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John Passant

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December 2012



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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

America is about to fall over the fiscal cliff. Essentially this means higher taxes on working class people (the people US politicians mislabel as middle class) and cuts to social security. So the Congress isn’t worried that much, except for increasing taxes on the rich. That is evidently a big problem for the Republicans, to be avoided at all costs.

Some of the politicians also think, not unreasonably, that cutting 4 to 5% of GDP might plunge the economy deeper into recession. It would, and not just the US economy but the global economy.

An alternative strategy, but one neither party of big business will adopt, would be to soak the rich and business and provide a real welfare system for the unemployed, the poor and the sick. Gee, a massive renewable energy program could begin and create millions of jobs.

Staying in the US, National Rifle Association spokesthug Wayne LaPierre said the way to prevent gun massacres in schools was to arm teachers.

The ‘logic’ is that the only way to stop an armed bad guy is to have an armed good guy. Assad agrees. So too the Afghan resistance. It is also the argument of Al Qaeda. When American drones rain down on you and kill your kids, it is pretty clear who the bad guys are.

News reports in Australia indicate that in Utah hundreds of teachers have been taking gun classes in their Christmas break.

Why stop at armed teachers? I have my doubts about some of the Senators and Congressmen and women. I am sure some members do too. Arm all of them too. Arm nurses and doctors. Arm paramedics. Arm counsellors. Arm bus drivers. Arm social workers. Arm priests and pastors. Arm dentists. Arm optometrists. Arm gym attendants. After the ambush of firefighters, arm them too. Arm theatre attendants. Arm mall attendants (or are they already armed?). And to overcome the bad guys in sport, arm referees and umpires. What about the upset diner? Arm waitresses.

Arm the whole country.  

That way the bad guys will be wiped out. Won’t they? Of course not. 

The problem is not just or even guns. As Nicole Carson wrote in a piece I posted here:

Easy access to guns– one-third of Americans own a gun, and the U.S. as a whole has half the world’s guns in civilian hands – may provide the means for committing certain types of crimes, but the roots of Adam Lanza’s actions go deeper. They lie in a profoundly alienated society in which violence in general is sanctioned by the most exalted American institutions–as long as it is carried out for “legitimate” purposes, like U.S. wars abroad or police at home defending law and order.

She goes on to ask:

How could the enthusiasm for such violence by those at the top of society have no effect on those at the bottom?

POLITICAL LEADERS AND the media portray spasms of violence like the killings in Newtown as isolated occurrences–the fault of single individuals who “snapped.”

But this ignores how U.S. society is steeped in anger and alienation. This doesn’t originate with the poor and powerless – it originates with a world in which, for many, daily existence is a struggle filled with constant reminders of their helplessness and meaninglessness to society as a whole.

US General Norman Schwarzkopf died during the week. The 1991 Desert Storm war criminal is being feted across the country by the American elite, including fellow war criminals George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I guess the link between war crimes abroad and gun massacres at home is lost on people.

Here’s a left field suggestion. What if I changed the NRA’s suggestion slightly? Arm teachers’ unions. Indeed, arm nurses’ unions. Arm firefighters’ unions. Arm the longshoremen. Arm the WalMart workers’ unions. After all we damn well know the bosses are the bad guys, don’t we?

But in a class divided society like the US where the bosses have been waging a one sided class war such a suggestion would be ‘irresponsible’. Workers in struggle might just turn their guns on their class enemies or use them as a threat, along with the greater threat of halting the flow of profits, to win real wage increases and better health and other benefits.

We couldn’t have workers as workers armed could we? That would be a little too much like a real ‘well regulated militia’.

In India the rape of an Indian woman on a bus in Delhi has provoked an outpouring of protests against what they perceive as a culture of rape and misogyny and turned a spotlight too on Army and police rape and state inaction.  The woman died this morning.

Des manifestants à New Delhi. Sipa

Des manifestants à New Delhi. Sipa

The demonstrations with a range of often contradictory demands will continue and with her death are likely to escalate, assuming the Indian Government’s crackdown on protesters and victim blaming can be broken. I understand much of the Indian left is involved or supportive.

In Australia the Boxing Day cricket test saw protestors early on the first day call for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket because of the genocidal policies of the current racist Government.  Australia’s foreign Minister Bob Carr, has been doing dirty deals with these mass murders to help stop Tamils fleeing to seek asylum in Australia. Part of that rotten bankrupt deal is to support Sri Lanka hosting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Not even Canadian Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper could bring himself to stoop so low, saying he wouldn’t attend unless  the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record improves. The UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged British Prime Minister David Cameron to do the same.  

But not Australia. Our government is turning a blind eye to Sri Lankan government genocide against Tamils and its human rights abuses because the rotten Sri Lankan government will cooperate in stopping refugees leaving the country.

Worse, Australia is deporting asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. Some have been arrested on return.

The refugees on Manus Island and Nauru continue heroically to protest against their forced removal from Australia.

 Labor and the Oppositon feed fear of the ‘other’ for what they think is electoral advantage. And still the boats come to escape war and rape and genocide, many of them from countries the West has invaded or has sanctions against or are countries whose dictatorial governments like that in Sri Lanka the West supports. We should welcome them, not imprison them in concentration camps.

The Greens have changed the way they do business to cut out all that bothersome membership involvement (other than as pretence and show) and let the parliamentarians make the running on policy. 

Adam Bandt MP as acting leader was first off with a press release saying that Labor should tax millionaires, not slug single parents. The Greens would increase the top marginal individual tax rate from its current 45% (which cuts in at $180,000) to 50% for those earning more than $1 million.

Parliamentary Budget Office estimates are that the proposal if implemented would raise $791 million over the next 3 years, more than enough to restore the $60 to $100 per week that 100,000 single parents (90,000 of them women) are losing from 1 January because of Labor’s decision to move them off the single parent payment and on to Newstart when their youngest child turns 8.

Taxing the rich is an excellent position to take. Unfortunately this Greens’ proposal to increase tax on those earning more than $1 million is not enough. It catches only about 8000 people. Small beer really.

A slight increase in the tax on millionaires doesn’t address the tax cuts and tax benefits the rich and business got under Howard and which have continued under Rudd and Gillard. According to the OECD tax inequality has been increasing in Australia, like other developed countries, for decades.

Bandt doesn’t mention extending the minerals resource rent tax to all resources.

 The Greens’ first costing request was about lifting the MRRT rate to its former incarnation of 40% and not allowing state royalties as credits. The PBO advised that doing this (plus another change) would raise an an extra $26 billion over 4 years.

Interestingly the Greens did not ask for revenue estimates of extending the resource rent tax to all minerals and resources other than just oil and coal.  This omission looks revealing.

All their new platform says is that one of the Greens’ aims is:

  • To increase the rate of minerals resource rent taxation and broaden the commodity base.
  • Rent taxes are good taxes for social democrats and wanna be social democrats because they seem to be a magic pudding.  As the response of the mining maggots to Kevin Rudd’s Resource Super Profits Tax and the ALP’s dumping of Rudd as PM as a consequence make clear, it would take a strong willed government to really tax mining capital. 

    Extending such economic rent taxes to other monopolies or quasi-monopolies like the big 4 banks – the most profitable banks in the world – would raise billions more. I doubt the Greens have the stomach for a fight with the mining maggots let alone the banking bastards.

    On the other hand, the Greens have abandoned their death duty proposal to tax all estates worth more than $5 million. The new party platform also no longer proposes raising the company tax rate to 33 percent from its current 30%, or ending capital gains tax concessions for business. Such changes would raise over $10 billion annually. What the Greens giveth with one hand, they taketh away with the other.

    Bandt also doesn’t address wider underfunding issues in education, health, transport and covering the cost of moving to a fully renewable energy society. These would require a comprehensive tax programme of taxing the rich and business, one I outlined in my article ‘Want a surplus and decent public services? Tax the rich!‘ And I was only scratching the surface really. The Greens aren’t even doing that.

    They also appear to be fudging commitments to public education and public health. Prioritising these over the schools and health care of the rich should be an important element of any fundamental equity and re-distribution program.

    It may be that this is just the first of many Greens’ proposals to tax the rich and big business. Certainly Bandt’s press release hints at that with specific reference to big business paying their fair share. The delay might be because the Greens are waiting for specific costings or revenue estimates from the Parliamentary Budget Office. Let’s see. Let’s especially see if they are prepared to argue for and campaign on taxing all the mining maggots, not just the oil and coal ones. Their silence on this indicates a tax retreat.

    Of course given the power of the mining companies and their real threat of withdrawal of investment in Australia, the Greens would need a plan B to taxing all resource rents or even increasing the current rate to 40% and abolishing royalty credits.  Nationalising the mines under workers control seems to me appropriate. It is even something the conservative Henry Tax Review considered, only to dismiss it as less efficient than an RSPT.

    Of course, if there is a capital strike then nationalising the mines becomes a real option politically and economically.  That is the logical conclusion of the Greens’ extended rent tax proposal. They won’t do that and I suspect given what appears to me to be the inexorable Plan B logic they’ll go soft on a super profits tax or fudge the issue. That might be why they aren’t currently talking about extending the tax to all minerals. 

    If more radical ‘tax the rich and big business’ policies aren’t forthcoming from the Australian Greens soon then we can be pretty sure they have turned the rightward amble into a stampede to make themselves seemingly even more respectable and electable. The irony is the more respectable and electable they think they are the less support they seem to garner.

    Another week passes and the pillars of profit stand firm for a short time against real action on climate change.  Eventually the dam will break.  It may well be too late.

    Comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.



    Comment from Lorikeet
    Time December 31, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Sorry for putting this here, John, but I don’t have your email address.

    Do you think you could do a piece which shows the figures you use regarding your statement that a lowering of the Low Income Tax Offset has largely negated the increase in the Income Tax Free Threshold from $6,000 to $18,000? Thanks.

    Comment from John
    Time December 31, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Here’s what I said in 2011:

    There is also a fair bit of spin going on. For example the Government is proclaiming this to be a great income tax reform. The tax free threshold will increase from $6000 to $18,200.

    But that needs unpacking. The Government will reduce the low income tax offset (LITO) from $1500 to $445 as part of the package, effectively increasing the tax free threshold for those on LITO from $16,000 to $20,542.

    The Government will also increase the first marginal tax rate from 15 percent to 19 percent to help pay part of the increase in the tax free threshold. This may act as a disincentive for some people to enter the workforce or to work more hours.

    Further, as Brian Toohey in the Financial Review on Monday put it, the change in the tax free threshold will ‘…let some high income earners pay less tax by splitting more of their income with a non-working partner.’ (Brian Toohey ‘$8 billion package hides some true tax benefits’ The Australian Financial Review Monday 11 July 2011 p 10.)

    It isn’t just me making this point. Most commentators when they analyse it have come to the same conclusion, even if like Matt Cowgill from the ACTU at his blog we are all dead they deplore the spin but support the change as a benefit. It is a benefit, but not a trebling.

    John Humphreys for example said this:

    •The government is claiming to increase the tax-free threshold from $6000 to $18,200 and have an effective tax-free threshold of $20,542. This is misleading for a number of reasons. First, the current THAT is actually $16,000 and so the increase is not as large as they say. Second, while normal income tax may not kick in until $20,542 the medicare levy kicks in at 10% for people earning over $18,839. This was a great opportunity for the government to scrap the misnamed medicare levy, or at least get rid of the regressive 10% bracket ($18,839 to $22,163). So the actual change in the TFT is from $16,000 up to $18,839. That’s the first bit of good news.

    I think he updated the analysis in light of later changes but the principle is the same – the effective tax free threshold in Australia (taking into account LITO and changes to it) has increased from $16,000 to $20,000 something. And increase for sure but hardly a trebling as Swan claims. And it is also partly paid for by increases in tax for some low income earners.

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