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Tag Archives: Mining

Is the Australian government linked to atrocities overseas?

My name is Tracie Aylmer. I am an international criminal lawyer specialising in the International Criminal Court.

It has come to my attention that a number of Australian government officials may have enabled and caused corruption that directly affects the UN Security Council. Any application towards obtaining a placement on the Security Council should therefore be rejected.

The information is as follows:

  • The Australian government pays subsidies to Australian mining companies. The amount of subsidies keeps increasing, but the link shows the amount per year from two years ago. This amount will not have decreased in any hurry.
  • Mining companies do not pay the required amount of tax in Australia according to its domestic laws. Taxes are instead diverted to tax havens in complicated schemes in order to neglect paying billions in Australia.
  • The billions the Australian mining companies receive directly and indirectly from the Australian government are helping to pay for atrocities in countries such as Africa here, here and here. South America here as well as North America here.
  • In addition, the Australian government are advertising the Australian mining companies within these countries, thereby drawing a link between the Australian government and the Australian mining companies. This also means that our taxpayer funds are being diverted, in order to directly create atrocities overseas, with the Australian government complicit.
  • The billions that are received from the Australian government to Australian mining companies are taxpayer funds – public moneys that the Australian people do not realise are being placed otherwise than what they were meant for.
  • In particular, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, investigations have occurred by the International Criminal Court here as well as with the UN Security Council here.
  • The Central African Republic is another example, with two investigations by the International Criminal Court underway.
  • It can therefore be said that the Australian mining companies – paid for by the Australian government with public taxpayer funds – are creating atrocities in several key areas around the world, that are being investigated by public international authorities such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
  • The Australian government must be held responsible for these actions by public international authorities.

With the above, I wish to advise that due to the extraordinary evidence against the Australian government and Australian mining companies, any application to the United Nations Security Council MUST be rejected. Australia is NOT a responsible international authority.

 

Wonderful Humanitarians – The Altruism of Our New Coal Miners

“Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world.”

Tony Abbott.

Now you’ve probably read something about the wonderful humanitarian efforts of Adani and Shenhua and their plans to create thousands of jobs with new coal mines. Of course, when I say “thousands” that’s at the upper estimate, so a more realistic estimate might be dozens of jobs by the time both mines are operational. Mainly in the PR industry.

But I can’t help but wonder what makes these companies so altruistic. Why start a big new coal mine when you could buy one? And when I say “you”, I’m not speaking generally, I mean you personally. If you don’t think you have the money I’ll lend it to you.

Actually, in fairness, I should say that we may have missed our chance because the mine I’m referring to was actually sold the other day. Price? $1. Maybe we could offer the new owners $2 and give them the chance to double their money in a week. The mine I’m referring to is Isaac Plains, so you can check that I’m not making it up by clicking the link.

But don’t worry there are plenty of other mines for sale. Just Google “coal mines for sale Australia” and you’ll see plenty.

Which makes the plans by Adani and Shenhua seem terribly generous. They’re going to all that trouble to set up a new mine when a mine like Isaac Plains – which a Japanese firm bought for $430 million in 2011 – can be snapped up for small change… literally. Those two companies must surely be just thinking of Australians and how they can help us out by  starting a brand new mine in an industry which has about as much future as a buggy whip company. (Although “Fifty Shades of Grey” has led to a bit of a resurgence in those…)

I can see no other reason about from sheer altruism for them embarking on these projects.  Although I am overlooking sheer incompetence.

I mean, Shehua Australia Holdings, for example, don’t seem all that good at financial management, filing its accounts late in 2014. And 2013. Mm, oh 2012 as well. But wait in 2011… nah, sorry, they were late then as well. Ok, anyone can be late. I mean, it’s not against the law. Oh, the Coorporations Act? Let’s not get technical. If it was good enough for the Abbott Government to break the law by releasing the Intergenerational Report late, it should be good enough for a company.

Univeristy of NSW lecturer, Jeff Knapp seems to think that Shenhua is pretty sloppy with their adherence to the rules, pointing out that they made a basic mistake in 2012 by including interest paid as cash paid to suppliers and employers in their financial report, but then he’s an academic, so what would he know. According to Knapp this a pretty basic mistake, but  then he also thought that refusing to release tax details of millionaires for fear of kidnapping was pretty silly, so like all those interested in accounting, he clearly has an anti-Abbott agenda.

So let’s hear a big cheer for these two companies who are doing something out of the goodness of their hearts and not simply out for profit, like the wind and solar industries.

And as they’re not established industries – after all, clean coal is still in the development phase – perhaps we could get the Clean Energy Finance Coorporation to lend them some money, because they’ll have a pretty hard job getting it from a bank!

Gee, I hope that’s not another idea of mine that the Abbott Government steal.

 

Australian Compendium

By Keith Davis

There is so much to love about Australia. We love living here, and visiting celebrities are wise enough to say how much they love visiting here. We see ourselves as egalitarian, as fair and open-minded, as welcoming, and as free as the kangaroos jumping about in the paddocks. We are also a tad delusional.

Firstly, Australia actually is a great place to live, and nothing that follows can detract from that. The problems lurking just beneath the surface of our mythical landscape do not diminish the possibility of opportunity that exists here. Secondly, even the poor can still, at least for the moment, access our beaches and public BBQs … so our true cultural roots remain homogenous and open to all.

But on with it. What is actually happening in Australia?

Aboriginal People: They remain dispossessed. Our Government is dithering about the wording of the Referendum that is meant to finally acknowledge the very existence of Aboriginal People. Indigenous People have been here for over 60,000 years, and probably a lot more than that, and the rest of us have been here for just over 200 years … so it is fairly clear who should be having a Referendum to recognise whom.

Social Justice: In an all pervading sense, if Social Justice existed here in Australia then we would not have our current dire need for the proliferation of Organisations and Charities who exist to strongly fight for the establishment of social justice here in Australia.

Politics: It would be great to actually have some. Currently we are saddled with a Two Party System where the main focus of either side is the gaining and retention of power. The Liberal and Labor Parties might just as well formalise things and form the LibLab Coalition because it is becoming a little hard to differentiate between them.

The majority of our current crop of politicians are mediocre power junkies and Party sponsored head-nodders.

The Politics of Hate that are emanating out of Canberra are having the inevitable effect … small nationalistic minds are hitting the streets. Fear and suppression are rearing their ugly heads.

The Age of the Independents appears to be coming. Meanwhile, the country lurches onwards to . . .

Gender Equality: Where pay in Australia is concerned it pays to be male. Where securing a position in middle or higher management is concerned it pays to be male. I have always wondered why women don’t simply just all walk off the job and bring the whole lurching unfair edifice to a screeching crumbling halt in a nanosecond. If they all walked out at once then equal opportunity and equal pay would suddenly appear like manna from heaven. Perhaps that will happen one day.

Religion: Some say that it is a mass delusion, some say that it is not. Some religious people do exceptionally good work here in Australia and they fight for victims who exist because of our lack of social justice.

Others simply feather their own nests and rob their congregations blind. Like anything else here in Australia religion is a mixed bag, there is good and bad, but it has strongly insinuated itself into the core of our federal government, and that is quite clearly bad.

War: Putting aside (but never forgetting) the historical attempted genocide of Aboriginal People, and the flattening of the Eureka Stockade, Australia has latterly been free of open warfare on our continental mainland.

We have fought in a couple of major and righteous wars, and we have fought in far too many dodgy and unnecessary wars. No doubt Indigenous People and Asylum Seekers might have a slightly different view to the rest of us when it comes to defining what war actually is. However, we all get to wake up each morning without the smell of cordite in our nostrils, or the sight of a newly created line of bomb craters … and we need to remind our federal government that most of us do not want to jump into the next handiest ‘war coalition’.

Growth: We are told that the world will end without this thing called growth. To gain this growth, and bigger houses, and bigger cars, and bigger televisions, both members of Australian couples have to work full time, and have to bung their children into institutionalised childcare. The kids are probably thinking ‘bugger this growth thing, I would like to grow up in the loving arms of my parents’.

Growth gives us alienated kids and a mega-tonnage of discarded instantly obsolescent electronic technology buried in our landfills. If Australia had smaller houses, smaller cars, and fewer greedy aspirational types – we might have happier kids and we might actually grow as a nation.

Environment: We could lead the world in the uptake of renewable energy technology … but instead of that we lurch about in the coalfields. Australia is madly digging up anything out of the ground that will fuel the engine of ‘growth’ around the world and we continue to gaily contribute to the continual pollution of our planetary atmosphere.

We degrade our own environment and we allow a very small number of people, who are no more important than you or I, to become sickeningly rich on the environmentally destructive proceeds. Money, growth, power, and not giving a stuff, are doing injurious harm to our Australian environment.

Freedom: We are free from starvation, but we are not free. We are free from civil war, but we are not free. We are currently mainly free from totalitarian suppression, but we are not free.

We are a controlled people – controlled by the ‘growth’ wish, controlled and socially engineered by our governments, controlled and manipulated by our advertising industry, controlled and constrained by our own collective small thinking.

We wave and claim our mythical flag of freedom, we wrap ourselves up in it, we broadcast it to the world, and we forget that to an outside observer we simply appear to be using the ephemeral strands of the mythology of Australia to weave a shroud of our own making.

Now, having said all that – there is nowhere else I’d rather live. The wonderful thing about faults … and Australia is replete with them … is that they can be rectified.

So let’s continue to agitate for the establishment of a better Australia!

 

Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Free Market Hypocrisy

In an almost unbelievable report released on the 18th of May, the International Monetary Fund has shown that subsidies for fossil fuel companies have reached $10 million dollars a minute. The companies are benefitting from global subsidies of 5.3 trillion dollars a year, more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. It seems that polluters have been failing to foot the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas, which include the adverse environmental effects of climate change such as floods and droughts, and the harm caused to local settlements by air pollution.

Quoted in an article over at The Guardian, climate economist Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics said that the figure was likely an understatement.

“A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF’s projections for outcomes should the subsidies be cut are astounding. It has claimed that ending the subsidies for fossil fuels companies would cut global carbon emissions by a fifth, and slash premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50%, equivalent to some 1.6 million lives annually. Resources freed by ending the subsidies could also drive economic growth and reduce poverty through a redirection of the wasted funds into infrastructure, health and education.

A report from February 2015 by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Global Subsidies Initiative of IISD found that “the removal of fossil fuel subsidies to consumers and to society could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by between 6-13% by 2050.”

So who’s doing all the subsidising? China comes in on top with around 2.3 trillion per year, with the United States trailing not far behind at around 700 billion annually. Other large contributors include India, at 277 billion, Russia at 335 billion, and Japan, with 157 billion spent every year on subsidies to fossil fuels. A quarter of the total costs result from climate change driven by emissions, amounting to 1.27 trillion per year.

The official response in the past to the skyrocketing figures has been typically blustery but without a great deal of effective action. World leaders called for an end to the subsidies at the 2009 G20 conference, but little progress has been made since. While there are economic factors at play, as well as the political influence of big business, governments committed to fulfilling their role as representatives for their citizenry should not balk at the prospect of taking a hard line with organisations harming those they have sworn to advocate for, in fact, it should ideally be their defining characteristic. Whatever short term losses Rio Tinto and Shell can threaten, they pale in comparison to the very real and likely irreversible costs of continuing to throw money at what ultimately amounts to a vehicle for our own extinction.

We are especially culpable, with Australia leading the world in per capita emissions at 28 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum and our political treatment of the issue ranging from toothless opposition to fervent bankrolled support. The president of the World Bank told the Guardian in April that it was ridiculous that governments were still driving the industry. He notes that fossil fuel subsidies effectively act as encouragement for unsustainable practices. “Fossil fuel subsidies send out a terrible signal: burn more carbon.”

With many detailed assessments showing that the world’s energy needs can be met adequately with existing renewable technologies, the cheap, paid-for-by-industry rhetoric of conservative governments is wearing paper thin. A study published by the University of Melbourne claims that Australia could be fully powered by wind and solar alone in around a decade by spending approximately 3% of GDP along the pathways outlined in the report, pathways which are predicted to create some 80,000 jobs. According to the study, the main obstacle to this is a lack of political will. To follow through with a project of this sort would be to join the ranks of Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark among others in investing in a sustainable and healthy future for ourselves and generations to follow.

In addition to the progressive policymaking of the aforementioned nations, in 2014 almost 30 countries, including Indonesia, India and Egypt, had delivered some form of fossil fuel subsidy reform. Other countries that support the reform of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies are Costa Rica, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

As a nation, Australia has denied that it subsidises fossil fuels, however there is strong and compelling data demonstrating that this is not the case.

The 2010 report by the Australian Conservation Foundation suggests that the annual value of fossil fuel subsidies in Australia is currently valued at 7.7 billion, the largest of those subsidies being the Fuel Tax Credits program, which rebates fuel excise tax on diesel fuel consumption for many business users. It is worth 65% of total fossil fuel subsidies, or around 5 billion per annum. Other subsidies include tax concessions for “private use of company cars” and “car parking”, meaning that the people of Australia are effectively paying the travel costs of the wealthy in addition to propping up their failing businesses.

Now, granted, all these figures do seem shocking, but you’ll recall that so far I’ve only given them to you without any direct context. Here’s where your knuckles are going to whiten. This is costing you around a hundred and eighty two dollars a year. That money you probably needed for rent, food or bills is literally lining the pockets of someone who by any honest standard doesn’t need it, so they can continue to grow their personal fortunes with money that you’ll never see a cent of. As stated above, this isn’t even beneficial to you in a roundabout way, as the funds used to subsidise these industries and the people who profit from them could be redirected into services that would confer a tangible benefit to your everyday lives, whether from improved healthcare or simply better infrastructure.

Typically, businesses have been outraged at the notion that they may have to take part in the free markets they so commonly evangelise. The Minerals Council of Australia claims that government funding and tax breaks for exploration are not “subsidies”, which has obviously become a dirty word for corporations, but “legitimate tax deductions for business”. Innes Wilcox of the Australian Industry Group, a blatantly neoconservative organisation that seems to exist almost solely to legitimise illegitimate business practices, has called for subsidies to natural gas export facilities, stating that “the Commonwealth and the states took the decision to allow the eastern gas market to be linked to the high priced Asian and east Asian gas market. Government should not escape responsibility for the unintended consequences of that decision.” Apparently businesses should, according to Mr. Wilcox.

The main argument from those who would see subsidies continued or even expanded is that the practice “supports jobs”. The subsidies are deemed necessary because because if it were not paid, and here comes the kicker, the industry would fail. Ironically these same supporters of what are, in effect, welfare payments to failing businesses from the population of the country they do business in, are also the biggest critics of government intervention. Gina Rinehart, owner of Hancock Prospecting, has argued for Australia to cut it’s “entitlement” mentality. Penning a piece of surrealist fiction Dali would have been proud of, Rinehart claims that “Australians have to… work harder and smarter to pay [the bill created by welfare payments].”

In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, Rinehart points out that “we are living beyond our means” and that “we all have a role to play in mitigating the thinking that’s not helping our country’s future, including the entitlement mentality of individuals, companies — and our leaders.” These statements came not six months after Rinehart suggested that parents buy their children books from the likes of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, two historical supporters of free market ideology that would have looked down their noses in disgust at the hypocrisy of a woman who preaches the ideals of free market capitalism yet owes her success and fortune to the parasitic relationship she has forged with the Australian government.

Technically speaking, a free market economy is free of subsidies by definition. A subsidy introduced to a previously free market transforms it into what is known as a mixed economy. The authors that Rinehart and her contemporaries cite as major influences would argue that subsidies unnecessarily distort markets and divert resources from more productive uses to less productive uses. Conveniently, the leaders of business in this country and abroad have managed to characterise these arguments as product of scheming leftoids and “greenies”, and it seems no-one in our media or government has the stones to point out how dishonest a statement that actually is.

So what could possibly motivate such staunch supporters of free market ideology to bat for the opposing team? I think this short statement says it all:

“To the extent subsidies raise the profits of those receiving beneficial treatment, a new political incentive is created to lobby for the subsidy even after its usefulness runs out. This potentially allows political interests and business interests to create a mutual benefit at the expense of other taxpayers or competitive firms.”

That mutual benefit seems to be the driving principle behind government relations with fossil fuel companies in Australia, and it stands out like a sore thumb despite bungling efforts to minimise its visibility to the public. In 2013, Barnaby Joyce claimed that Gina Rinehart fronted the cost of a flight to Hyderabad for the wedding of the granddaughter of Rinehart’s business partner. Another story from the Sydney Morning Herald shows Rinehart meeting a small group of Coalition members in her private hotel suite, including Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi. I’m sure there is an infinite stream of spurious justification just waiting to dribble forth from the maws of their respective supporters, but I fail to see how secretive meetings between the captains of industry and the leaders of government can result in anything but a conflict of interest.

One of the world’s leading public intellectuals, MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, has spoken at some length about the relationship of the idealist notion of free markets and their real world counterparts. Chomsky states in his talk, Free Market Fantasies, that the overarching political rhetoric of our age is that the poor and needy must learn responsibility through exposure to the pressures and forces of the free market, while the rich demand a nanny state to protect them from market discipline, minimise competitive risk and maximise profits. What Chomsky notes is that when something goes wrong in the affairs of one of these large businesses, the state intervenes using tax dollars to “bail out” the corporation. According to Fortune magazine, not a single one of the top one hundred transnational corporations missed out on such beneficial state intervention. Here’s a short excerpt from his talk:

“Well “subsidy” is another interesting word, kind of like reform. It’s a subsidy if public funds are used for public purposes. That’s called a subsidy. It’s not called a subsidy when they go to private wealth. That’s reform. So they’re cutting down subsidies for public transportation. Well, that’s just a tax. If you pay 20 percent more for getting on the subway, that’s a tax. Same if you pay higher tuition at City College. And that’s a highly regressive tax. So, who rides the subways, and who goes to City College?

So what they’re doing is shifting- is cutting taxes for business — for the rich, and increasing taxes for the poor, which are going to compensate for that. And that’s called fiscal conservatism, and cutting government. Well, so it is across the board. Take a close look at the things that are called cutting government, and you notice that they quite characteristically have this property.”

So what are we going to do about this? There are numerous avenues for interested persons to organise and present a united front against these practices. 

On the side of politics, the Australian Greens count among their principles the notion that “subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, including funding for research and development, should be transferred to the renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport sectors.” There are other minor parties that support an end to fossil fuel subsidies and run on a platform including other targets for sustainable and renewable energy practices.

For a more direct approach, non-governmental organisations such as 350.org and Market Forces offer ways for the average citizen to get involved and take direct action to affect change in business and government.

Finally, simply talking about the issue with friends and family can be an invaluable way to spread awareness about the reality of our situation with regards to fossil fuels. Social media groups and online communities are a great way to network with likeminded people and organise activism in your local area.

Although the situation seems grim, and it is, all hope is not lost. We are at a point in the history of our species where our access to information is as free as it has ever been, where democratic structures exist and can be used for their intended purpose with enough popular support. We have thrown off the shackles of the church and hereditary leadership, and made enormous progress in securing the rights of marginalised sections of the human population. We have been to space.

I have no doubt that an informed and motivated citizenry can bring about radical change despite moneyed opposition from big business. We are an incredible phenomenon of life. Let’s not let the least of us snuff that out.

 


This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

Think very carefully, Queensland

When Queensland goes to the polls next Saturday they will be voting for their future – the future of their freedom, their democracy, their environment, the Great Barrier Reef, and their children.

Because of Queensland’s chequered political history and the behaviour of the current government, all political parties were recently asked to acknowledge good governance obligations expressed in very simple terms; that is, to:

  • make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
  • treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
  • promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions

Bizarrely, the Liberal National Party alone refused to commit to those constraints or to explain its reasons though Newman, under pressure at the leader’s debate, seemed to change his mind (possibly).

It is effectively telling voters that, if it is elected, it will do as it pleases; in effect, it will continue the behaviour which marked its first term and led to its heavy losses in recent by-elections.

With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power.

In an article titled “Queensland political ethics:  a perfect oxymoron”, Tony Fitzgerald recently said of the Newman government

“During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt. From behind a populist facade, it engaged in nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable chief justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery.”

The Q Forum has raised millions of dollars for the Queensland LNP and helped make the party the richest single political organisation in the country, according to the latest Australian Electoral Commission figures.

In July the LNP changed electoral disclosure laws to increase the threshold at which donations had to be declared, from $1,000 to $12,400.

The figure has since been inflation-adjusted to $12,800.

As a result, public disclosures of donations have become far less detailed.

Former Fitzgerald Inquiry special counsel Gary Crooke, who helped jail Queensland government ministers over corruption in the 1980s, described fundraising by charging for access to ministers as a “cancer” that kept coming back in politics and a betrayal of a fundamental public trust.

“They’re at it again with bells on, running these things where they are selling no more and no less than the community’s property that they hold in trust, in order to feather the coffers of a political party,” he said.

Mr Crooke, who also served as Queensland Integrity Commissioner, said such practices were “so unethical and so much in breach of fundamental duty that there should be a law prohibiting it”.

Now we have the bizarre situation of Campbell Newman (and others) suing Alan Jones for his allegations that Newman lied to him about the New Hope mine before the last election.

The decision to allow Acland to mine another 3m tonnes of coal a year was announced on the Friday before Christmas.

New Hope and its parent company, Washington H Soul Pattinson, donated more than $700,000 to the LNP at a state and federal level between 2011 and 2013.

Asked if New Hope’s donations influenced the government’s approval, Newman said: “I will not be commenting on Alan Jones.”

Asked by Guardian Australia if LNP officials had indicated whether the party’s donations had risen since it raised the secrecy threshold, Newman replied that he had “no idea”.

Ian Walker took a donation from a board director of New Hope Coal before his election in 2012 and, as the minister for science, information technology, innovation and the arts, subsequently oversaw the department which cleared levels of air pollution from uncovered coal trains in Brisbane before the expansion of New Hope’s Acland mine.

The pollution study by Walker’s department was released to companies including New Hope a week before it was made public in 2013.

Clean Air Queensland’s organiser Michael Kane claimed the government study clearing the pollution levels by averaging emissions over 24 hours was “absolutely the wrong methodology.”

New Hope’s chairman, Robert Millner, was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) in NSW last year over a donations controversy involving another Washington H Soul Pattinson subsidiary of which he was chairman, Brickworks.

Jones has also attacked the government over the energy minister, Mark McArdle, and the environment minister, Andrew Powell, accepting entertainment from New Hope in its corporate box at a Wallabies rugby game in Brisbane in 2013.

But what can we expect when the head of corporate affairs for a mining company has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.

James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the company, QCoal.

Mr Mackay has chaired the LNP’s state environment and heritage protection committee, which develops policy for discussion at the party’s annual conference, since being voted on to the committee in 2012.

Shortly after coming to power in 2012 the LNP introduced a bill to remove “green tape” or what it considered to be unnecessary or superfluous environmental regulation.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said at the time that the state was “in the coal business” and if people wanted new schools and hospitals they had to accept that the state needed royalties from coal mining.

QCoal boss Mr Wallin gave $120,000 to the party in two donations just before the 2012 state election.

Campbell Newman is trying to tell us that mining will boost employment.  In 2013-14 it did not even rate in the top ten employers by industry with about a quarter of the number of people employed in health care and social assistance.

The mining lobby keeps telling us about the great contribution it makes to the Australian economy. There is a lot of exaggeration in this and often much worse.

  • As Ross Gittins in the SMH and others point out mining accounts for about 10% of our national production, but only 2% of employment. The large increase in mining investment in recent years has mainly been to purchase equipment from overseas.
  • About 80% of our very profitable mining industry is foreign owned. BHP/Biliton is 76% foreign owned, RioTinto 83% and Xstrata 100%. This means that 80% of mining profits accrue to foreign shareholders and not to Australians. In this situation it is important for the owners of the minerals; we Australians, that we get some worthwhile return either in taxes or royalties.
  • State governments do receive royalties from mining companies for the exploitation of our national resources, but they hand a lot back to the mining companies. According to the Australia Institute, the states gave the mining companies $3.2 billion in concessions last year – mainly in providing railway infrastructure and freight discounts. In Queensland, these concessions or subsidies were equivalent to about 60% of the royalties the Queensland government received.
  • Michael West in the SMH on 27 April 2014 points out that Australia’s largest coal miner, Glencore/Xstrata paid no company tax at all over the last three years despite an income of $15 billion.  According to West it achieved this remarkable result of paying no company tax by paying 9% interest on $3.4 billion in loans from overseas associates.  This 9% incidentally was about double the interest it would have had to pay in the open market or from a bank. Having paid 9% on these borrowings to load up its “costs” in Australia it then lent money to ‘related parties’ interest-free. We are not told who these related parties were. But there is more. Apparently there has been a large increase in Glencore’s coal sales to ‘related companies’ from 27% to 46%. This would seem to indicate transfer pricing to shift income to lower tax countries. In this regard Michael West reported on the complex Glencore company structure. ‘The Glencore structure is now run as a series of business units controlled by one company [Glencore/Xstrata Plc) which is incorporated in the UK, listed on the London and other stock exchanges, with its registered office in Jersey (a tax haven) and its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. It is probably all legal but is it right?

Indian-based company Adani has a large mine proposal at Carmichael in the Gallilee Basin and needs to build a rail line 388 kilometres to Abbott Point port where the coal will be exported.  Campbell Newman has offered $300 million of taxpayer funds to build the railway despite Adani having trouble finding finance for its mining operation with most financiers saying it is not commercially viable.

Adani plans to export 100 million tonnes a year of coal to India and provide 2400 jobs.

Adani’s chief executive Sandeep Mahta estimates their coal plant generates more than $6 billion in royalties for the Queensland Government in its first decade of operation.

Reef tourism generates over 60,000 jobs and $6 billion a year in revenue to the Queensland economy.

If you agree with Campbell that the coal business is your future and you are prepared to sacrifice the Reef and the revenue and tourism jobs it sustains for a project that the banks won’t touch then you will probably vote for the Coalition.  Get back to me on how that works out.

PS  Could we please have less public kissing.

tony and lisa

 

Sickness Country: Selling Nuclear to the Neighbours

Earlier this month, Tony Abbott travelled to India to seal the deal on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which will allow the sale of uranium to the subcontinent. Australia had previously banned the sale of uranium to India, due to its status as a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australia has the largest known uranium deposits in the world and is the third largest exporter, behind Kazakhstan and Canada. There are currently only three operational mines in Australia – Ranger (NT), Olympic Dam (SA) and Beverley (SA).

Newman brings back uranium mining in QLD

In October 2012, newly elected Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that the long-standing ban on uranium mining in the state would be lifted. The backflip on his pre-election promise not to pursue uranium mining came shortly after PM Julia Gillard pushed to reopen uranium negotiations with India in 2011.

Although not officially banned until 1989, uranium hasn’t been mined in Queensland since 1982 when the Mary Kathleen mine in the state’s north west was closed for rehabilitation. This is the first mine to be reopened, with the government opening up submissions for its development last July.

The reopening of other closed mine sites in the state is expected to follow. According to the State Government, there are more than 80 known sites containing valuable amounts of uranium, the majority in the state’s north west.

Townsville declares itself nuclear free

One of the largest deposits is just 50km south of Townsville at Ben Lomond. Last mined over 30 years ago, it’s being eyed up by mining companies and the Queensland government is ready and waiting for submissions to redevelop the site.

In response, residents of Townsville declared the city nuclear free earlier this year and have been actively campaigning against the reopening of the mine since the ban was lifted.

“It’s hazardous, it’s very high risk, it’s at the top of a water catchment that’s our backup drinking supply. The risks associated with opening Ben Lomond are simply not acceptable.”  – Deputy Mayor and LNP member Vern Veitch.

Despite being located in a cyclone and flood prone area, State Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps sees no grounds for objection against the Ben Lomond mine arguing that “The EIS process will take into account the prevailing environment and weather patterns of the area and they will have to have contingency plans in place to accommodate that environment.”

Global collapse in uranium price

The global uranium price has plunged since its peak in 2007, now sitting at one quarter of the 2007 price. The Fukushima disaster in 2011 and a huge oversupply in the market are cited as the factors behind the slump. Many find Minister Cripps’ claims of the potential for uranium exports to earn billions of dollars for Queensland extraordinary.

“Australian uranium exports make less than two billion a year. The uranium price has been in free fall since 2007, and with governments around the world shutting down nuclear power stations; 150 nuclear power stations in Europe alone are scheduled for closure with no plans to replace them.”  – Greens nuclear policy spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam.

Uranium mining just doesn’t make economic sense for Queensland. As with the rest of the mining sector, we continue to hear the same rhetoric about job creation and economic opportunities. But the reality is that mining employs far less people than the industry and the government would have us believe.

Environmental impacts

Given the Newman government’s poor track record, there is also scepticism about the so-called “robust framework” in place to protect the environment.

Local graziers of the land surrounding Mary Kathleen mine are deeply concerned about the reopening of the mine, fearing contaminated dust will be blown onto their land and groundwater will be impacted. Third generation grazier Ian Campbell said that the mine’s recovery was mismanaged, leaving behind dead, contaminated land.

“They talk about strict standards but that’s a joke – there are none.” – Grazier Ian Campbell

Though the tailings dam was mostly drained and capped with rock, thirty years on the rate of seepage is much faster than predicted. Metal-rich, radioactive waters have made their way into the local drainage system, contaminating the land and killing vegetation next to the mine.

Since the ban was lifted in 2012, many have questioned whether Queensland ports will be used to export the material, potentially through the Great Barrier Reef.

As it stands, there are no licensed ports in Queensland for the export of uranium. Uranium mined in SA and NT is currently exported through the existing licensed ports in Darwin and South Australia, although if Queensland is to resume mining then it’s a safe bet that it will be exported through Queensland ports.

In 2012, the Port of Townsville applied for uranium to be exported through its ports, due to its proximity to Mary Kathleen and Ben Lomond. It described Townsville as a readily equipped gateway to facilitate the transport of yellowcake.

This has been downplayed, although not ruled out by Cripps, saying the option exists but is unlikely as “the process for establishing a licensed port is quite complex and quite costly.”

QLD passes bill to block mining objections

In light of recent environmental victories against mining companies, the Newman government recently passed a bill to remove public objection rights on mining lease applications.

The Mineral and Energy Resources Bill was opposed by an unlikely team – Labor and Katter’s Australia Party – who feel the bill supports large mining companies at the expense of landholders.

“For example, if Ben Lomond Uranium Mine has a development application, landowners downstream, or the Charters Towers community, have no right to object even if uranium leaks into their water supply.” – Katter MP Shane Knuth

Indigenous Australians disproportionately impacted

It is estimated that 70% of the world’s uranium lies on indigenous lands, a situation that is reflected in Australia. Indigenous communities in Australia are disproportionately affected by the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

This occurs in a number of ways – bullying tactics used by mining companies, failure to consult Traditional Owners in a meaningful way, destruction of cultural sites and rock art.

The adverse health impacts from exposure to uranium continue to be downplayed by the Australian mining industry who have a history of non-compliance with environmental regulations. In December of last year, 1 million litres of uranium slurry burst its containment tank at Ranger mine in World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. The same mine has experienced more than 200 spills, leaks and breaches since opening 35 years ago but still continues to operate.

Uranium Pusher of the Pacific

As the so-called ‘Pusher in the Pacific’, does Australia have any ethical obligations when it comes to the export of uranium?

The Japanese PM at the time of the Fukushima disaster recently toured Australia warning politicians and Traditional Owners about the risks of uranium mining. As he reminded us, Australian uranium was powering Fukushima at the time of the meltdown.

Despite not having conducted a nuclear weapons test since 1998, India remains a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is actively expanding its nuclear weapons program. There is no way we can ensure that Australian uranium is only used for peaceful means.

Abbott would have you believe that Australia is saving India by exporting our coal and uranium to their power hungry masses. But is it really ok to export uranium to developing nations, while we don’t pursue nuclear energy ourselves?

You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate

Why Jonathan Moylan’s Whitehaven Hoax Was Great

Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan left court today still in the dark about his fate, after his sentencing for breaching Section 1041E of the Corporations Act was adjourned.

The 26 year old trilingual translator from Newcastle first hit headlines in January 2013, after distributing a fake press release from ANZ bank confirming they would pull out of their $1.2 billion loan to the Maules Creek coal mine, owned by Whitehaven Coal.  The prank aimed to highlight the environmental and economic problems of the project, and how our major banks are financing these destructive projects – and it was a great success.

The hoax caused panic among investors, temporarily wiping $314m off the value of Whitehaven Coal, although this recovered soon after.  Needless to say, Whitehaven were not impressed.

Although unlikely that Moylan will serve jail time, the charges come with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison or fines of up to $765,000.

At the time of the stunt, Moylan had spent almost six months at the Leard State Forest blockade with Front Line Action on Coal (FLAC), during which time he became acutely aware of the devastating impacts of the mine both on the environment and the local farming community.

Image by 350.org

Image by 350.org

I’ve written previously about the environmental destruction of the Maules Creek coal mine – the unique woodland to be bulldozed, the threatened species, the indigenous heritage, the threat of groundwater contamination, the health impacts, and the outright misleading environmental offsets proposed by Whitehaven.

Despite this, Whitehaven chairman Mark Vaile had the gall to label Moylan ‘Un-Australian’.

‘It’s quite un-Australian that an individual can conduct a fraudulent act like this.  There were many investors… that lost significant amounts of money during that period.”

Deeply sorry for those investors who lost retirement savings, Moylan submitted a written apology to them, despite the losses being hugely overstated by Whitehaven (it was reported by Fairfax that shareholders lost no more than $450,360 between them).  He maintains that his intention was merely to support the Maules Creek community by raising awareness of this damaging open-cut mine.

But Mark Vaile doesn’t seem too concerned with the livelihoods Whitehaven will destroy in Maules Creek.  He even reckons that the project has, “a very broad level of support in the community.”

Local farmer Rick Laird would not agree.  One of many who turned up to support Moylan, his family has farmed in the district for more than 150 years – the Leard Forest was named after them.  He said,

“We’ve been fighting this mine for years and the stand that Jono took means that people now know what’s happening at Maules Creek.”

Jonathan Moylan’s press release put the Maules Creek mine in the headlines, and shone light on the hidden relationships between the fossil fuel industry and banks.

Since the hoax, we’ve seen environmental campaigns use this increased public awareness and interest with great success.  Most visible has been the Great Barrier Reef campaign, with pressure from environmental groups leading to bank after bank withdrawing their funding for the expansion at Abbot Point.  We’ve also seen the huge growth of the Australian divestment movement, with mounting pressure on the big four banks and superfunds to ditch fossil fuel investments.

The Whitehaven hoax has exposed the inherent flaws in Australia’s regulatory system, which allow huge corporations to get away with environmentally destructive and unethical practices, while attempting to punish those who expose them.

#StandWithJono Campaign coordinator Nicola Paris said the legislation under which Moylan is charged “was never intended to pursue people acting in good conscience.”

“The move to take this matter to the Supreme Court is yet another overreach in this relentless pursuit of a young man acting on principle. This lies in stark contrast with the failure of ASIC to prosecute serious corporate crime whilst people found guilty of insider trading such as John Gay, get a slap on the wrist.”

Communities have been powerless in the face of the resources industry for too long.  As Moylan himself shockingly points out, “You don’t have the right to be notified if a mining company is applying for a coalmining lease over your property”.   Is that ‘Australian’?

I #StandWithJono

You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate

 

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.

Why the bloody hell are you doing this?

tourismTo those who find the title offensive, I apologise.  I got my inspiration from the former chief executive of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison, who asked the rest of the world: ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’

According to a government paper released in July 2013, Tourism’s Contribution to the Australian Economy, the tourism industry employs 908,434 persons or 7.9% of total Australian employment (Direct – 531,900 persons, Indirect – 376,534 persons). Mining, by comparison, employs 2.4% of the workforce with this figure set to drop.

In 2011-12, tourism’s contribution to Australia’s GDP was $87.3 billion or 5.9% of total GDP (Direct GDP – $41.0 billion, Indirect GDP – $46.2 billion). In the same year, mining contributed 9.6% of GDP.

In the long term, total tourism GDP rose at an average annual rate of 4.6 per cent between 1997–98 and 2011–12 and it is continuing to grow with short-term visitor arrivals to Australia forecast to grow to 7.0 million in 2014–15. Inbound expenditure is forecast to grow on average 3.5 per cent per annum and reach $39 billion by 2022–23.

In summary, tourism is a big employer and a growing industry which makes a substantial contribution to our economy. Unlike mining, the majority of the profits from this industry remain in Australia. Unlike manufacturing, it doesn’t move operations offshore to save money (unless you count Qantas). Whole communities are built around tourism which does not all of a sudden decide to close like factories or mines do.

So how is the Abbott government protecting this most important industry?

According to Wikipedia

“Popular Australian destinations include the coastal cities of Sydney and Melbourne, as well as other high profile destinations including regional Queensland, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef. Uluru and the Australian outback are other popular locations, as is Tasmanian wilderness. The unique Australian wildlife is also another significant point of interest in the country’s tourism.”

We are covering regional Queensland with mines. We are dumping dredge on the reef which will now become a highway for huge tankers. We are getting rid of World Heritage listing so we can log the Tasmanian forests. We are getting rid of marine parks so we can kill more marine life. And in the most foolhardy step of all, we are refusing to take action on climate change which will put all these national treasures at risk and make large parts of the country virtually uninhabitable.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said the closure of the Climate Change Authority was part of a push to reduce bureaucracy, and climate change advice could come from the federal environment department, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

He then promptly cut hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO in November

“The Federal Government says as many as 600 jobs will be cut at Australia’s pre-eminent science and research organisation.”

and hundreds more in March.

Hundreds more job cuts are looming at the CSIRO as the peak science body pushes through its biggest restructure in decades. The job cuts are on top of the ban on renewing the jobs of CSIRO’s temps and contractors, revealed by Fairfax last year, which has caused the group’s head count to fall from 6500 to fewer than 6100.”

The same thing happened at the Department of the Environment.

“About 480 public servants will lose their jobs at Environment, on top of 190 bureaucrats who have already gone, and hundreds of programs and activities will either be modified or axed in a sweeping restructure as the department tries to cope with dwindling funds and efficiency dividend cuts.”

The Bureau of Meteorology had its budget slashed by $13 million last year and now runs commercial ads on its website. Robert Crawford, a communications professor at University of Technology Sydney, said

”There could be a temptation to reduce funding, but you wouldn’t want them to become dependent on outside revenue because advertisers can always walk away.”

Bernie Fraser, Climate Change Authority chairman, said public servants did good work, but did not have the freedom and opportunity to deliver well-considered, independent advice in the manner of the authority, Reserve Bank or Productivity Commission.

”On a subject as complex as climate change, I would have thought every government – whatever its complexion – would want to get good independent advice. I find it a bit frustrating this opportunity … seems to be foreclosing a bit with the present government. I think that’s a disappointment.”

Tony Abbott continues to show his utter disregard for the environment and climate science. When addressing a timber industry dinner, despite Heritage Listing and dire warnings about deforestation, he said

We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest. Getting that 74,000 hectares out of World Heritage Listing, … will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians, to the world, that we support the timber industry.”

Despite the cuts we see elsewhere, Abbott found the money to set up a new Forestry Advisory Council to support the timber industry.

Now we hear that Parks Australia, which administers the six Commonwealth National Parks, including Kakadu, Uluru, Christmas Island, and Canberra’s National Botanic Gardens, as well as 58 marine reserves, will face funding cuts which will cause it to consider raising money by raising visitors’ fees, allowing more commercial tourist infrastructure – like hotels – to be built or even selling naming rights.

Also, the Hobart-based Australian Antarctic Division has had $100 million cut from its funding and will have to seek commercial sponsorship from private corporations for future research.

This government is hellbent on a short term grab for cash. Investors advise that there is a very small window for making a profit from coal – it is most definitely not an investment for the future. So what do we do? Approve massive new coal mines and port expansion on the reef. Renewable energy is a growing industry so what do we do? Wind back subsidies and review the renewable energy target and send investors scurrying. Selling profitable assets to build roads is a hugely retrograde step. Not only do we forego future revenue and leave the cupboard bare, the employment generated during construction is not ongoing, and does nothing to address the problem of pollution caused by an increasing number of cars clogging our cities. Obviously urban rail, public transport, bike lanes, high speed rail, and a second airport for Sydney are more pressing priorities.

We live in a beautiful country. Even if you are not willing to fight for it for purely aesthetic reasons, sacrificing everything for mining makes no economic sense. We are sacrificing tourism and manufacturing, our health and our home, all for a dying industry. This government might get to a surplus a couple of years earlier – so what? The cost of irreversible damage is far too high.

My Country! A poem for our time…

I love a sunburnt country

A land of dames and knights,

Of rugged radio shock jocks

Who tell us of our rights.

I love her racist free speech

Now we have no 18C

Her bigots do have rights, you know,

The great white land for me.

  I love our English PM 

  Who tells us what to think

  On tax and debt and Labor 

  And how his doesn’t stink!

  Our trees are made for chopping 

  Our seas are made quite deep

  Just because there’s dumping – 

  No reason to lose sleep!

A resource rich mine country, 

Which makes our country grand

All you who would now tax this, 

You will not understand 

Though our Earth holds many minerals

And there’s oil in our seas

Unless we own a company,

We have no right to these!

  Core of my heart, my country! 

  No Holdens, Ansett, Ford,  

  When companies die on Liberals’ watch

  We see these things ignored

  But lose a hundred jobs when Labor’s in, 

  We know just who to name:

  The papers make it front page news 

  The PM is to blame!

I love a sunburnt country

A land of knights and dames,

Of Andrew Bolt’s hurt feelings

And all his counterclaims

When people say our history

Shouldn’t always make us proud –

He’ll say free speech is relative

And some people are too loud.

 

 

Do you want Welfare with that?

Image from theland.com.au

Image from theland.com.au

It’s Kevin Heaven again!  Our Welfare Warrior is back in the game and planting the flag, or wrapping it around his svelte figure, in acts of true olde time patriotism.

Such is the great work that Kevin Andrews (Photo:Jason South) performs.  Ever ready to announce a merger for efficiency, or a crackdown on welfare dependents (aka dole bludgers); he is at the front lines in Tony Abbott’s war.  The ex-workers at Holden and SPC will no doubt be thrilled to hear that after years of government & management incompetence they will face a much harder test to qualify for any welfare spending in their attempt to find new work.

With this great charge toward tightening belts on the shrinking waistlines of those unable to pay taxes, let us make some further suggestions for other areas to conduct a similar campaign to clamp down on our ballooning budget crisis by confronting those who are merely unwilling.

Global Googly

Google Australia has paid no tax on roughly $940 million in advertising revenue. Instead of sacking hundreds of ATO workers and outsourcing tax compliance for big corporations to private accountants, why not task these apparently surplus staff to crack down on global tax avoidance.

Currently individuals and corporation have Trillions of dollars ferreted away in offshore havens and secretive jurisdictions.  Money earned in one country is claimed as profits in another; so that Australian companies signing up for Google advertising are actually giving their money to an Irish arm of the search giant, thus avoiding tax on revenue.

According to the Uniting Church they are not alone.  Several listed Australian companies including News Corporation, Qantas and the ‘Big Four’ banks have subsidiaries in secrecy jurisdictions where money earned can be quietly kept from the prying eyes of the tax man.

Some may laud Kerry Packer’s quote about minimizing tax, the problem with that approach is that health, education, roads, defence, and politicians cost money.  If corporations pay less tax, the rest of us have to pay more.

Sick System

The importance of manufacturing is bandied about a great deal, and if the Australian public were interested in the long-term macro-economic consequences of purchasing imported cars and groceries then perhaps Ford, Holden & SPC would still be viable businesses.  However the $6 billion in assistance meted out to the auto industry over four years pales in comparison to the $5 billion that Private Health insurers receive every year.

Unlike cars and tinned fruit, Australians do not have a choice about health insurance.  Not if they want to avoid paying the Lifetime Health Cover fee.  As a result 9.7 million adult Australians now pay for private health insurance, roughly 57.1% of the population.  The lowest premiums start at about $45 per month, and in 2014 some premiums are slated to increase up to $300 per year.  Almost all of these attract the 30% rebate from the Commonwealth tax coffers, resulting in billions of dollars in direct subsidies.

When one also compares the inefficient 14% of income that private insurers pay on administration to the 5% costs incurred by the public insurer MediBank, one could be forgiven for wondering if all those billions could be better spent directly into the health system rather than being filtered through the pockets of corporate insurers.

Ground Breaking

Then there are everyone’s favourite martyrs, the miners.  Direct contributions by the Commonwealth to mining companies in 2012 tallied up to about $492 million.  However, thanks to generous fuel tax concessions and tax write-offs real support payments reached $4.5 Billion.

Former Howard adviser, now Minerals Council spokesman Ben Mitchell argued;

“The fuel tax was imposed to build public roads. Mining builds its own roads and that’s why we get a credit on that.”

He also insists that the $550 million in deductions claimed for exploration and prospecting are not just a cost of business, but a business input that the tax-payer should refund to them.

Keep in mind that the billion dollar hand-outs from the Commonwealth do not include what is chipped in by the states.  Queensland tax payers are funding the mining industry to the tune of $1.4 billion per year.

Would these companies be less profitable without this tax-payer assistance?  Yes, though to echo the Prime Minister, perhaps they should “Get their house in order” so that public money can be spent on building infrastructure instead of funding corporate salaries.

For example, taking only the annual $9-10 billion per year doled out to private insurers and miners (ignoring the tax dollars not collected from multi-nationals) it would only take four years to pay the additional $30 billion needed to complete the full FTTP National Broadband Network.

Like rail, ports and roads before it, FTTP infrastructure would create a new highway for business to grow and replace the failing auto manufacturers, encourage growth in dying regional areas, reduce the cost of public service delivery, and build new markets and a stronger economy that Australia can transition to as traditional manufacturing and mining continue to fade as meaningful contributors to the economy and employment.

Mr Abbott has also quoted and paraphrased American right-wing shock-jock Rush Limbaugh’s quote “No country ever taxed itself to prosperity.” To which I would reply with the inestimable wisdom of another American, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”

ANDEV: the Tony Abbott policy announcement when you don’t have a policy announcement

Mining companies are one of the biggest Liberal party donors. Is it sheer coincidence that some of Abbott’s known policies reflect what Gina Rinehart and the big mining companies want?

We are all aware that Abbott has promised to repeal the carbon and mining tax; two taxes that Gina Rinehart (and others in the resource industry) have been publicly opposed to. However, the coincidence between Abbott’s policies and what Gina and the other big companies want, does not end with the repeal of these two taxes.

Gina Rinehart, besides being possibly the richest woman in the world, is also chairperson of a group called ANDEV and ANDEV want their own special economic zone in the north of Australia; an area where most of our mineral wealth is situated. Gina’s father had a similar vision.

On the ANDEV website, under the title “What needs to be done” there is a list and this list is eerily similar to some of the policies and ideas that Abbott has made public:

  • Special Economic Zone in the North
  • One-stop-shops for regulation (to cut “green-tape”)
  • Regional skilled migration visas (457 visas).

Abbott has given indication to a “One-stop-shop” for environmental approvals to cut “green tape” and even used the same terminology that is on the ANDEV website (as have the state LNPs).

Abbott has also indicated that he will consider expanding the 457 visa program and recently the Liberal party blocked a bill that would have ensured that 457 visa workers are only employed as a last resort, when suitably qualified local labour is not available.

Special economic zones (SEZs), while good for wealthy investors-do not offer any benefits for others, due to SEZs avoiding many of the costs of taxation, labour standards, safety and environmental regulations, to which other sectors in the same country must adhere to when doing business.

Another concern with SEZs is the displacement of locals. The host country and the developer require land, and this land is often taken from locals at very low prices. This is a concern, as a large percentage of land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal owned.

Sadly, it appears that Tony Abbott and the Liberal party are putting the economic concerns of the big mining companies and multi-national oil and gas corporations ahead of our needs and the protection of the environment. If Abbott is elected, do not be surprised if all of the land north of the Tropic of Capricorn is made available to Gina and Co. as a tax free haven that is free from environmental regulation and has a lower standard of employee rights and conditions.

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph Pole Facebook group for this post. The aim of this group is to expose, and provide balance, to the bias and lies being spread by Politicians and the Media.

Update: It is interesting to note how consistent this ‘vision’ is to one of the IPA’s radical ideas to transform Australia:

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

The IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) is a free market right wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and is closely aligned to the Liberal Party. It’s members include Rupert Murdoch and yes, Gina Rinehart.

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