you search the website number address) but the same person apparently posting from another private address. There is no indication the police followed through any investigation into the second german sausage address. In fact all they said in their response was what I have outlined above.

Notice the difference in treatment.  Khodr Moustafa Taha allegedly tweeted Victoria Police and said: ‘I’m going to hurt your officers.’  Police raided his property, investigated all his online accounts and charged him with among other things ‘using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.’

Yet when two people post on my blog ‘They should put a bullet in you, for the good of everyone else’ and ‘I  hope you drown next time you go and do one of your little aquarobics classes friend’ there are no raids, no investigations, no charges, by either Victoria Police or, because I live in the A.C.T.,  the Australian Federal Police.

What explains the difference? Could it be that the police take seriously all threats against themselves but don’t want to waste their time on other threats, especially when it appears those making the threats aren’t Muslims and their target is just a socialist and that socialist has made a complaint against the police themselves?  Even worse, could it be that when the police are doing the abusing police won’t investigate fully?  No, that couldn’t be it. No, not at all. After all, according the Victorian Attorney General, the government’s primary concern is the safety of our community.  Am I not entitled to the protection of the law, Attorney-General?

Journalists as we know deserve protection. Do you think I have received any? Maybe I am not Charlie after all. Je suis John.

One final question. Did Victoria Police investigate the link between german sausage at Victoria Headquarters and german sausage at a private address? If not, why not?

I don’t now why, but four legs good, two legs better comes to mind.

A report from John Mullen in Paris on the one million strong mobilisation in defence of free speech

This is a report by John Mullen from his blog John Mullen à Montreuil -Blog anticapitaliste on the mobilisation on Sunday in defence of free speech in Paris. He says in part:

It seems to me there are two myths going round about the political meaning of these rallies. Firstly on the mainstream news there has been a lot of exaggerated nonsense about the idea that this national unity between left and right will transform French politics and improve life for everyone. This illusion will probably not last long.

The other, from some sections of the radical Left, has been that these rallies were a reactionary movement supporting a national unity which would stop all other conflicts, or even an anti muslim movement. These critics exaggerated the political importance of the presence of fifty heads of state for twenty minutes in the middle of the demo. Their analysis seems to me absolutely mistaken. The complete absence of anti-Muslim slogans at the demos, and the absence of the Front national show it is not true. It is also quite mistaken to talk of a “union sacrée” simply because there were right and left wing organizations calling people to go on the demonstrations. A “union sacrée” would exist if significant sections of the radical left had declared a halt to class struggle, and to movements against austerity or racism, in order to support the government in a time of national emergency. This is not the situation.

To read the excellent report I full click here.

Here is a Vine video by Emre Demir showing the scale of the crowd.