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Tag Archives: mining tax

Abbott the Dragon Slayer: The art of making scary mountains out of molehills

Unless you’ve been on a desert island or in a coma, you’ve heard Tony Abbott boast over and over and over again that:

“We’ve had a lot of really significant achievements over the last year: We stopped the boats. We scrapped the carbon tax. We scrapped the mining tax“

These three issues were a key part of Abbott’s 2013 election campaign. According to Abbott, the mining and carbon taxes were devastating the nation. And stopping asylum seekers was imperative to save lives and protect our borders. These were his top priorities – the dragons threatening our nation must be slain. On day one he would stop the boats and introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax – to be followed by the mining tax within 100 days – thereby single-handedly saving us all.

Abbott obviously believes that the Australian people still value his dragon-slaying skills today – threatening a few weeks back:

“if Labor came back, the boats would be back; the mining tax would be back; and now we find out that if Labor were to come back, the carbon tax would be back”

It seems fairly clear that Tony Abbott is staking both the credibility and the value of his government around these three key actions, and that he believes they are the criteria by which we should judge his success for the next election. So let’s have a look at what he has really achieved – and who the real winners and losers are.

Axing the Taxes

In his interview with Leigh Sales on the 7:30 report last week, Tony Abbott promoted what his government has done in the last two years, saying:

“The carbon tax, gone. When was the last time a government abolished a tax? The mining tax gone. When was the last time a government abolished a tax?”

Slaying not just one tax dragon – but two! Certainly sounds good – and according to Tony Abbott, it’s a BIG win for the Australian people. But does that stand up to scrutiny?

Slaying the Mining Tax (Killer of  investment and jobs)

“This tax is a great big cudgel that will blow the brains out of the West Australian economy if it goes ahead.” (Tony Abbott, July 2010)

The Mining Tax – a quick primer:
The Minerals Resources Rent Tax was a levy on ‘super profits’ from the mining of iron ore and coal.  It was only applied to companies whose annual profits – profits, not revenue – were in excess of $75 million. It was introduced on 1 July 2012 by the Labor government and repealed by the Liberal government on 2 September 2014.

Abbott’s Claim: repealing the mining tax would lead to Australia being ‘open’ for investment again and more jobs . . .

Prior to ‘axing’ this particular tax, the Abbott government argued that the mining tax had to go because it destroyed foreign investment and cut jobs. Once repealed, Abbott stated that the “big flashing red light over investment in Australia” is now gone. So if Abbott was right, investment in Australia should both have dropped during the time of the mining tax, and picked up since it was repealed.

Not so much.

It turns out that this was just another piece of Abbott-Speak or ‘truthiness’ that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In fact, as ABC business editor Ian Verrender argued recently, if the very similar Petroleum Resources Tax introduced over 25 years ago is anything to go by – which had minimal if any impact on jobs or investment – the Mineral Tax would also have had little or no impact on either investment in Australia or Australian jobs had it been left in place. The reality is that mining companies aren’t all that mobile in their location choices – unlike car companies who can manufacture anywhere, mining companies have to mine where the resources are.

So who are the real winners and losers from the repeal of the Mining Tax?

The winners: the LNP and Big Mining companies

Ironically, one of the biggest winners from the introduction of the mining tax was the Liberal Party themselves. Crikey reported in 2012 that ”the mining tax saw an extraordinary increase in donations to the Coalition that has opened up a huge funding resource for the Liberals” as shown in the following graph:

Crikey1

Data from Crikey article (2012)

The largess of the mining sector towards the LNP continued post 2012. There was over 1.8 million given to the Liberal and National parties in the 2013/2014 financial year from resource and energy companies. By way of contrast, around $450,000 was donated to the Labor party from the same sector over the same period.

And then, of course, the other obvious big winners from the repeal of the Mining Tax are big mining companies themselves. Certainly, if the level of their donations is anything to go by, there were a lot of mining companies (and related suppliers like marine dredging operators) out there who were very happy to see the LNP – with their commitment to the repeal of the mining tax – win the 2013 federal election.

The Losers: The real owners of the minerals (AKA The Australian People)

There is a fairly simple but often misunderstood fact about Australia’s mineral and resource wealth, and that is that with limited exceptions, mineral (and other) resources under the soil belong to the Australian people. They’re ours. Well technically they belong to ‘the crown’ (or in this case, the state governments) – but same thing.

Unlike in countries like the USA, where a gold nugget you dug up in your backyard would belong to you, in Australia, everything under the ground belongs to all of us. ‘We’ then licence the rights to mining companies – like Shenhua and Hancock Prospecting – to extract those minerals (or other resources).

This arguably makes taxing mining (and resources) profits different to taxing other companies, because they are making profits from something that belongs to us. It’s literally Australia’s family silver. Once it’s sold, it’s gone.

When you take that into account, you could argue that the mining tax is closer to a profit share arrangement than a tax – because it’s about what portion of profits made from our mineral wealth should go to mining companies (who are 83% foreign owned), and what portion should go to us. In 2001, the split was roughly 60/40 – 60% to the mining companies and 40% to us. But now, it’s closer to 80/20 – 80% to the mining companies and 20% to us. The mining tax sought to redress some of that imbalance – although arguably not as well as it could have, thanks to the watering down it got prior to its implementation – but that’s another story.

Conclusion:  The Abbott government – with some help from the Mining companies themselves – demonised the Mining Tax.  It was the economic terrorist that would kill investment and jobs according to Abbott, and he and his government promised to come in and save us from this terrible mountainous dragon of a tax.

But in the stark light of day, looked at this through the eyes of the average Aussie, the slaying of the mining tax is not something Abbott should be boasting about. It may have been a win for the LNP and some of their major donors, but for everyone else, we’re letting mining companies sell off the family silver without giving us our fair share.

Slaying the Carbon Tax  (The tax that would devastate a nation)

“I say to Julia Gillard, what have you got against the people of Gladstone? Why are you trying to close down Gladstone with your mining tax and your carbon tax?”
(Tony Abbott, March 2011)

The Carbon Tax – a quick primer:
The Carbon Tax was introduced on 1 July 2012 as part of the Labor Government’s Clean Energy plan. It only impacted 260 large carbon emitters, who had to pay for their carbon emissions. The goal of the tax was to incentivise a reduction in carbon gas emissions – which it did. The tax was repealed on 17 July 2014.

Abbott’s claim: The sky was going to fall down 

According to Abbott, the mining tax and the carbon tax were going to ruin life as we know it in Australia:

There’s hardly a region in this country that wouldn’t have major communities devastated by the carbon tax if this goes ahead” (April, 2011)

Of course that didn’t happen – this was yet another piece of Truthiness. Abbott took the tiniest of molehills and created a massive mountain of fear about what the Carbon tax would do. Not only did Gladstone not close down, but there was even a great article in the Gladstone Observer in March this year entitled ‘Bring back the carbon tax‘.

Leigh Sales questioned Abbott about this last week – asking him to comment on the fact that places like Gladstone, Whyalla and Geelong weren’t actually wiped off the map as he said they would be. In a rare moment of honesty, Abbott briefly conceded that Sales had a ‘gotcha’ moment, which seemed to shock even him briefly, as he then mumbled something about trying “to be as good as we possibly can be going forward”.

Moreover, not only did the carbon tax not cause wide-spread job loss and economic problems while it was in place – following its repeal, we have not seen the promised increase in investment or jobs. In fact the opposite has occurred. Unemployment has continued to climb and investment to drop. So if scrapping the carbon tax was to have fixed those problems, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful.

The winners: Every household gets $550 a year! Ok, not $550 – but nearly enough to buy an extra cup of coffee every week.

No longer able to link the repeal of the carbon tax to increased investment and employment growth, Abbott and his ministers now focus primarily on the savings to households and businesses created by the tax’s demise:

“We scrapped the carbon tax and that meant that every Australian household on average was $550 a year better off.” (Abbott, March 2015)

This is partially true. As a result of the repeal of the carbon tax, prices did drop, and households will have saved some money. However, according to ABC Fact check, the amount is only $280 per year in 2015/16 and $424 per year over three years. Now before you get too excited by these savings, remember that they are expressed ‘per household’. If you convert that to a saving ‘per person’ it is closer to $110 per year next year and $165 per year over three years – or around the price of a coffee once a week.

The Losers: The Planet and the Budget (AKA the Australian people. Again.)

Before you start celebrating, there’s two big things you traded your extra cup of coffee per week in for:

  1. We’ve no longer got a workable climate change policy to help keep us in clean air, dry land and livable weather.
  2. We’ve gone from collecting revenue from heavy carbon emitters to paying companies for possibly, maybe, doing something about reducing carbon emissions at some point in the future.

Australia’s world-first climate change policy – increase carbon emissions

It’s no secret that Abbott is at best sceptical about the need to do something about climate change. In 2009, he said that climate change was ‘crap’. In his autobiography, he indicates that he is a fan of Australian geologist Ian Plimer whose own book argues that ‘the climate has always changed‘ and that humans are not responsible for current global warming. Interestingly, Plimer is a director on the boards of several of Gina Rinehart’s mining companies.  And even more interesting, it seems that Plimer is also a fan of Tony Abbott’s – having donated a total of $97,000 to various branches of the Liberal and National parties in 2013/2014.

Given Abbott’s philosophy on climate change, it’s no wonder that once elected, he set about implementing a world first – a climate change policy that actually resulted in a serious increase in carbon emissions. In fact, since the repeal of the Carbon Tax, Australia’s carbon emissions have been increasing at one of the highest rates since records started in 1990.  This suggests that Abbott still doesn’t believe that cutting carbon emissions is a priority, despite the clear consensus amongst scientists that it should be. Some even think that it may already be game over.

Here’s a graph of data published by our Department of Environment earlier this year showing total Australian carbon emissions just prior to when the carbon tax was introduced along with projections through to 2020. The graph shows that there was a clear drop in carbon emissions following the introduction of the Carbon Tax (the green bars). This drop in emissions immediately reversed (the red bars) after the tax was repealed, and the stark increase in emissions is expected to continue through at least 2020.

AustraliasCarbonEmissions2015

Let’s stop raising revenue and start paying companies instead

The other thing that happened as a result of the carbon tax being repealed was that we went from a scheme which raised revenue by taking money from companies with high emissions via the carbon tax (some $6.6 billion in 2013), to one where we pay companies $2.5 billion via the Direct Action Scheme to commit to reducing their emissions. At some point in time. But not necessarily straight away. In fact, only 1.5% of companies who are currently participating in the Direct Action scheme are committing to reduce emissions in the next three to five years.

Scrapping the Carbon Tax and introducing Direct Action has left a $7.6 billion hole in budget revenue – which is going to have to be made up somewhere. So don’t spend that $110 too quickly.

Conclusion:  Given Abbott’s historical position on climate change, and that his actions since being elected support increased rather than decreased carbon emissions, it’s difficult to believe his stated position last year, that he takes climate change ‘very seriously‘. Climate change is arguably the most important challenge facing our nation – and the whole world – right now.  And yet our Prime Minister is making things worse and not better. The potential consequences of this, not just for future generations, but for current generations are staggering, and make the $280 per household savings seem insignificant. What use is money in the bank if the bank doesn’t have a planet to live on?

But instead of focusing on the very real problem of climate change, Tony Abbott created a mountain out of a carbon-tax-molehill to scare the Australian people into believing that Australia needed to be saved from the carbon-tax, rather than from the true foe – carbon emissions themselves. He convinced people that he was the man to slay the mythical carbon-tax dragon, and completely distracted people from the thing that we should really be afraid of – climate change.

Stopping the Boats – a quick look

Space prohibits me from doing justice to a discussion on the winners and losers from Abbott’s Stop the Boats policy. But just some quick points to consider when thinking about molehills, dragons and mountains:

The only winners I can see from the Abbott government’s Stop the Boats policy are politicians, who have turned the plight of a small number of asylum seekers coming here by boat into another mythical dragon to be slain for their own political ends. The biggest losers are of course the world’s most vulnerable – asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who have nowhere to go, or worse still – are stuck in the torturous hell-holes that are Manus island and Nauru. Or even worse, forcibly returned to the country they were fleeing persecution from – as happened this week.

Yet again the Abbott government has diverted billions of dollars into conquering a molehill that their spin doctors have turned into a dragon-shaped mountain.

Molehills aren’t mountains. Or Dragons. Mountains are mountains. 

By @Fyfetoons

By @Fyfetoons

Abbott really does seem to specialise in terrorising the Australian people by making mountains out of molehills. He finds a small but ‘credibilish’ fear and uses rhetoric to fan it into fully fledged terror. He then portrays himself as the only possible saviour of the Australian people from this mountainous mythical dragon.

The three so-called ‘achievements’ discussed above are not the only ones Abbott has created dragons out of – look at the fear he has managed to generate around terrorist attacks.

It’s the ultimate political spin doctoring – create a mythical dragon, fight it, and claim to have saved us from it. And the thing with dragons is that they are far easier to slay – what with them not being real and all – than actual problems. It’s much simpler to be a dragon slayer than someone who actually rights real wrongs or solves real problems.

And let’s face it – it has worked. The good people of Aus have by and large been successfully hoodwinked into buying the myths. As have the media, who on the whole let Abbott’s talk of dragon slaying go largely – not wholly, but largely – unchallenged.

When you look at the winners and losers from the three policies that Abbott boasts so much about – the only consistent winner is the LNP. Abbott’s main achievement has been distracting the Australian people with insignificant dragon-shaped molehills so that we won’t look at the truly mountainous problems we should be focusing on.

This article was first published on Kate M’s blog Progressive Conversation.

Give us our cut

We went about the mining tax the wrong way.  Not because we let the mining companies write it.  Not because we allowed accelerated depreciation during their construction phase effectively making the early revenue returns insignificant.  Not because we attached expenditure to money we had not yet received.  And not because we removed the tax just as they were moving into production phase which would have ramped up returns.

It was wrong to ask the mining companies for money.  Despite the billions in profit they make each year, these companies invest a very large amount of money employing accountants to minimise their tax through various legal, if unethical, methods.  We seem either unable or unwilling to close these loopholes and make companies pay the appropriate level of taxation on their profits so we need a new approach.

As we have discussed many times here, we are not constrained by money.  Government spending and taxation are merely tools to control the amount of money in circulation, offering a stimulus or brake as needed to boost employment or dampen inflation.  Talk of debt and deficit is largely irrelevant.

More importantly we need to ask what sort of society do we want? Do we have the physical resources to support that society?

East coast gas prices are expected to rise sharply from 2016-17, as Queensland gas exports link domestic prices to the international market.  Demand from overseas is far greater than the domestic market and prices are much higher on the international market.  Without a carbon price (and possible changes to the renewable energy target), if the gas price increases, coal-fired electricity will be more economic and our emissions will almost certainly rise.

In any mining venture we, the people of Australia, are the major shareholder.  We own the resources and our government sets the conditions for approval to develop them.  We need to remember that and use it to our advantage.

Rather than see our finite resources lost forever with the profits lining the pockets of foreign shareholders, we should be given a percentage of all production – not in money but in mined resources.

If we are given a proportion of the iron ore, coal, oil and gas mined here it would significantly reduce the cost to build things like the high speed rail or to provide power to hospitals and schools.  Silica is used in many things from concrete to computer chips to solar panels and water filtration.  If we kept some of the aluminium and all the other resources that are mined here we could save so much money building infrastructure and employing people in the process.

Forget taxation.  Accountants can play their shenanigans with tax havens and profit shifting and company restructuring  and accelerated depreciation all they like.  If we kept, say, 10% of the production of any mine it would be far more valuable than numbers on any fiscal statement.

We have the power, let’s use it.

Pave paradise, put up a parking lot

When Julia Gillard left office we had a carbon price in place, a burgeoning renewable energy industry, and the respect of the world as leaders in taking action on climate change. The system had not been perfected but it was underway and open to refinement with expert bodies set up to advise us on the best way forward.

Now we are advised on climate change by Maurice Newman and Dick Warburton. Billions of investment dollars have been lost due to the abandonment of the Renewable Energy Target.  Instead, we are pinning our economic future on coal whilst killing our natural wonders and tourism industry.  Instead of collecting $10 billion from polluters, encouraging them to move to clean practices, we will give them $3 billion to do their upgrades while we pay for the research – a $13 billion turnaround in revenue.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had a mIning tax that paid us a small but growing dividend for the huge profits being made by selling our resources. Once again, it was not ideal but at least it was in place and the original concessions like accelerated depreciation were running out.

Now we have no mining tax which, even according to Hockey’s pessimistic outlook, will cost the budget about $5.5 billion in foregone revenue.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had signed agreements with most states and territories for hospital and school funding. To get the federal funding, the states had agreed to matching proportional funding, locking both parties in, and to accountability reviews where standards had to be achieved to maintain funding support.

Now we have reneged on those agreements, cut $80 billion in funding from health and education, released states from their obligation to direct set amounts into these areas and from accountability goals, and seem on the road to privatising both sectors and increasing the GST.

When Julia Gillard left office, the rollout of a world class National Broadband network was underway where over 90% of us would have fibre to the premises. There were teething problems as there would be with any such undertaking, but the contracts were signed, the plan was made, and premises were being connected at an increasing rate.

Now the rollout has slowed down while Malcolm Turnbull conducts three reviews into why Labor was bad. In the meantime we have no contract with Telstra, who are in a monopoly situation, who can hold out for the best deal for their shareholders (note the dividends this year were higher?).  We will now get some mix of technology sometime, maybe, but certainly not soon and definitely more expensive in the long run.

When Julia Gillard left office, the orders had been given to bring home our troops from Afghanistan.

Now we are sending them back to Iraq and farewelling them with a wage cut.

[And before anyone mentions the one year freezing of politicians’ wages, could I point out that in the 16 months leading to July last year, they received three payrises, delivering a salary boost of $54,220 or more than $1000 a week since March the previous year.]

When Julia Gillard was in office, she was unable to get her media reform laws passed that would have protected against ownership monopoly, and against factually incorrect reporting. Who could forget the screams of censorship and the Murdoch photoshopping.

Now we have the possibility that the Attorney-General can decide to prosecute and incarcerate a journalist for ten years for telling the truth about what our government bodies are doing.

When Julia Gillard left office, pensions were indexed to rise with Average Male Weekly Earnings which kept their standard of living relative to the community.

Now pensions will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index. The proposal to change the indexation, due to commence in 2017, would cut the value of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Veterans’ pension and Carer Payment by an estimated $80 a week within ten years. Despite the anger the changes sparked, they raised a modest $449 million over five years.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had a universal health care system that was the envy of the world.

Now we will have to pay every time we see the doctor or have a test and our Pharmaceutical Benefits System will be at the mercy of free trade agreements.

When Julia Gillard left office, we finally had universal agreement for a National Disability Insurance Scheme funded by an increase to the Medicare levy, a move widely accepted by the population, even if the Opposition didn’t bother to turn up for the introduction of the legislation of this groundbreaking reform in Parliament.

Now we find Mitch Fifield tasked with the job of holding it up for as long as he can while he conducts….you guessed it… more reviews.

The third quarterly report on the NDIS, released in May, makes clear that there is no case for any cut, cap or delay to the NDIS but Tony wants a surplus so I guess he will collect our increased levy and sit on it while he pays consultant mates to recommend winding it back or leaving it to Labor to pay for.

“In response to the capability review, the Agency has developed an action plan and will provide further advice as to whether the current implementation timetable is consistent with a successful full scheme rollout.” – Mitch Fifield, March 2014

Senator Fifield’s comment echoes previous statements from senior Coalition figures that indicate the national start date of 2018-19 could be pushed back.

CEO of Carers Australia, Ara Creswell, said:

“The NDIS has an inbuilt review, a cost review at this point in time is both curious and concerning. Costs are right on track, package numbers are consistent and hopes are high. We need to move forward, not tread water while we undertake yet another review.”

[ARA CRESWELL, CARERS AUSTRALIA, 1 MAY 2014]

Kevin Stone, President of the National Council on Intellectual Disability said:

“…we expect the State and Territory Premiers and Treasurers to stand by people with disability and their families and stand firm against any attempts to change the agreements made”.

[KEVIN STONE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY, 1 MAY 2014]

What will be next?

“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”

Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’

-Martin Niemoller

 

First speaker in the mature debate

imageDear Mr Abbott,

I welcome your call for a mature debate on taxation. I too deplored the “screaming match” that surrounded the introduction of carbon pricing and am pleased you realise how counterproductive that sort of approach is to constructive governance.

As a concerned citizen I would like to make a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Your opening gambit is to increase the GST. This is a regressive tax which will, once again, disproportionately hit lower income earners.  Treasury modelling done for the previous government showed that even a modest increase in the rate to 12.5 per cent – along with removal of exempted items such as food, health, childcare, and school fees – could hit a two income two-child family by as much as $205 per fortnight.

Perhaps there is a better way.  For example:

Fossil fuel subsidies.

The Australian Government is set to spend over $40 billion in the form of tax rebates and concessions, foregone revenue and expedited write downs of assets per year from 2013/14 to 2016/17. This assessment only includes tax measures, and does not include direct grants or State Government measures, which could add billions more to the annual totals.

The proposed replacement climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, relies on paying companies as an incentive to reduce their emissions. A fundamental contradiction exists between such a policy and the continuation of a range of existing fossil fuel subsidies. Many subsidies significantly reduce the economic signal for companies to identify efficiency opportunities.

Polluter handouts are also highly inequitable. For instance, the mining industry receives a 32c per litre discount on fuels such as petrol and diesel for off‐road use. So while most Australians are paying full price for their fuel at the bowser, their taxes also cover the cost of a huge discount to the mining industry. In all, this handout costs Australian taxpayers $2 billion each year.

Australia, along with all other G20 nations, committed in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. In his recent State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama reiterated the need to phase out tax‐based fossil fuel subsidies. Other organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency are also calling for nations to end fossil fuel subsidies.

In 2009, the Commonwealth Treasury identified $8 billion in annual savings that could be made if Australia fulfilled this commitment. This money could be used to fund a wide range of nation‐building projects, yet to date we continue to use these funds to line the pockets of polluting, and in many cases highly profitable, industries.

Prime Minister Abbott has said that there is to be an end to corporate welfare. Statements by Treasurer Joe Hockey have warned that “the age of entitlement is over,” and that “everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting now.” It is critical that this rhetoric, if applied, is applied consistently.

Superannuation tax concessions

A study by the Australia Institute found the rate of growth of super tax concessions is greater than that of the pension despite the ageing population, meaning the cost of the tax concession will soon overtake the pension to become ”the single largest area of government expenditure,” by 2016-17.

”’The age pension currently costs $39 billion and superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14,” the study found.

It notes that the Commonwealth bill for these concessions is projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.

”The overwhelming majority of this assistance flows to high-income earners,” the report finds.

”Low-income earners receive virtually no benefit. The combined cost of these two policies will be $74 billion in 2014 alone.”

Negative gearing

The Grattan Institute’s report, Balancing budgets: tough choices we need, included a section on abolishing negative gearing, which it claims would save the Budget around $4 billion per year initially, falling to a saving of around $2 billion per year over the longer term.

Grattan highlights a number of non-budget (social) benefits from reforming negative gearing, namely:

1.increasing home ownership rates by reducing returns at the margin for landlords relative to first homebuyers; and

2.increasing investment in other more productive assets.

The report also debunks claims that reforming negative gearing would raise rents, since “for every landlord that sells, there would be a renter that buys and becomes a home-owner. The supply of rental properties would fall at the same rate as the number of renters”. It also does not believe that the construction of dwellings would be materially affected, since “almost all of investment property loans are now for existing dwellings”.

Tax avoidance

A report by the Tax Justice Network – an international group focused on investigating tax avoidance – and the United Voice union says almost a third of companies listed on the ASX 200 pay 10 per cent or less in corporate tax.

This is substantially less than the statutory 30 per cent corporate tax rate.

Some companies, such as James Hardie and Westfield Retail Trust, pay zero tax.

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox pays 1 per cent tax and casino group Echo Entertainment pays 5 per cent tax.

The report says the government is losing out on at least $8.4 billion in tax each year, which is substantial but may be the tip of the iceberg.

According to the research, 57 per cent of all ASX 200 companies have subsidiaries in tax havens.

Several big-name companies, such as 21st Century Fox, Westfield, Toll Holdings and Telstra, have more than 40 entities in well-known tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Fourteen in the 20 top companies, including two of the country’s big banks, also hold entities in these locations, according to the report.

“Secrecy jurisdictions play a key role in multinational tax dodging and undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to levy taxes in a just and fair way,” the report’s authors say. “Corporate tax avoidance must be addressed.”

Financial transaction tax

Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax on various categories of financial transactions including: stocks, bonds and currency. If implemented on a global basis, its projected revenue could be as much as US$400 billion a year, depending on the size of the levy imposed, the size of the reduction in trading (if any), and the number of implementing countries/jurisdictions. In the US alone it has been estimated that annually, between US$177 and $353 billion could be raised.

A flat rate of 0.05% has been proposed on all financial market transactions, many experts actually advise vary rates (of between 0.01 and 0.5%) depending on the transaction (stocks, bonds, currency, commodities, swaps, derivatives, etc). The UK stock exchange, one of the largest in the world, already has a 0.5% tax on share transactions.

(1) An FTT will reduce the instability in the global financial system by reducing the volume of trading in financial markets, especially the sort of trading that increases market instability and has led to the turbulence in the financial markets over the last decade.

(2) An FTT will provide an effective way of raising revenues for both domestic purposes, such as assisting governments help pay for the costs of post-financial crisis bailouts, as well as for spending for international public goods, such as the funds needed for climate change adaptation, and to assist countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The tax is specifically designed to target high frequency traders, especially of securities, where the average holding period is often minutes or seconds. High-frequency traders currently account for 70% of US equity market trading and 30-40% of the volume of trading on the London Stock Exchange.

The tax will only affect financial institutions and funds to the extent that they are involved in this type of high-frequency trading.

Australia is a leading player in global finance in its own right: the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is the ninth largest stock exchange in the world. Australian support of the FTT would be a significant boost to the cause of the global campaign. Moreover, Australia is a G20 country and plays a significant role in the group whose endorsement would effectively make the FTT a reality.

 

You could always keep the mining tax and close the rorting of FBT car leases and…dare I say, bring back the carbon tax…if you are mature enough to admit when you are wrong.

So let’s have some mature debate on these issues Mr Abbott before we jump to charging pensioners more for their bread and single parents more for childcare and sick people more for their medicine.

Over to you……

Take up your cameras and fight the good fight.

From the beginning, the Abbott campaign has been waged in the media.  Every move he makes is purely for the media.  The ridiculous photos of Abbott, Hockey, and Corman sitting there looking at oversized graphs, the crews who just happen to be at Manly Beach to catch Tony surfing, the tweets of here I am driving a fire truck, the endless photos of Tony on the factory floor, the purchase of bigger planes to accommodate his burgeoning entourage of film crews, micro-managed photo shoots in Arnhem Land, way too much lycra – all designed to promote the image but woefully short on substance.

Tony doesn’t have time to meet with Ban Ki Moon but he always makes time to go see Rupert Murdoch. When he decides not to pursue the repeal of the racial discrimination laws, he contacts Andrew Bolt before telling Parliament.  Organisations and individuals read about their future dismissal in the Daily Telegraph.

Abbott has used the media effectively and ruthlessly to manipulate the public discourse even to the degree where he convinced the Australian public that, rather than polluters paying for the damage they cause and to move their businesses towards sustainable practices, we should pay for their factory upgrades whilst eliminating their clean competitors.  If they choose not to cut their pollution there will be no consequences.

In fact, Andrew Robb, who just oversaw the deal to sell uranium to India, tells us that coal is the future.

“Instead of thinking brown coal’s day has passed, we need to bear in mind its potential to support new industries and jobs in the future”.

This astonishing thinking, which flies in the face of all scientific evidence and international consensus, suggests that economic growth is a trade-off for action on global warming.

Imagine you were told your child was gravely ill and in need of urgent treatment. Would your reaction be to ignore that advice and pay off the mortgage instead?  Would you tell the doctors they are “talking through their hats”?

Abbott, backed by Gina’s billions, was also able to convince the majority of people that asking mining companies to pay tax on their superprofits made by selling our resources was unreasonable.  So keen were we to protect their record profits, we were willing to give up the increase in the superannuation guarantee, the increase in the tax free threshold, and to slow the rate of increase in pensions.

The beat up about mining jobs has proved to be just that. Since the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, every day we hear of more job losses in the mining industry with more to come.  They have never been a big employer and show no loyalty to anything except the bottom line.

But perhaps the most disgraceful display of media manipulation was the demonization of asylum seekers. Who could forget the “Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence” who occupied weeks of parliamentary sitting time, only to turn out to be an accountant who had been a victim of unfair persecution.  This sort of “scary Muslim” rhetoric has seen far right wing groups like the Australian Defence League ramp up a campaign of frightening online harassment against Muslim women and their children.  Politicians like Jacqui Lambie and Cory Bernardi legitimise the xenophobia and discrimination with radio shock jocks and vile people like Larry Pickering whipping up hatred against a section of our community because of their faith.

The dog whistling was lapped up by the ugly Australians, many of whom were themselves migrants to this country. “Economic migrant” became a term of abuse as if these people had no right to seek a better life for their families.  This set the stage for draconian measures that were sold to us as a “humanitarian” measure to stop the drownings at sea.  Had it been accompanied by any increased facilitation of intake through regular channels then perhaps this argument might hold some water.  Instead, they cut the intake by some 7000 and effectively closed the doors while refugees accumulate in their millions in poorer countries.

Morrison and Abbott continually bemoaned the arrival of “50,000 asylum seekers a year”. This is completely untrue.  The government reported only 17,202 asylum seekers in 2012 and a further 13,108 to the end of June 2013, totalling 30,310 arrivals over a year and a half — a long way from 50,000 arrivals per year.  In July last year there was a spike of 4236 arrivals. However, the following month only 1585 arrived — the lowest count for five months at that time. Further, just 3753 asylum seekers arriving by boat between July 19 and September 17, 2013. In other words, the statistic that Abbott keeps referring to simply does not add up.

According to the Liberal Party’s own press release, “over 50,000 people have now arrived illegally by boat since Mr Rudd dismantled our border security policies,” yet Tony Abbott tells us “They were coming in July at the rate of 50,000 a year.”  He repeated that claim in January ”If boats were coming at the rate of 50,000 illegal arrivals a year, which was the case in July and if now they’re hardly coming at all, obviously some things have changed,” and again in July.  This was no slip of the tongue, it was a deliberate falsehood propagated for media consumption.

50,000 refugees in 6 years kind of pales into insignificance when we see 140,000 Kurdish refugees flood into Turkey in the space of a few days while Turkey are already hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees from the three-and-a-half year conflict

Despite assuring us they would not engage in “megaphone diplomacy”, Abbott has done just that from day one. We began by insulting Indonesia by telling journalists that we didn’t need their permission to turn back boats.  When Julie Bishop chose to castigate the Chinese and Russian ambassadors, she first alerted the press so they could film their arrival and quote the dressing-down.

But now this obsession with government by media has moved into very dangerous territory.

The decision to send over 800 police to round up a small group of young people could perhaps have been justified by intelligence that we were not aware of except for the way that it has been handled which exposes it as very much a propaganda exercise which is having disastrous consequences.

Since when have ASIO and the AFP released video of covert operations showing suspects and their homes when they have not been charged with anything nor committed any crime? Why do we need new harsher laws if these operations could proceed under existing laws?  If there was evidence that these people had committed or intended to commit a crime, why have they been released without charge?  Why use preventative detention laws which do not allow the detainee to be questioned (or to contact a lawyer, their family or employer)?  Why has the stabbing of a policeman by a teenager been labelled a terrorist act?

Last Monday’s Q&A was an important program in that it gave voice to how the Muslim community are feeling and the victimisation to which they are being subjected by members of the public. Some of these women are truly afraid and with far more reason than “chatter” or a vague intercepted phone call.

The Australian Defence League has been following and photographing Muslim women on public transport, displaying anti-Islamic posters outside mosques and filming at Muslim schools and posting the videos online.

The League, which incites its followers to violence, is a registered not-for-profit organisation led by a former soldier who claims to have support from within the Defence Force.

The national president, Ralph Cerminara, posted this on facebook: “I’m calling for the end of Islam in our country and hopefully the world. If Muslims have to die then so be it. It is us against them.”

His incitement goes further as shown in this interview on 7:30 report in April.

The terrorist rhetoric being brayed in countless interviews by Abbott, Brandis and the like has backfired on them. Their emphasis of local threat and very public heavy handed approach, while failing to address the threat posed to local Muslims, has increased tensions immeasurably.

If the raids had been secret (and far smaller), the young people could have been brought in for normal questioning. It would have been useful to have Muslim counsellors there to speak with them.  By broadcasting it to the world under explosive headlines, it is obvious that it was publicity rather than information that they wanted.

Brandis has jumped on recent incidents in the hope of having his new anti-terror laws rushed through parliament without scrutiny. This would be extremely dangerous as they take away many of our rights.  One can only hope that sanity prevails and the Senate puts the brakes on while cooler expert heads investigate the implications of such laws.

I have come to fear tomorrow’s headlines and a government that seems not only oblivious to the consequences of Murdoch-led opinion but happy to use it to contribute to the hysteria for a boost in the polls.

Abbott’s first year: the media narrative

carbon-tax-e1404033094268Since political journalists so love to talk about Labor Party narrative, I think it’s time we turned the tables and talked about mainstream media narratives instead. The one I would like to specifically discuss is the media’s recent coverage of the one year milestone of the Abbott government. From what I have seen and heard so far, these are the mandatory ingredients of the media’s narrative marking this occasion, with the consistency of a wheel in a track. This review of the media narrative also, handily, becomes my critique of Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister. One stone, two dead birds and all that.

Acknowledging the kept promises

Abbott is given a big thumbs up for doing what all Prime Ministers were expected to do until he broke pretty much every promise he made during his first twelve months and Teflon-like changed the expectations that a Prime Minister shouldn’t lie. So on the three occasions that Abbott didn’t lie – promising to get rid of the Carbon Price and Mining Tax and stopping the boats, he gets a round of applause from the mainstream media.

This applause definitely does not include any critique of the effect these decisions will have on the community. Because discussion of policy outcomes is forbidden. All the journos need to know is that Abbott said he was going to get rid of the Carbon Price, the Mining Tax, and stop the boats and he’s done that, so big tick to Abbott! You’ll see no comment on the devastation that the demise of the Carbon Price, with no policy to replace it, will have on our environment, even though a study has already reveals that emissions went up immediately after the repeal. You’ll see no comment on the impact of the death of the Mining Tax on wealth inequality.

And has Abbott really stopped the boats if they’re still leaving Indonesia only to be turned around in secret military-like on-water operations that break international treaties and desperate people are sometimes sent back to the hell-hole they came from? One murdered asylum seeker and one death due to sub-standard third-world medical care and a damaged relationship with Indonesia doesn’t seem to me to be a successful policy. But if it kept a promise, it’s fine apparently.

However, if you cared to judge the Abbott government not on their ability to keep a promise, but on their ability to be humane and to work in the best interests of the community while keeping a promise, they have clearly failed. You won’t hear the media making this point.

Praise for Abbott’s response to Malaysian airlines disasters

It is clearly not hard to put some glasses on and to look sombre while you speak pre-prepared consolatory words about an airline tragedy. And let’s be honest people, if that’s Abbott at his pre-prepared best, then he’s at best a mediocre public speaker who should never have got anywhere near the top job and at worst a George. W. Bush-like moronic bumbling ah-ah-ah-ah embarrassment to this great nation.

So looking past what Abbott said, as he scheduled non-stop press conferences about plane disasters but wouldn’t talk about his failed budget, and focusing more on what he did, what did he actually do? He volunteered millions of dollars in Australian resources and never found Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, despite raising the victim’s family’s hopes unnecessarily and announcing in Parliament that the plane had been found when it hadn’t. He also volunteered Australian resources to help recover the bodies of victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which, sorry to have to point this out, again raised the hopes of the victim’s families and again he failed to complete the mission, whilst also putting Australians in harm’s way.

Praise for Abbott’s Team Australia bullshit

Apparently it’s ‘statesmen like’ to rush to a war on terrorism. Talking about the merits of going to war for at least a few days before committing Australia to what could be an ongoing conflict in a country that still hasn’t recovered from the last time Australia rushed to help America and the UK wage a war, would to me, seem at least foolish, at worst criminal. But Abbott’s Team Australia khaki campaign, in aid of his personal polling, will no doubt be applauded by the press as long as it continues to help Abbott win the poll war. Because that’s how journalists judge the merits of a Prime Minister’s decisions – on their real or possible impact on polls. Didn’t you know?

Downplaying Abbott’s lies as ‘they’re not different from Gillard’s lie’

Even when journalists do bother to remind voters that Abbott’s first budget was based on a barrage of lies and broken promises, they always make sure to compare these lies to Gillard’s Carbon Price ‘lie’. A lie is something you know to be false when you say it. Gillard didn’t know she was going to have to make a deal with the Greens to form minority government when she said she had no intention of implementing a tax on carbon, and instead preferred an ETS. So if you believe Abbott is in the same boat as Gillard in saying no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC or SBS numerous times throughout the election campaign, and then immediately back flipping on all these promises because he was forced to by a change of circumstances, then where are the changed circumstances?

Abbott didn’t need to make deals in the lower house to put his budget together (although deals with the Palmer United Party over superannuation cuts in order to kill the mining tax are surely as close as Abbott has got to circumstance like Gillard’s Carbon Price policy). We could go on discussing the blatant differences between Abbott’s huge list of broken promises that culminated in the most unfair and cruel budget this country has ever seen, to Gillard’s decision to introduce a Carbon Price.

But the biggest difference I would like to point out, which you never hear a journalist mention is a really simple one and also such a whopping big one that it’s hard to know how journalists can even look at these two situations without seeing the gulf of difference between them. Simply, Abbott’s lies made ordinary Australians worse off. They are bad policies on every single measure you care to measure them by and were ideological assaults based on the lie of a budget emergency. Gillard’s decision to bring in a Carbon Price, followed shortly thereafter by the policy she did say she wanted to bring in – an ETS – is good policy that is good for the environment and an important step in the international challenge to mitigate climate change. But journalists either don’t or can’t seem to see the difference between good policies and bad policies. Are they scared to judge a policy in case they appear partisan? What is the point of political journalism if not to inform the public on the merits of public policy? Seriously, what is the point? It’s a bad budget just because it’s bad. Full stop.

So there you have it. You’ll see this narrative over the next few days. Of course there will be, thankfully, examples of journalistic work that swims against this narrative, and good luck to those brave people. I know that one year into Abbott’s government, the one thing I am most sure about is that if a Labor government had behaved even a little bit like the Abbott government has in their contempt for the voting public, the mainstream media would have drawn and quartered Labor by now. The lack of contempt for the Abbott government from our media is, quite frankly, alarming.

Axing the taxes equates to self harm

I am trying to understand why we are repealing the carbon and mining taxes.

“The carbon tax is a $7.6 billion dollar hit on the economy. As you (the Minerals Council of Australia) noted in your submission to the Emissions Reduction Fund Green Paper, the burden on the minerals sector alone is estimated to be $2.6 billion by 30 June 2014.

There is no reason for the repeal to be delayed – the carbon tax is hurting Australian families and businesses and from 1 July is estimated to cost them $21 million per day.”

This is the spin from Greg Hunt.  They just love to say this is costing “a big scary number”.  When he says the carbon tax is a hit on the economy, he means it is a hit on polluters.  They are the ones who pay the carbon tax.  The fact that they passed on any imposte to the consumer is a failing in the legislation if you ask me.

And excuse me if I don’t think $2.6 billion very relevant in comparison to the superprofits that mining companies are making digging up OUR resources.

Why we are protecting profitable mining companies at the expense of families and small business is beyond me and seems contrary to the Coalition rhetoric.

The tax free threshold was set to increase to $19,400.  For low income earners, that would save $228 per year and it would mean those who earn between $18,200 and $19,400 would no longer have to fill in a tax return.  The repeal of the carbon tax will scrap this.

Low income earners will also lose the low income superannuation contribution scheme, which pays $500 to low-income individuals to boost inadequate retirement savings.

A family with three children, one at primary school and two in high school, and where both adults earn just above the minimum wage of $37,000, would lose $2050 from the abolition of the Schoolkids Bonus, according to the Australian Institute.

It is questionable as to whether this was even attached to the mining tax as it was actually introduced to replace a previous payment that was being underutilised –  the Education Tax Refund.

The government will also delay (scrap?) the move of the Superannuation Guarantee to 12%.  This will affect the retirement savings of all employees which, with the proposed increase in the retirement age to 70, and the lowering of indexation to pensions, seems a counterproductive move.

They are also scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payments.

They are hurting small business by unwinding the instant asset write-off. This policy allowed small businesses to write off depreciating assets costing less than $6,500, and the first $5,000 was offset against the mining tax.

They are also discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses, and dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles.

And of course, we have to attack renewable energy.  Existing income tax law provides an immediate tax deduction for expenditure incurred when exploring or prospecting for minerals, petroleum or quarry minerals.  In 2012 this was extended to geothermal exploration.  They are cutting the deduction for geothermal but not for the hydrocarbons.

Add to all these cutbacks the cost of Direct Action should it pass the Senate.  I was going to work out the individual cost but Hockey’s budget says one thing in the text and another in the figures as pointed out in Business Spectator.

“The budget text states that the government will provide an “initial” $2.55 billion to establish the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is consistent with what the Coalition had promised prior to the election over the first four years of the scheme.

Yet the table which accompanies this text listing the hard dollars provides a contradictory and highly confusing story. It outlines a total funding allocation over the next four years of just under $1.15 billion.”

So who can tell?  I think we all are coming to realise this will never happen at any meaningful level.

As for the mining tax, that is also very confusing with the Coalition arguing so many different views depending on what we are talking about.

They say the mining tax has hurt investment while boasting “As Minister for the Environment, I have approved more than $500 billion worth of new projects in the mining and resources sector.”

They say the mining tax has cost jobs but everyone agrees that we are moving from an investment phase to a less labour-intensive production phase.  This shift is causing a loss of jobs but it would see an increase in revenue.

So what do we do?  Accept the inevitable job losses and forego between $3.4 billion (budget) and $4.4 billion (PEFO) projected revenue over the forward estimates.  We also increase the 457 visa intake and decrease the oversight of it so mining companies can have a fluid malleable workforce.

I cannot understand why anyone other than high polluting miners and their high falutin’ sidekicks would think that axing these two taxes is in anyway good for the country.

An open letter to Andrew Laming

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Following Kaye Lee’s article, “To my local member” where she provided an exposé of the number of questionable statements by Lucy Wicks (Federal Member for Robertson), AIMN reader Bill Mavropoulos finds that much of Andrew Laming’s (Federal Member for Bowman) recent statements on a range of issues also need to be further examined. Bill writes as follows:

Dear Mr Andrew Laming,

I write to you regarding your recent video presentation on the guardian website published on 26 June 2014. The presentation attempts to explain the Coalition government’s most recent Federal Budget. To avoid doubt the URL for this presentation is as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jun/26/andrew-laming-budget-whiteboard-video?CMP=soc_567

This seems to be an attempt to counter Anthony Albanese’s video published 14 May 2014 as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/14/albo-explains-the-budget-video

The number of misleading statements, omissions and inaccuracies littered throughout your presentation was startling. I felt that it was incumbent on someone from the Australian public to deal with the more glaringly omissions, misleading statements and falsehoods.

Saving $550 from the Carbon Tax and Mining Tax repeal

When the Carbon Tax was introduced, it had a number of tax concessions attached to it that negated its economic effect on the majority of the Australian population.

Furthermore, Labor’s official policy was to move from a fixed price on Carbon to a floating Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 1 July 2014. The cost of this scheme on an average household if it is removed from that date is actually estimated at $134 annually compared to this policy (see the ABC Fact Check here). The current law is there because you refuse to have a sensible policy to combat climate change.

The statement in your presentation is a blatant misrepresentation of the difference between the Coalition’s policy and that of the previous government.

In your presentation you mention that the Mining Tax will contribute to this $550 saving per household. This is not just misleading and deceptive, it is a blatant lie. In fact consequential amendments that are buried at the back of the MRRT repeal law will remove the schoolkids bonus, small business tax concessions and concessions for superannuation for low income taxpayers.

This means that, taking these measures together, the net effect of removing these measures will leave an average household worse off rather than better off (as you assert). This takes into consideration the large majority of mining companies are foreign owned. Thus repealing the Mining Tax puts money back in Gina and Co’s pockets (because they get out of paying this tax) by taking it out of ordinary Australian’s pockets, by removing these tax concessions aimed at poor and middle Australia.

This part of your presentation was personally the most offensive.

$50 Billion infrastructure investment

This investment was outlined and explained by Anthony Albanese in his video (linked above). Albanese explained clearly in his well-made and factually correct presentation the make-up of all previously proposed infrastructure spending by Labor. He then went on to explain how the Coalition removed and reallocated large amounts of rail infrastructure to fund big ticket road projects that look good during an election campaign but don’t actually address systemic problems in transport infrastructure.

Transport infrastructure accessibility disproportionately impacts younger and lower income families who generally live further away from large metropolitan centers. The rail infrastructure is less adequately developed the further out from these centers you go. Households in this position are reliant on only one mode of transport. This does two things:

  1. Makes these people reliant on motor vehicles that are subject to increasing cost pressures from the increase in fuel excise you are imposing, increased registration costs that the States have been forced to impose because of cuts you have made to their funding and general increased costs of fuel and maintenance, and
  2. Devalues the property prices of homes in these areas in comparison to areas that are closer to an urban center and also have more than one mode of transport accessible.

What this does Andrew Laming, is create a significant social risk in these places. The measure entrenches inequality by effectively creating ghettos with little or no social mobility because these people will pay a disproportionate amount on transport cost while being subject to a reduced increase in the value of their main asset, their home.

Loan for Apprentices was originally just government grant

The loan to apprentices you mentioned actually replaces a cut of a tool grant of $5,500. The Budget itself anticipates savings of $914.6 million from cutting the tool grant measure. However, despite the measure being linked to the $20,000 loan scheme you did not mention it in your presentation.

This $20,000 loan scheme you spruiked is estimated by that same Budget to cost $439 million. This means the net economic loss to Apprentices from these measures is in the order of $457.6 million.

That you had the gall to smile and tell apprentices they will be better off in your presentation while ripping close to half a billion dollars away from them is frankly appalling.

Hospital Funding indexation

The claim that hospital funding is boosted by certain percentages over the next four years again is not the full story, Andrew Laming. It does not outline the fact that due to changes to funding arrangements the government in its Budget estimates it will save $1.8 Billion of funding from Public hospitals in terms of how the increases are calculated. (Let alone the other cuts to health that are not mentioned)

In short you do not outline that although hospital funding will still go up, it will not go up by as much as originally slated due to a cut to the rates of funding originally envisaged.

Education Funding

The Coalition is increasing education funding by partially adopting the Labor Party’s Gonski funding model. However you say nothing about the Coalition government’s refusal to fund this model fully beyond the forward estimate period.

Further to this, due to changes to indexation and deregulation the costs of obtaining a higher education degree will actually skyrocket. This is coupled with changes to the allocation of the funding that essentially stymie the benefits flowing from Gonski entirely.

$7 Co-Payment and Medical Research Future Fund

The statement that this measure supports the Healthcare system in your presentation is ludicrous. Firstly, introduction of the co-payment will clearly necessitate additional administrative costs borne by doctors that will ultimately need to be passed on to patients. In the shorter term this means increased health care costs for the same or worse level of service.

Further to this any savings generated by Health measures in the Budget are to be allocated to a dedicated medical research fund not into the Medicare system that pays for these health services. Therefore in the medium term the Healthcare system is being deprived of the benefits of this additional funding to alleviate the difference between revenue collected for health and the relevant expenditure.

In the long term, investment in the specialised Medical Research Fund has been criticised by experts. The nature of research and development is very complex. Often completely different areas of research result in the creation of medical applications. These other areas of research are being cut by your budget (think CSIRO). The money collected may therefore not be used as effectively as it otherwise would have been by say, allocating it to a broader range of research activities through established funding mechanisms.

This ‘oversight’ is perhaps as a direct result of the Coalition not having a Science Minister who understands that by creating silos of funding for research you may actually be undermining the long term sustainability of the system.

Full income replacement – Having a child

The statement that the full income of a parent will be replaced when they have a child is outrageously incorrect. I do however love the comment you made along the lines of ‘everyone is happy’ because their full wage gets replaced. Note that; the latest statement in relation to this policy is that the maximum payment to a parent over six months will be capped at $50,000.

Furthermore, this payment is not asset or income tested and so because it replaces income up to this cap it acts to effectively redistributes economic benefit from lower income earners to higher income earners.

I believe from watching this part of your video that you either have a dangerous lack of understanding in relation to how this measure works or are trying to deliberately mislead the public.

Pensions indexed, no changes till after next election

This statement was perhaps the most blatantly misleading one of your entire video. Firstly, from 1 July pension supplements are being removed, this is a well-documented fact. Also, due to the long term nature of receiving pension benefits it is cold comfort that the age and indexation decreases will start in a few years rather than now. This is clearly political as you are banking on people forgetting these changes are in the system by the time the next election rolls around.

The fact that you are legislating changes now to decrease the rate of indexation of pensions and raising the pension age to 70 is not mentioned in any detail at all.

This measure will reduce the absolute dollar value of a pension that citizens will receive when compared to the current arrangements. The fact that indexation effects will compound year on year is another nasty fact you have overlooked.

ABC – Savings can be found without effecting programing

This statement is unhinged and completely contrary to reality. Mark Scott the head of the ABC himself has stated that programs will be cut and staff will be laid off in direct contradiction of your assertion.

Please see his comments ‘here’. Saying something doesn’t make it true Andrew, especially when based on absolutely no evidence.

Conclusion

Please be mindful that the video contained a number of other unsubstantiated, misleading, false and generally ludicrous assertions. It was impossible to address them all in this letter without it running to several more pages.

I note that in response to my protests regarding this Budget Andrew you felt the need to message me on Facebook to say, and I quote:

“Sincerely glad you don’t live in my community”.

This gave me a bit more insight into your mind. It is clear you don’t see me or people like me as, an ordinary Australians, or as being part of the community you are elected to represent. I am unsure whether this is due to the level of our income, our ethnicity or simply the fact that you live in a particular part of Queensland and I live in Victoria.

What this suggests about you Andrew, as a parliamentarian, can best be summarised by my response to you via email as follows:

“I [sic] thought your suggestion that I am not part of “your community” was hurtful and suggests that you are not an elected representative of Australia (my community)”.

Andrew Laming show more respect for the Australian public. I warned you on Facebook that should you attempt to mislead the Australian public regarding the Budget again that I would hold you to account, admittedly in more colourful language than used in this letter. Consider this me fulfilling my promises; at least one of us does that.

Regards,

Vasilios (Bill) Mavropoulos

Tax Specialist

You might also like to read:

Under the shade of a Barcaldine gum tree

An Open Letter to Bill Shorten

Letter to all Coalition MPs

An Open Letter to Frances Abbott

Let’s not forget the poor miners . . .

I'm sure they'll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

I’m sure they’ll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

The high-fiving over the repeal of the carbon tax made me despair at the ignorance of our government – a battle lost but the war continues.

The Abbott government is preparing to axe the mining tax as its repeal bill passed the lower house for a second time on Thursday, with the government limiting debate to under two hours.

The coalition says the mining tax has failed to do its job, raising only $340 million since its introduction. Parliamentary secretary to the minister for finance Michael McCormack also said the tax undermined confidence in Australia as an investment destination and its reputation as resource supplier, which raises the obvious question asked by Chris Bowen, “If it doesn’t raise enough money, then how does it damage the mining industry?”

The total revenue in 2012 for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Newcrest and Xstrata was A$167.23 billion. Add to that the revenues of the self-defined “small” miners.  Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting alone made a $1.2 billion net profit in 2012.  It is projected that in the next decade they will make at least another $600 billion

State governments will hand over $17.6 billion in mining subsidies over the next four years.  The federal government will contribute $4.5 billion a year.  That’s $36 billion over the next four years given to companies who are making superprofits from mining our limited resources.  That would pay for a real NBN, or high speed rail, or all the programs that have been slashed by the Coalition and then some.

We are told we must encourage investment by mining companies because they underpin our economy.  And yet the facts do not bear this out.

Take Glencore for example, our third largest mining company, who, according to an article in the SMH, paid no tax on the $15 billion profit they made over the last three years.  To achieve this they employed aggressive tax avoidance measures, borrowing money at 9% and then relending it in interest free loans.  Their profits largely go offshore to foreign shareholders.

”The truth is that Glencore Coal Investments Australia’s operations in Australia are, because of the Group’s business model, branch operations of the Swiss-domiciled parent entity, which uses the now dormant legal shell of an Australian body corporate in an attempt to hide the reality of its branch business in Australia.”

The company disputes this, saying it has paid approximately $3.4 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia over the last three years.  Even if this is true, it’s a damn fine return for selling something you don’t own.  I wonder how much it has received in subsidies during that time.

Mining companies are also unreliable employers.  They quickly sack employees, often on the basis of what the resource market is doing, because profit is paramount.

In March the Australian reported:

“Glencore’s Ravensworth underground operation will be the first coal mine suspended by the Switzerland-based resources titan due to the sharp slide in prices for the fuel, although this follows hundreds of job cuts over the past year as the company looked to bolster the profitability of its sites.”

Followed by this in the Courier Mail last month:

“SWISS mining giant Glencore will shut its Newlands underground coal mine in central Queensland with the loss of 50 jobs next month, but eventually 196 jobs when production ceases next year.

Last year about 450 workers were axed from Newlands and Oaky Creek as the company restructured.”

Over the past two years, coal producers have slashed 12,000 jobs—more than 1,500 destroyed in the Hunter Valley and 8,000 in Queensland—with impunity.

Glencore’s Peter Freyberg claimed that the industry “isn’t as competitive as it should be,” and warned that “productivity, industrial relations and regulatory settings were factors impacting the industry’s competitiveness.”

The mining companies want the ability to hire and fire at will and “flexibility” to make instantaneous changes to work practices, such as shift rosters and the use of contract labour, to meet shifting production demands.

In February, the Abbott government quietly reopened a visa loophole that will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, in a move that unions say will bring back widespread rorting of the system.

Before the loophole was closed in 2013 by the Labor government, companies in the mining, construction and IT industries were knowingly hiring hundreds more foreign workers than they had applied for.

In one example, an employer was granted approval for 100 visas over three years, but in 18 months he had brought in 800 workers under the 457 visa.

In the Coalition’s bid to remove all ”red tape” from the 457 skilled migrant visa, employers will not be penalised or scrutinised if they hire more foreign staff than they applied for.

Before the cap was introduced in 2013, the number of 457 visas was quickly rising. In the financial year 2009/10 there were 67,980 visas granted. By 2012/13 there were 126,350 visas granted, statistics from the Department of Immigration show.

The Coalition has put together a panel to review 457 visas.  In typical fashion, they have changed the rules before the panel has done its review though, considering the panel members, its recommendations will probably be in line with whatever the business sector wants.  There are four members on the panel: John Azarias, from Deloitte Australia; Professor Peter McDonald, of the Australian National University; Katie Malyon, from Ernst & Young; and Jenny Lambert, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

FIFO work arrangements, meant for special circumstances such as geographical isolation, are now increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Gone are the days when companies invested in social infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals to make mining towns liveable. These days more than 100,000 workers spend up to 5 weeks at a time away from their families.  FIFO workers report high levels of stress and there is a high level of turnover; one out of three FIFO workers will not last more than a year on the job. And for those who do find themselves living in mining towns, the pressure on local transport, housing and hospitals is creating significant social problems.

Following their A$22 million scaremongering TV ad campaign, the revamped Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) now only applies to 22.5 per cent of the mining magnates’ profits, after a questionable “extraction allowance”. And that 22.5 per cent only applies only on coal and iron ore and only on companies that make over $50m in profit.

The Greens asked the PBO to calculate how much could be raised from increasing the tax rate to 40 per cent, plugging loopholes and including all minerals that make super profits, such as gold.

The office said these measures would raise $26.2 billion in the years to 2016/17.

PEFO anticipated $4.4 billion in revenue would be collected from the watered down mining tax over the forward estimates.  MYEFO cut that to $3.4 billion.  The Coalition intend to give up this revenue at the expense of the following spending commitments:

1. Abolishing the low income superannuation contribution, with an estimated saving of $3.8 billion. This policy required the Commonwealth Government pay up to $500 a year to the superannuation accounts of certain low income earners.

2. Unwinding the instant asset write-off for small business with a $5,000 threshold, saving $2.3 billion. This policy allowed small businesses to write off depreciating assets costing less than $6,500, and the first $5,000 was offset against the mining tax.

3. Slowing the superannuation guarantee increase so it remains fixed at 9.25 per cent until 2016–17 before increasing incrementally to reach 12 per cent by 2021–22. Estimated saving $1.6 billion.

4. Discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses, saving $950 million.

5. Dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles, saving $450 million.

6. Ending geothermal exploration treatment, saving $10 million.

7. Scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payment. Estimated saving $1.1 billion.

8. Abolishing the Schoolkids Bonus, a lump-sum payment to parents of school-aged children twice a year. It is the largest single savings measure in the repeal bill, estimated at over $5.2 billion, even though the Schoolkids Bonus was not from the mining tax, but an alternative payment which replaced the previous Education Tax refund.

Why we are encouraging people to come and dig up our finite resources  with foreign workers to send the profits overseas, subsidising them to do so, eliminating environmental safeguards and workplace conditions, and then repealing a small tax on their superprofits, is absolutely beyond me.  And as can be seen by the above list, it is largely middle and low income earners and small businesses who will pay for this largesse shown to the mining companies who rape our nation to fill their shareholders’ purses.

Life according to the Coalition.

Who are the real whingers?

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Australia is a wonderful country and we are blessed to live here.  We have challenges that need addressing but the heartening thing is that we also have the means and the time to do that.

What I do not understand is why our government is telling us we have a crisis and making people feel afraid.

They say we have a budget emergency and that the primary goal of this government is to reach a surplus.  What difference will a surplus make to your life?  It’s a number on a fiscal statement.

They say our debt is increasing faster than anyone else’s.  There is some truth in this in percentage terms (the only time they use percentages you will note) but it is because we are starting from such a low debt.  As I have said before, if I spend $10 this week and $20 next week, my expenditure has doubled.

To say our children will have to repay our debt, and to even give it a per capita figure, is a ludicrous spin deliberately designed to scare ordinary people.  No-one will come knocking on your door with a bill from the government accompanied by a foreclosure notice.  That’s not the way it works so why portray it that way?

We have been made to fear asylum seekers (though, sadly, it is they who should be fearful of us).  Some think they will impose their laws on us, some think they will kick back having a fat old time on welfare, some think they will take our jobs, and some politicians are concerned about them clogging up our roads and hospital waiting rooms.

Neither of the major parties have any credibility or decency on this issue.  They should be thoroughly ashamed for not condemning these cowardly, greedy, xenophobic, racist, selfish attitudes let alone pandering to them.

Tony Abbott also used fear in his campaign against the carbon tax.  Towns will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket, pensioners will not be able to afford to heat their homes.  None of this eventuated, many low income earners were better off due to the compensation packages, polluters were contributing to the cost of their pollution and being encouraged to invest in more sustainable practice, demand dropped partly due to dirty industries closing down and partly due to more energy conscious behaviour, and investment in renewable energy was increasing.

The mining tax was a no no because it would halt investment in the country and we would go into recession.  That didn’t seem to happen either.

We were told the NBN had no cost benefit analysis and would go over budget and over time and would be a huge waste of our money.  It appears Malcolm’s is forging ahead without a CBA and unfortunately his inferior offering will be over budget and over time and slower than promised.

In the midst of this funding emergency we are able to find countless billions for roads that, contrary to promises in Opposition, need no CBA nor approval from Infrastructure Australia as a priority.

Tony’s slogans and campaign were designed to make his constituents fearful, and anyone who tries to disagree is silenced or called a whinger.

Well who are the real whingers?

The mining companies squealed like stuck pigs when asked to pay a small contribution to us for the right to make billions digging up our finite resources.

The polluters did not want to take any responsibility for the cost to society of their profit-making ventures.  Even though the most trade-exposed industries were given assistance to help transition to cleaner practices, they chose instead to mount a climate change denial campaign, rather than help in any way with co-operative action.

Ask developers to comply with environmental safeguards and listen to the complaints about paperwork.  No-one seems to remember the amount of paperwork that was thrust upon small businesses with the introduction of the GST.

The salary sacrificing and car lease companies had a huge dummy spit when the government had the temerity to ask that people justify their car business usage claims.  We can’t ask people to tell the truth…this tax dodge is an entitlement I tell you!

When the richest 16,000 superannuants were asked to pay a small amount of tax on anything they earned above $100,000 pa it was class warfare!  They had worked hard to avoid paying tax on that money and were entitled to reap the rewards of having good accountants.  The superannuation companies backed their cries saying “it would be too hard to administer”.  When I suggested to Joe Hockey’s adviser that it could be administered by the ATO through a simple tax return he said “that is not my area of expertise”.

Ask Gina to pay tax and she moves to Singapore.  Ask her to pay a decent wage and she imports slave labour.  Ask her to give you your inheritance and you may end up in court.

Any inquiry into media ownership laws will hear howls that echo around the world.  “Stalin”, “censorship”, “freedom of speech”, “attack on democracy”…..Rupert has an absolute tantrum at the very idea that the media should be held in any way accountable in presenting the truth.

The introduction of gambling reform laws had the hotel and gambling industry donating millions to political campaigns rather than have their profits hurt by addressing this most destructive social problem.

Financial advisers from big banks, like those exposed in the Four Corners program the other night, point blank refused to accept transparency and regulation.  Expecting them to disclose kickbacks or vested interests is apparently unreasonable.

Parliamentarians from both sides have been dragged kicking and screaming to repay claimed entitlements for personal pursuits.

This government is built on propaganda – slogans, ridiculous analogies, fear and lies.  Call me a whinger if you like, but it seems to me the real whingers are the ones who can pay for lobby groups.

 

The Coalition Plan for a Better Australia

The first thing we need to do is get rid of the toxic carbon tax.  It is destroying the joint.  After all, emissions went up.  Ok, I know that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down about 7.6 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, or the equivalent of about 14.8 million tonnes, and that demand has dropped as businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency methods, but emissions from coalmine expansion and new gas plants have been soaring.  And that’s what we want!  More coal and more gas to make our country better.

And as for renewable energy, competition like that is bad for the country.  It puts up prices.  I know normally one would consider competition a good thing but not in this case.  Have you seen those wind farms?  They are U.G.L.Y they ain’t got no alibi they ugly uh huh they ugly.  I know there was some talk of 1 million solar roofs before the election.  That information was purely a discussion paper that was inadvertently leaked by a junior staffer who has since been counselled.

And that mining tax has to go because it is stopping investment.  It may not have raised much money but it has scared off mining companies who will take our resources offshore to develop more cheaply – I’m not sure how, but they will.  Don’t you worry about THAT, you people.

It’s a well-known fact that people don’t appreciate something unless they have to pay for it.  I don’t mean you people who are fraudulently claiming business usage on your cars – we know you love your BMWs.  I mean those lollygagging sick people.  We will introduce a luxury tax on doctor’s visits and medications so sick people will truly appreciate the help the doctors and chemists are giving them.

It is also obvious that we can no longer accommodate all those people who are claiming they are old because of some vague family connection in the past.  Far too many people have been using their age to claim entitlements that the rest of us don’t receive.  To stamp out this reverse discrimination we have changed the definition of old to “too old to work”.  Rather than seeking handouts, we will liberate those who were previously known as old to seek work usually given to other age brackets or to retrain for a new career.  Training fees will be deducted from their estate.

Our greatest priority is to defend our borders against everyone and everything – asylum seekers, sharks, coral – who knows what deadly menace is around the corner and under a tree.  To that end we are amassing squadrons of attack fighter jets, packs of submarines, armadas of orange life rafts, and a whole fleet of fishermen with mates and eskies.  They will complement our Navy who patrol our Northern Shores searching for boats that have stopped and our Airforce who patrol the Southern Oceans searching for the Mary Celeste.  This will be given an unlimited budget that will go up by whatever the generals ask for each year.

We are conscripting our youth into a homeland defence force known as the Green Army which can be deployed to any mine that may be a possible target for whoever is invading – maybe the crown of thorn starfish who already knows that Greg Hunt means business!

To help the unemployed get jobs, we will make everyone part-time, pay them less, and make them move away from family who could provide accommodation and friends who could help with transport or share the cost of living.  Those who choose to commute, we will make them truly appreciate the cost of petrol by increasing the fuel excise so we can build more roads.  This will not apply to anyone making over $1 billion a year.

To show that we are all making sacrifices, rich women will only be given $1,923 a week to have babies.  Corporate Australia will pay for this through a 1.5% levy on some businesses in conjunction with a 1.5% decrease in company tax for all businesses.  That should work….I think.

Any shortfall between government revenue and the subsidies and tax breaks that we give to mining companies, banks, private health insurers, and Gina, will be made up equally by all those who earn over $80,000 who don’t have an accountant.  Those of you who do have an accountant may continue negative gearing because you are the rock upon which this nation is built.

This is our vision, this is our mission…..

Vive les riches!

I refuse to live in fear!

The tactic of a bully is to keep their victims living in fear of what could happen so they are grateful when they don’t get beaten or abused. They make their victim believe they are powerless by cutting them off from their support and telling them only the bully can look after them. This is exactly what our own government is doing. It is their tactic of choice in so many areas.

In the past, Australia was a country who willingly offered safe haven to refugees. We recognised their need for a home which complemented our need for population growth. As time passed, the contribution made to our society by those we embraced became obvious and we are the richer for it in so many ways. We are a wealthy multicultural society who used to lend a hand. Those days are gone.

We must spend whatever it takes, and alienate whoever we must, and inflict terrible physical and mental harm, to save the nation from the invading hordes of asylum seekers who will threaten our way of life. They will impose Sharia law, take your jobs, clog up your roads and hospitals, and are just waiting for a chance to kill you. Yes I am sure that’s why they are fleeing their homelands, leaving family and friends, risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels – just so they can come and turn Australia into what they are escaping from.

I do not fear refugees and we can easily accommodate 30,000 a year if not more. We should be welcoming them, assuring them they are safe now, and assisting them to become productive members of our society.

Climate change is real. It is not a conspiracy by bankers for world domination. It is not collusion by scientists to get funding. It is not a fake perpetrated by the IPCC. I refuse to believe the conspiracy theories though I am terrified by the consequences of our inaction. The government has inculcated fear about carbon pricing into the community – Whyalla will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket – none of which happened.  They tell us that wind farms are bad for our health and when that didn’t run, they revert to they are ugly?

We were told that the mining tax would hinder investment in Australia with investment and jobs going offshore. This scare campaign was also a lie. We have the resources and a stable economy, the investors are banging on our door. The high Aussie dollar caused by the success of the mining industry is what is hurting jobs and sending industries offshore, but Hockey hastened to reassure the miners that they will not have any of their subsidies cut or tax increased.  In ‘fear’ of the miners choosing to rape another country instead, we have gotten rid of our environmental protections and given virtually open slather for the short term cash grab of developing our finite resources.

Our country is not broke. Using great big numbers about possible debt in ten years’ time and inflated deficit figures is purely designed to scare us. Why do that? Don’t you want business and consumer confidence? This scare campaign is purely political to exaggerate the problem, blame it on Labor, and use it as an excuse to implement their corporate agenda and social engineering.

People struggling on the old age and disability pensions are terrified about the recommendations from the Commission of Audit. We can reassure the miners but we cannot reassure the pensioners. They have to wait in fear so when they only have to pay $6 instead of the recommended $15 as a co-payment to the doctor they will feel grateful.

We are told that our health system is unsustainable yet the government didn’t ask the people in the industry how it could be improved. We straight away go to the scare campaign of we can’t afford this so you must pay. The experts have said there are many ways that expenditure could be better spent and areas of waste that could be eliminated but starting with preventative health is patently counter-productive.

The same applies to the old age pension. We have now scared everyone by saying they will have to work to 70 yet once again the experts disagree with the fear campaign being spread. Hockey said the number of people aged 65-84 would quadruple by 2050. The ABS says otherwise. They do three predictions – high, low, and medium – their high range estimate is 2.5 times growth in that age bracket. Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact between 61 and 63 per cent.

The scare campaign about unions is the government’s way of cutting us off from our support. What collective voice do the people have other than the unions? Who offers protection for our workplace rights other than unions? Who can represent individuals other than unions? Reducing the minimum wage or the availability of Newstart is not the best way to tackle unemployment. There are so many better ways like investing in new industries such as renewable energy, and investing in education and supporting research to develop the industries of the future – something we have been amazingly good at in the past.

George Brandis even wants to change the law to protect bigots and bullies.  Apparently they have every right to offend and humiliate people.  What sort of crazy backward thinking is this, done in the name of freedom?  Next, will we be defending the rights of countries to commit human rights abuses?  Oh, wait……

We must stand up to this government who consciously, willingly lies to its own citizens to keep them in unnecessary fear. We must point out their crazy priorities where we waste hundreds of billions on fossil fuel subsidies, tax rebates for superannuation and private health insurance, fighter jets, paid parental leave, grants to polluters, Operation Sovereign Borders, lifetime gold passes and entitlements for politicians, political advertising and campaigning and the like, while insisting that our most vulnerable must live in poverty and fear. We must expose their lies about debt, deficit, and the affordability of our health and welfare system.

You are the one who should be afraid Tony – be vewwy afwaid – because I refuse to live in fear and will do everything in my power to make sure the Australian people know the truth so we can protect ourselves from the bully by ending this relationship at the first opportunity.

Bullying-stands-for

The truth about the mining tax

Photo by smh.com.au

Photo by smh.com.au

It has become increasingly apparent that the onus is on citizen bloggers to inform the Australian public of the truth. We certainly can’t rely on our politicians who are too busy misrepresenting the facts to make the other guy look bad.   And we can’t rely on our mainstream media who, in many cases, are under editorial instruction to present a certain view.

Today I would like to discuss that “anti-Western Australia” mining tax and put paid to some of the lies being repeated over and over from the Coalition script du jour. I wonder if they realise how annoying it is to listen to them repeat the same trite phrases regardless of who is being interviewed. This, to me, indicates that they either do not have a handle on the subject matter (I’m looking at you Tony) or that they are deliberately obfuscating the issue with whatever spin the advertising gurus tell them will resonate. Either way, it is treating us with contempt.

Most of our mining companies are majority foreign-owned and are receiving a huge windfall at the Australian taxpayer’s expense. Remember that these minerals are a finite resource – when they run out the money stops coming in. In 2001, mining companies paid approximately 40% of their profits as royalties to the state governments. Today they pay less than 20%. Clearly, there is a strong argument that the Australian people deserve to receive a greater share of today’s profits.

While parts of the Australian economy have benefited from the resource boom, other parts have suffered. Strong demand for our resources has pushed the Australian dollar higher, hurting farmers and manufacturers who export Australian-made products as their products have become more expensive to foreign buyers. The higher dollar has also impacted tourism and our foreign-student education industries. As a result, we have what has been described as a two-speed economy. The miners and associated service industries are doing very well, while our exporters are suffering.

The tax, levied on 30% of the “super profits” from the mining of iron ore and coal in Australia, was to be paid when a company’s annual profits reach $75 million, a measure designed so as not to burden small business. This affected approximately 320 companies. The money raised was to be spent on pensions, tax cuts for small businesses and infrastructure projects, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.

Professor Ross Garnaut said, when the tax was proposed, that it would be a test of whether difficult economic reform remained possible in Australia, or whether powerful interest groups now had too much sway over the political process. I guess we have our answer.

When Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, led a $22 million advertising campaign against the mining tax, the Labor Party succumbed to the bullying and allowed BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto to make up the rules. This was a huge mistake brought about by blackmail – give us what we want or we will make sure you lose the election. The concessions made meant that a proposed reduction of company tax could not go ahead so the miners not only screwed the Australian public, they also cost other businesses this concession.

Mathias Corman has been popping up everywhere saying that scrapping the mining tax will save the budget $13.8 billion. This is a ridiculous thing to say. How can cutting revenue save money? In fact, Hockey’s own dubious figures show that axing the tax will cost the budget $3.4 billion over the forward estimates. The mining companies were given generous accelerated depreciation concessions which, while they were in investment phase, they could write off against their record profits cutting the amount of tax due. Now, as they are moving into production phase, revenue is set to increase significantly into the future.

There have been two main arguments put forward against the mining tax. The first was that it would be a deterrent to investment, an assertion not borne out by the facts. A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors and that fluctuating commodity prices are much more of a determinant for future investment.

Another report recently released by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia found a number of factors are constraining private investment levels including a shortage of long-term, integrated planning for infrastructure, project structuring complexity, and a general investor aversion towards greenfield infrastructure projects. Still no mention of the mining tax.

In a glaring example of how Tony Abbott is willing to mislead the Australian public, he blamed the delayed expansion of the Olympic Dam project on the mining tax, even after it was pointed out to him that the mining tax only applies to iron ore and coal, not to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the Olympic Dam mine. Stupidity is one thing, cupidity is another.

The other emotional string pulled in the mining tax debate is that of jobs. Whilst the mining sector contributes about 10% to GDP, it is not a big employer (currently 2.4% of the workforce) and this is set to fall as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. Since the announcement of the repeal of the mining tax we have continued to see many job losses in the mining industry.

From a peak of 85,819 positions last year, the construction element of the resources boom is expected to dive to just 7700 in 2018, with 78,000 jobs lost, according to the 2013 resources skills study released in December by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency. Job losses are expected to be gradual in 2014 – down to 83,324 – and then rapidly accelerate to 2018.

The dive in construction jobs will be only partially offset by a rise of nearly 40,000 resources operations jobs, led by the oil and gas sector where employment should rise from 38,943 this year to 61,212 in 2018. Mining operations jobs should increase by 17,560 from 236,690 this year to 254,260.

In fact, repealing the mining tax will cost jobs as mining profits are stripped from our economy and sent to overseas investors. Instead of those billions circulating through our economy, they will be lining the pockets of foreigners.

The arguments about investment and jobs being dependent on the mining tax have been refuted from every corner, including the industry itself, and by every study that has been done. It is quite simply a lie and the government knows it, or at least they should if they have read any of the countless reports done on the matter. But there will be a cost and it will be us that pays. Tony’s pander to Gina will see

1. The abolition of the low income superannuation contribution

2. Unwinding the instant asset write-off for small business

3. Delaying the superannuation guarantee increase so it remains fixed at 9.25 per cent until 2016–17

4. Discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses

5. Dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles

6. Ending geothermal exploration treatment

7. Scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payment

8. Abolishing the Schoolkids Bonus, a lump-sum payment to parents of school-aged children twice a year, even though this payment was not attached to the mining tax and was introduced to replace an existing education tax refund.

Mining shareholders will be smiling, a smile paid for by our children, our workers and our small business owners. Thanks Tony.

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

Tony Abbott is gleefully crowing about “100+ days without a boat”. What Mr Abbott seems oblivious to is that he has closed yet another door on people fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Taliban just fired rockets at the Electoral Office in Afghanistan so the upcoming election doesn’t look like it will make everything tickety poo over there either. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in Syria though the government haven’t done any mass gassings lately, not in the open anyway.

And it isn’t as if we have increased our humanitarian intake or processed any of the people already being illegally held in detention. This has cost us a fortune, subjected our navy to allegations of abuse, seen us internationally condemned, caused enormous mental and physical harm to vulnerable people, and Australian guards are now implicated in the death of a man who was under their protection. Yet this is supposed to be a success?

Tony’s team are also pushing very hard for the repeal of the carbon tax but it is becoming harder and harder to drown out the chorus of condemnation for such an act from world leaders, the UN, climate change bodies, scientists, economists and the citizens of the world. He accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat”, and said he doesn’t want to “clutter up” the G20 agenda with talk about climate change. Can you imagine how that was received?

Blatantly sacking scientists and advisory bodies to appoint climate change deniers to every position might allow you to fool people in Australia in the very short term. It will not change the science. This headless chicken (Prince Charles) flat earth (Barak Obama) denial is wasting precious time and shows us globally as unwilling to do our bit – something Australians have always been respected for in the past.

The Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan has released its findings and they are damning. If this process is to have any credibility, the Coalition must drop this idea and agree to move to an ETS with higher targets for emission reduction and renewable energy. It is what every expert recommends, especially the economists.

Greg Hunt must be the only Minister for the Environment who would be bragging about approving billions of dollars of new coal mining and port expansion which will unquestionably lead to the degradation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. He has also advocated the removal of marine park legislation to allow for commercial fishing, removal of world heritage listing to allow for logging, and the building of dams in our ecologically sensitive pristine North. With an Environment Minister like that, who needs natural disasters?

And then there is the mining tax. On the 7:30 report, Abbott claimed that the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame for BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of its huge Olympic Dam mine despite the fact that Marius Kloppers said it had nothing to do with the mining tax which doesn’t even apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.

Mining profits worldwide have slumped by half since 2011 as the mining boom comes off its highs according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which says that higher costs, more writedowns and fluctuating commodity prices have hit the fortunes of the top 40 mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

PwC Australia’s head of energy and mining, Jock O’Callaghan, says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors. Not surprisingly, the government has failed to take note of this advice.

Mr O’Callaghan says he expects more mines to close, including in Australia. “Certainly if we see a further downturn in commodity prices that is going to put more pressure on marginal mines,” he said. “There is no denying that and again that is not just an Australian phenomena.”

As Ross Gittins explains,

“For the income earned by an industry to generate jobs in Australia, it has to be spent in Australia. And our mining industry is about 80 per cent foreign-owned. For our economy and our workers to benefit adequately from the exploitation of our natural endowment by mainly foreign companies, our government has to ensure it gets a fair whack of the economic rents those foreigners generate.

Because Labor so foolishly allowed the big three foreign miners to redesign the tax, they chose to get all their deductions up-front. Once those deductions are used up, the tax will become a big earner. Long before then, however, Tony Abbott will have rewarded the Liberal Party’s foreign donors by abolishing the tax.

This will be an act of major fiscal vandalism, of little or no benefit to the economy and at great cost to job creation.”

Mining currently employs about 2.4% of our workforce but this is set to drop as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. As we saw during the GFC, they are not altruistic benefactors and have little loyalty to their employees. According to Richard Denniss

“When commodity prices fell during the global financial crisis the first thing the mining industry did was sack thousands of their workers. Indeed, according to Treasury, if all industries had been as quick to punt their employees as the mining industry the unemployment rate would have hit 19 per cent rather than its peak of 5.9 per cent.”

Penny Wong described Abbott’s rhetoric regarding the mining tax as “one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics” and I can only agree.

After saying there was no difference between Liberal and Labor on education, we have seen billions cut with a backing away from the bulk of the Gonski funding, the abolition of trades training centres, and cuts to the before and after school care program despite childcare being identified as far more important in improving productivity and workforce participation than paid parental leave.

We have also seen the Coalition attempt to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in a bizarre attempt to “protect the rights of bigots”. Countless journalists have said they have not felt constrained in any way by this section of the act and do not see the need for its repeal. This is purely and simply a pander to Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch. Promoting hatred under the name of free speech is a truly cynical exercise which has left many Australians feeling very uneasy about what is happening to our country.

According to the Coalition, our debt and deficit are a real problem and spending must be reined in. While listening to a relentless barrage softening us up for the cuts that are to come, we watch Tony Abbott spend money hand over fist on his Paid Parental Leave scheme, orange life rafts, unmanned drones, planes both for the Air Force and himself, grants to polluters, gambling on the foreign exchange market, tax concessions for the wealthy, subsidies to profitable mining companies, marriage guidance counselling vouchers, and gifts to pollie pedal sponsors.

We are also going to sell everything we own and spend billions to build roads.  Public transport and high speed rail will receive no funding.  I am sure the fact that cars rely on fossil fuels hasn’t entered into the decision making.

With the rollout of the NBN in limbo, Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that he cannot keep his pre-election promises. His inferior offering will take much longer and cost much more than he led us to believe and will be outdated before it is even completed.

Abbott’s rush to sign free trade agreements which include ISDS clauses with all and sundry (No. 87 on the IPA’s wish list), has put our nation at sovereign risk where we will risk being sued if we introduce laws to protect our health and environment. It will almost certainly lead to a huge increase in the cost of medicine as pharmaceutical companies block the release of generic medicines, and a host of other repercussions that we can only anticipate with dread.

We have the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, winding back gambling reforms and disbanding the oversight of charitable bodies. We have the Environment Minister disbanding climate change advisory bodies and removing environmental protection laws. We have the Health Minister disbanding bodies like the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, and attacking Medicare with offices closed on Saturdays and co-payments likely. We have the Assistant Health Minister blocking a healthy eating website and the Assistant Education Minister asking childcare workers to give back their pay rise. In fact, I cannot think of one act or one piece of proposed legislation that has been in the best interest of the people of Australia.

With cuts to foreign aid, indigenous affairs, charities, and asylum seeker advocacy groups, it is increasingly obvious that the vulnerable can expect no protection or assistance from this government. They have made their agenda patently clear. Buy a ticket on the Good Ship Rinehart and lift with the rising tide, or be left to drown as the wealthy stand on the shoulders of the poor to board the corporate gravy train.

 

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