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John Passant

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June 2019



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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)



The unfreedom of tax academia for the left

The Australian and other Murdoch outlets have been running a faux University freedom campaign for years now. As they lose more and more ‘sensible centre’ journalists – how much longer can Peter van Onselen stay there more or less on his own? – they seem to have become more strident in their condemnation of cultural Marxism, our takeover of Universities, education, and the like.

Apparently our Gramscian march through the Universities continues unabated. Let me interrupt their wet dreams with some personal reality of my march through the universities.

Recently I was looking back at the many Bills that became law when I was the Assistant Commissioner in charge of international tax reform. My team worked closely with Treasury on developing those Bills. We were, according to the relevant General Manager in Treasury at the time, the best ATO team, among the dozens, to work with, from their point of view.

I, along with one other senior ATO Officer, was the major ATO contributor to the 2002 Treasury discussion paper entitled The Review of International Tax Arrangements (RITA). See

Then there were the reforms made during the period I was in charge of the ATO contribution to RITA (both to the law and to getting the rest of the ATO ready for the particular reform). They include:

  • New International Tax Arrangements Act 2003, which among other things amended the Foreign Investment Funds (FIFs) and Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) regimes and made changes to Interest Withholding Tax and unit trusts.
  • New International Tax Arrangements Act 2004, which modified certain foreign investment fund rules; provided an interest withholding tax exemption for interest paid on certain debentures issued by eligible unit trusts; removed the need for certain income of a controlled foreign country resident to be included as notional assessable income; and prevented double taxation of royalties subject to withholding tax.
  • New International Tax Arrangements (Participation Exemption and Other Measures) Act 2004 which among other things reduced the amount of the capital gain or capital loss that will be subject to capital gains tax rules where Australian companies and controlled foreign companies sell shares in a foreign company with an underlying active business; extended the current exemptions for foreign branch profits and foreign dividends to all countries from 1 July 2004; and reduced the scope of tainted services income.
  • New International Tax Arrangements (Managed Funds And Other Measures) Bill 2004
  • New International Tax Arrangements (Foreign-owned Branches and Other Measures) Act 2005
  • Various Double Tax Agreements implementing policy from RITA, and the review of the anti- CFC and FIF rules leading to Foreign Accumulation Fund (FAF) rules. The anti-deferral rules review which produced the change from FIFs to FAFs (well after I had retired). 

The Board of Tax has estimated that these various international tax reforms have had roughly the same impact as tariff reductions for the economy about a 0.024% annual GDP increase.

I look back on my team’s achievements with pride.  Interestingly not one tax academic has approached me about these groundbreaking reforms. Not one.

From 1989 to January 1997 I was a tax lecturer in the law school at the ANU. I left in early 1997 after the promotion round saw five of six academics promoted from lecturer to senior lecturer. My crime had to been lead those 50% of Law School staff who had opposed the introduction of $9000 fees for the Legal Workshop, the almost year long course to enable those who had earned their law degrees to practise as lawyers. This mad me never to be promoted among the powerful conservative and soft left factions in the School.

I was a great teacher. I got rave reviews from students, year after year. My research was certainly unique, marrying left wing and Marxist ideas with tax law.  It was also regular enough, according to the creeping neoliberal standards Universities were then beginning to apply.

So I left the ANU and eventually, after ten months with the Welfare Rights and Legl Centre, rejoined the ATO.  I retired from the ATO in 2008 and began looking for a job with academia. After all, I had 8 years tax law teaching experience and a successful career as a tax administrator behind me.  My two years in 2010 and 2011 at the University of Canberra should have forewarned me, but it did not.

I resigned in disgust from there in November 2011 and over the next six or so years applied for tax law academic jobs. Of the 38 applications I lodged, I had one interview (because I knew one of the professors well.) I was doing a PhD, the new neoliberal apprenticeship requirement evidently.

I merely note that a number of my ATO colleagues from that time, without PhDs, have been employed by academic institutions. I should also add that a number of my tax teaching colleagues would, in my view, be less than ideal employees as tax administrators. They are OK gatekeepers for conservatism but not good educators.

So why am I unemployable? The excuse is often my lack of a PhD. Given my life experience, I doubt this would be a problem, if I were a conservative. There’s the rub.

Tax and legal academia is, by and large, conservative. It employs like minded people. For a socialist and Marxist like me who organised and took action against the neoliberalisation of Universities, this is a death sentence.

Is there a lesson from all of this? Tax academia is a bastion of reaction and conservatism. Lefties have to try to survive in this all-encompassing environment. For leftists and socialists, if you want a job in tax academia or want to keep it, do not put your beliefs into action.   

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery and an adjunct member of the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University.



Comment from Peter Myers
Time June 16, 2019 at 8:41 pm


Tax academia may be conservative, but Cultural Marxism is alive & well in the Humanities, Arts & Environment. Have some sympathy for ‘nationalists’ trying to get a job there.

I met you once or twice at ANU when you worked there, before I moved to Qld. I’m on the other side of the Culture War from you. Basically, I admire Curtin, Chifley, Menzies, McEwen & Santamaria – the people who made Australia a socialist (but anti-communist) country in the 1950s & 60s. You’ve probably seen my website,

I have followed you from time to time since then, and was aware of your stint at the ATO. A wasted opportunity, I thought. The Canberra Times ran a piece about you, titled ‘Tax havens here to stay: UC lecturer’:

“Law lecturer John Passant defends role of tax havens as the oil in the wheels of finance capital.”,-says-uc-lecturer

I wrote to you at the time, saying:

{Q} – Tax Havens deprive governments of Taxation, forcing them to borrow (issue Bonds) or cut spending, and have contributed to the worldwide Financial Crisis.
– We will know that Governments are serious about solving the Financial Crisis when they abolish Tax Havens.
– Double Taxation laws divert tax from branch offices (like Australia) to head offices. They funnel profits from the colonies back to the imperial centres.
– Transfer Pricing allows companies to dodge tax; and distorts Trade & Current Account statistics.
– Companies keep 2 sets of books. One set is for the Tax authorities – it shows minimal profits, or even losses. The other set is for Shareholders – it shows the true profit, which gets distributed via Dividends
– The ATO, and Treasury departments in the US & many other countries, know that there are 2 sets of books, but turn a blind eye to this practice. They are thus complicit in depriving governments of taxation.

Emeritus Professor of Economics Michael H. Hudson, son of Trotskyist leader Carlos Hudson, explained how it works, in his paper ‘Laundering Havens for War Budgets’ (please read it):

He wrote there, “Closing Panama Tax Haven Will Require Fighting the Most Powerful Lobby In the World.”

You & he are both Trots, but he’s on the other side of the fence from you.

When Corbyn and Sanders take power, they will need tax advisors who can help fund their plans. If Sanders wins, he might appoint Michael Hudson as Treasury Secretary.

If the Green New Deal gets off the ground, it’s people like Hudson and Ellen Brown ( who will be setting up a network of publicly-owned banks to fund it, using MMT methods.

You might get a job there too, except that your sympathies are on the wrong side.

Given the overwhelming power of the FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate), the people need Protection, not Open Borders. Whereas the ALP is a Globalist party, Sanders is a Protectionist; so is Michael Hudson.

Whilst you are defending Tax Havens and Transfer Pricing, Tax Justice Network is doing the opposite:

Nicholas Shaxson wrote, “Tax havens are the most important single reason why poor people and poor countries stay poor”

But all you care about is eroding the nation-state so that you can get a World Government.

While Shaxson is trying to expose “these elitist, criminal-infested libertarian paradises; these silent battering rams of tax-cutting and financial deregulation”, you’re defending them for lubricating the machinery of Capitalism.

Come and stay a few days with me in Childers Qld.

You can publish this letter.
Peter Myers
ph (07) 41170125 (7am to 7.30pm);

Comment from John
Time June 17, 2019 at 4:34 pm

A world government eh?. Scary stuff. Don’t think I have every written once along those lines. But I do agree with you about tax havens as places for tax avoiders and evaders. The US won’t join with the rest of the OECD in tackling them, hence they get away with murder. As do more sophisticated havens like Singapore and the Netherlands.

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