Saturday 25th of October 2014

a nation betrayed .....

a nation betrayed .....

Labor has traditionally been a party of bigotry, a party of ruling class bigotry. Its formation after the defeats of the strikes of the 1890s saw many workers and their leaders substitute Parliament for direct action as the motive force of history, as the agency of change.

One of the first acts (and Acts) of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901 was to implement the White Australia policy. This was a policy born of British colonialism and an expression of the role of Australia as a white settler state in Asia.  It was a ruling class strategy to protect British and Australian capital in the country.

The Labor Party supported it enthusiastically against other workers on the basis of their skin colour to supposedly protect wages and jobs here.

Just as ever since it has supported whatever the dominant ruling class position has been on imperialism and war, racism and women’s oppression, homophobia and religious intolerance, and keynesianism or neoliberalism. Occasionally, and mainly in response to the forces of the left and working class mobilising and forcing it to do so, it has taken minority ruling class positions that can perhaps even give it the cover of progressiveness. On rare occasions it is forced to attack capital to buy off mass movements and perhaps even halt their development outside the bounds of the system. 

Attacking unions, privatisation, floating the dollar, attacking single mums, gays and lesbians, racism and sexism, and now accepting religious bigotry – that is what a reformist party, intent on managing capitalism, and looking for ways to ‘Stockholm’ the working class, does.

Labor’s lack of direct links with the ruling class in the past enabled it on occasion to impose solutions on capitalists in the interests of capital.  However the class collaboration that now dominates the union movement, and has done since the Accord discussions in 1982 with Labor, has destroyed the fighting left in the unions and concentrated power almost exclusively in the hands of the class collaborationist retailers of labour to the bosses.

The end result has been an ALP which is thoroughly neoliberal, or as John Quiggin puts it, market liberal, that attacks Aborigines through the Northern Territory intervention to further dispossess indigenous people and help put downward pressure on wages, that blackbirds refugees to concentration camps offshore and onshore, that refuses to recognise equal love and under whose time in Government the gender pay gap has increased and now seems stuck around 17.5%.

Despite the revisionist attempts of former economics professor and current Labor MP Andrew Leigh to reclaim the ALP as a liberal party since its inception, standing supposedly in the tradition of Alfred Deakin, the change is more recent. Andrew’s arguments are an attempt to justify its retreat into and complete surrender to market liberalism. 

There is or should be nothing surprising about this. Labor in government has always adopted the dominant ruling class economic ideology. Indeed it was the Hawke and Keating governments which started the neoliberal project in Australia and laid the groundwork for Howard and the rehabilitation of his right wing ideas, policies and ‘persona’.

The latest example of Labor’s capitulation to bigotry is its Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. As David Marr put it in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘It’s a bigots’ charter.’

It allows religious institutions, and the schools and hospitals and other services they run with public funds, to discriminate in employment against people who don’t have the anointed faith. Further it allows them to discriminate against employing gays, lesbians, unmarried people ‘living in sin’, bisexuals, transsexuals and single mothers. These ‘sinners’ have no place in the world of the pure. Just ask some of the paedophile priests whom the Catholic Church has protected and protects.

Labor’s Bill will entrench discrimination by those who claim a higher calling for support for their rotten bigoted positions.

As Marr points it this also means these ‘sinners’ have no employment security in religious institutions.

The ALP was too gutless to even distribute school funding from rich private schools to poor schools. It is too gutless to attack bigotry masquerading as religion too.

OK. Gutless is not the right word. It takes real guts to impose the bosses’ agenda, including its bigotry, on working class resentful in its core to the increasing inequality, pay and other limitations and restrictions attacks on jobs and unions.

Some of Labor’ policies might resonate with the less unionised and class conscience section fo the class. However the problem then becomes the workers, accepting the logic of capital accumulation and all that go with it including racism, homophobia, sexism and religious bigotry might vote for the original rather than the carbon copy.

Thus the social conservatism and reaction are the logical conclusion of the ALP being a party of capital, even if it also has links to the working class though the trade union bureaucracy, that group of vultures hovering over the working class waiting to sell its carcass to the bosses for the best price. Labor is a CAPITALIST workers party.

The first step in fighting this bigotry is to recognise that for 30 years workers have chaffed under the restrictions of neoliberalism. While average wages have increased, the share of national income going to labour is at historic lows. In other words the gains of the last 3 decades have gone disproportionately to capital.

When the unwritten compact collapses, eg with the spread of the economic crisis engulfing Europe and North America to Asia and Australia, that uneasy alliance may be broken.

However what is required then is an organisation with working class roots, with a working class approach and an understanding that the crises of capitalism, economic and environmental, can only be overcome eventually by a revolution of the majority, the working class, in the  interests of the majority.

That’s why it is important to fight every manifestation of Labor’s neoliberalism now, its attacks on workers, its racism, sexism and homophobia, its kowtowing to religious bigotry.

But that will not be enough because any gains, even if won though mass action, itself problematic in today’s environment of class peace, will be under attack as the needs of capital for more and more profit reinforce the attacks on women, Aborigines and the discrimination against gays and lesbians and the acquiescence to religious bigotry of all parties in government, Labor or Liberal.

A revolutionary workers party, big enough to offer an alternative vision of real democracy and production to satisfy human need, is needed now. That is what Socialist Alternative and its unity project is about.

Labor – A Party Of Bigotry

 

organised crime .....

The Government has received advice that releasing details of the amount the MRRT has raised in the first two quarters since it began operations on 1 July 2012 infringes section 355-25 of the Tax Administration Act. In non-legal terms this ‘secrecy’ provision makes it an offence for  a tax officer to disclose details of a taxpayer’s tax affairs.

Estimates were that the Mineral Resource Rent Tax would apply to 320 companies (as compared to the  2500 or so who would be caught be the long ago abandoned Resource Super Profits Tax).

If the tax had bought in some revenue over the last 2 quarters than it would be difficult I think to say that releasing the details of the amount it bought in would reveal any information about any of the 320 companies technically caught by the tax.  If say the MRRT collected $100 million we couldn’t say from that that it was from BHP, or FMG or Rio etc. We wouldn’t be able to allocate the amount collected to any company based on that information alone.

One possible conclusion from the Government hiding behind the excuse of tax secrecy is that the tax raised nothing. If that information were to be released we would know that BHP, Xstrata and Rio Tinto paid zero MRRT.  Their tax information would be revealed.

Hence the fear that any tax officer involved in releasing that information or giving it to Government for release could be committing an offence and liable to 2 years in jail. 

There might be other explanations about the failure to release the MRRT details (e.g. the Government being too embarrassed by the failure of the tax to raise a brass razoo) but let’s assume the law as outlined in general terms above and my analysis that the tax has raised exactly nothing are correct.

The failure to collect any tax under the MRRT is a condemnation of Labor that should ring down the pages of history. The overthrow of Rudd and the compromise Gillard engineered that was the MRRT at the expense of the more thoroughgoing RSPT (itself a fairly minor tax) indicates that Labor has abandoned one of the key roles of social democracy – to rule in the interests of capital at the expense of individual capitalists as needs be.

The RSPT was going to be a redistributive tax within capital. The monopoly like returns that mining companies earn is at the expense of other sector of capital. What the RSPT would have done is re-distribute some of that mining company super profit, via company tax cuts, to the other members of the band of hostile brothers (ie to all capital).  The MRRT, designed by BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto, undermined that project.

The result shows not just the failure of Labor to stand up to particular sectors of capital; it also shows the strength of the mining industry.

A left wing social democratic government might have had a plan B in anticipation of the resistance of the mining industry to the RSPT and the threat of a capital strike (more threat than reality in my view given the massive returns mining capital makes without or without resource rent taxes). That plan B could have been to nationalise the mines under workers’ control.  Even the threat of that might have forced mining capital to back down, especially if there were a popular mobilisation in class terms in support of nationalisation.

Of course Labor is not that left wing government. It is a party of neoliberalism and kowtowing to the bosses. It fears a mobilising and mobilized working class as much as the mining and other bosses, as much as the union leadership does too. 

I should add that it isn’t just mining companies who aren’t paying their way tax-wise.

Google for example has sales sourced in Australia of somewhere between $1 and $2 billion a year, but in the 2011 income year it paid a little over $74,000 in tax. Nice work if you can get it.

Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt defended his company’s tax avoidance activities around the globe, activities which have seen it funnel almost $10 billion into Bermuda, saving $2 billion in taxes. Schmidt said he was very proud of the tax structures set up. ‘It’s called capitalism,’ he said. ‘We are proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this.’

It isn’t just Google. Starbucks has paid no tax in Australia since it commenced operations here in 2000. Apple’s worldwide effective tax rate is 9.8%.  Twiggy Forrest’s companies have paid no income tax in the last 16 years.

It seems to work for some individuals too. Bernard Tomic lives in the tax haven of Monaco. Nathan Tinkler has moved to Singapore; one of his neighbours there is Gina Rinehart.

ATO statistics give a hint of the trend in company income tax since 2008.

They show that for 2008/09 59.8% of all business (not just big business) paid no income tax. In 2009/10 that non-taxable company figure had risen to 61.2%, with the break-up of taxable and non-taxable for big business not available. However between 2008/09 and 2009/10 the number of taxable very large businesses fell from 640 to 627 and the amount of income tax hey paid fell from $35.9 billion to $29.3 billion. Company collections between 2007 and 2011 were as follows – $61.7 bn, $60.3 bn, $52.2 bn and $56.2 bn. The estimates for 2012 are billions below predictions.

The global financial crisis is the convenient excuse for this, or the high Australian dollar, or falling commodity prices, or all of the above, but without knowing what Eric Schmidt’s proudly scheming capitalists of big business are up to we should not accept that excuse.

The decline in business tax paid after the GFC occurred at a  time when GDP has been increasing and capital’s share of national income has been at its highest ever.

Can we find out which big businesses aren’t paying tax if the secrecy laws shield the release of even basic information? Well, the Parliament itself or its relevant committees has the power to question both public servants and also companies about their tax affairs. Left wing senators Doug Cameron from the Labor Party or Lee Rhiannon from the Greens could bypass the secrecy restrictions on tax officers by asking the companies directly what tax they pay.

For the likes of Google, Amazon, E-bay and Starbucks that would be about what income tax they pay in Australia.

For BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto it would be not just their income tax, but how much MRRT they have paid.

Issue the subpoenas Doug or Lee to the CEOs of the companies I have mentioned. Ask Tinkler and Forrest about their companies’ tax affairs too.

If the UK Public Accounts Committee can question Starbucks, Amazon and Google about their tax affairs, and then condemn them for not paying any tax in Britain, we can do it here in Australia.

A thoroughgoing investigation into the tax affairs of big business is needed to see just what they get up to and whether they are paying a fair share of tax in Australia. After all, what has big business got to hide? Over to you Senators Rhiannon and Cameron.

Tax Secrecy & The Mining Tax