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John Passant

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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)



Tax and the naked tide

After the Commissioner of Taxation’s interview with Il Globo and my response – Il Globo, the tax office and me –  I had cause to respond to one contributor.

Here is part of what I wrote. It was done late at night so may be no more than the less than clear thoughts of a very infrequent insomniac. 

I’d especially welcome constructive comments from tax officers. I changed the wording a little and added in a paragraph or two.

I think there are real issues for the ATO to address but I don’t know the Commissioner understands the feelings of all staff in any real sense. I am not saying I do either but not every thing is rosy on the good ship ATO.

Certainly the Operations debacle – an effective reduction of 3000 workers according to one union official – looks to me like a case of ‘get rid of staff to save money’, a logic which applies I would have thought to all areas of the Office.

I don’t get any sense from the Commissioner in his Il Globo interview of him understanding the staff challenges in any depth.


Il Globo misunderstood me. I didn’t say that ATO staff were too old. I said the 54/11 issue (or now the 55/1 issue) presented challenges – like a loss of expertise and so on, inadequate training etc etc.

My main bugbear (perhaps I am too close to it) is International. At precisely the time the 25 years of Australia’s integration into the global economy bears fruit in terms of international tax changes, and therefore should mandate changed thinking in the ATO, the ATO attacks its international area mercilessly.

And it reverts to putting people in International (broadly viewed) whose sole view of the world is revenue, revenue, revenue.

This Tax Counsel  Network takeover of parts of the Office worries me since their whole background and thinking is narrow. I’d abolish TCN. (For those who don’t know, TCN is an elite tax law area.  They are divorced from management , budgetary and other issues that the rest of us, even the Centres of Expertise, another elite law area had to deal with constantly.)

Perhaps the whole model of having elite law areas needs re-examining.  An alternative might be to attach these areas to hands on business lines like Large Business and International.

Back to my bugbear. The long term dangers in downplaying international – despite the rhetoric to the contrary – are evident to my mind in the slowness to recognise and deal with Wickenby – a fluke in terms of tax information. The fact that the Lichtenstein bank info was also a fluke doesn’t give me great comfort.

How may more Wickenbys are out there?

The low morale across the Office is a real worry yet there seems to be a sense of denial among the leadership about that.

The Great Recession is going to challenge the ATO. A drover’s dog can collect revenue in a boom.

Let’s see how the ATO goes during this Depression. I know they’ll say revenue has dropped because of the recession.

The real question is whether this is solely because of the economy or because, to use Buffet’s phrase, when the tide goes out we can see who in the ATO leadership is naked.

Democratising the ATO could help address some of these issues and clothe the Emporer.


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