many of our world’s wealthiest look at those fossil fuels and see no danger. They see the present and future source of their personal wealth. A significant chunk of the world’s billionaires owe their billions, directly or indirectly, to extractive industries. Keeping fossil fuels buried would jeopardize those billions, and our super rich have the political power, thanks to their wealth, to insist that we keep extracting.
If we let that wealth and power continue to concentrate, fossil fuels will continue to burn.
Only 11% in poll wanted lower public spending, less tax revenue and more inequality
Until there’s a clean break from the present economic model, and a return to something like the more ethical and democratic system which dominated in the immediate post-war years, all talk of ‘fighting inequality’ is just virtue-signaling. Just how hegemonic neoliberalism has become can be seen in the fact that even the charities and NGOs who attack inequality, such as Oxfam, whose annual report on global inequality coincides with Davos each year, have CEOs and top executives earning eye-watering amounts. Charity, like almost everything else, has become Big Business, with the pyramid structure the norm. Just over 70 percent of the people on this planet own just 2.7 percent of total wealth; 0.7 percent of the population control 45.9 percent of global household wealth.
You don’t have to be Che Guevara to acknowledge that this is totally obscene and morally unjustifiable.
Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.The surprising factors driving murder rates: income inequality and respect | US news | The Guardian
By Ad astra How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality that exists in the world? How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality we now suffer in this country? If any reader out there still doubts the extent of inequality here, do read a July 8…
A more familiar way of talking about inequality is to talk about ‘fairness’, a concept every Aussie understands. The ‘fair go’ is valued by most of us. Who would argue against the idea that everyone should have a ‘fair go’?
United Nations says Australian laws stopping same-sex couples who marry legally overseas from getting divorced violates human rights
Punishing Inequality for the poor and increasing power for the wealthy is becoming the new normal in Turnbull’s Australia, writes Patrick Keane.
The average income of the richest ten per cent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest ten per cent across the OECD, up from seven times, 25 years ago.In emerging economies, such as China and India, a sustained period of strong economic growth has not been evenly distributed and high levels of income inequality have risen further.Brazil is the only emerging economy to reduce inequality in recent years, but the gap between rich and poor is still about five times that of OECD countries.Inequality is now growing within some nation-states as overall wealth has risen and so now we see some of the world’s poorest communities in the richest nations.Australia, for example, is now home to some of the poorest communities in the world.
CEO pay at America’s 500 largest companies averaged $13.1 million in 2016. That’s 347 times what the average employee makes. So CEOs make a lot of money. But, some say, so do athletes and movie sta…
If income inequality feeds disparities across generations, policies should encourage different social classes to share neighbourhoods and regions
By Ross Hamilton I first heard about a cashless society back in 1980 when I started work for the Commonwealth Bank. Our manager returned from a conference, informing us that the wheels had started turning to make Australia a cash-free society in as little as ten years. Thirty-seven years later, and a long time after…
Philanthropy is an innovation engine, providing funding which drives new approaches to solving complex and seemingly intractable social and environmental challenges.
Politcians beware: take on the Jimmy and Magda tag-team at your peril.
A barely reported speech delivered recently by a Labor MP reveals the party is moving towards a more radical position on the thorny issue of competition. Despite the shrieks from the business lobby, it’s not really about them, writes Ben Eltham. “ALP ramps up its war on business,” screamed the headline today in The Australian. AccordingMore
Saturday 30 April 2016 In 2013 the then Treasurer Wayne Swan, wrote an essay about the ever-increasing inequality that had invaded our society. The right-wing Murdoch press immediately attacked his piece as class warfare. So what the hell is this class warfare everyone talks about? I would have thought that there was less class distinction in Australia than…
By Ad astra ‘Inequality’ is a term used by economists. Joseph Stiglitz has been writing for years about its damaging effect. His book: The Price of Inequality is a classic. More recently, Thomas Piketty entered the arena with his Capital in the Twenty-First Century and hypothesised about the genesis of inequality. He asserted that the…
Bill Clinton isn’t the first person to blame ‘black-on-black crime’ for higher poverty and prison rates among black Americans
By Tracie Aylmer Australian society has turned into a very strange animal. Women make up approximately 50% (or thereabouts) of the population, but appearances dictate something entirely different. In recent history, men are congratulated for their successes, no matter how big or small. Any failures are ignored, or relegated as lessons. Women’s successes, on the…
Photo: Pixabay By John Vibes at trueactivist.com The recent case of a homeless man racking up massive fines has exposed the widespread police practice of fining homeless people for being homeless. Émilie Guimond-Bélanger, a social worker at the Droits Devant legal clinic in Montreal spoke …
By George Lakey | ( Waging Nonviolence ) | – – Many fields of endeavor have what they call “best …
Influential French economist Thomas Piketty is raising important questions this week after positing a theory that the rise of the Islamic State (or ISIS) can be attributed, at least in part, to extreme regional inequality in the Middle East fueled largely by oil wealth.
“Freedom of speech is not just an academic nicety but the essential pre-condition for any kind of progress. A child learns by trial and error. A society advances when people can discuss what works and what doesn’t. To the extent that alternatives can’t be discussed, people are tethered to the status quo, regardless of its effectiveness.
Thanks to free speech, error can be exposed, corruption revealed, arrogance deflated, mistakes corrected, the right upheld and truth flaunted in the face of power. On issues of value, purpose and meaning, there is no committee, however expert, and no appointee, however eminent, with judgment superior to that of the whole community which is why the best decisions are made with free debate rather than without it.” – Tony Abbott 2012
George Brandis repeatedly justified his plans to remove the protections of the Racial Discrimination Act by insisting that “our freedom and our democracy fundamentally depend upon the right to free speech”.
How does he reconcile that sentiment with the substantial restrictions the government has placed on efforts by the media and public to access information about asylum seeker arrivals and conditions on Manus Island?
When ten aid workers from Save the Children staff at the Nauru detention centre raised concerns of sexual abuse and self harm of children in detention they were suspended.
“If people want to be political activists, that’s their choice. But they don’t get to do it on the taxpayer’s dollar,” the minister said.
I wonder if getting children on Christmas Island to ring Senator Ricky Muir begging him to release them so he will vote for legislation count as activism? I can think of a few more appropriate terms.
Yesterday it was reported that thousands of Immigration Department public servants face the sack if they fail to comply with tough new security tests imposed by their new bosses.
Immigration’s 8500 officials have been told they must complete an “organisational suitability assessment” if they want to work at Border Force Australia, the new merged agency combining Immigration and Customs.
There will also be a crackdown on second jobs, social media use and sloppy appearances among the department’s public servants, as the Customs agency hierarchy tightens its grip on Immigration.
Holders of a baseline security clearance must declare any criminal or other legal matters in their past, changes to their personal circumstances and even any shift in political or religious belief or affiliation.
But under the organisational suitability rules, the public servants must disclose “criminal or high risk associations, conflicts of interest, criminal history and/or involvement in criminal or illegal activities, compliance with border-related laws, use of illicit substances [and] compliance with the Australian Public Service values”.
Officers were told that a failure to take part in the process or getting an adverse ruling would result in employees losing their jobs, or at least being transferred to another public service department.
Could you imagine our politicians submitting to similar rules?
In 2012, when addressing the IPA, Tony Abbott said
“There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.”
Unless it is critical of him apparently.
In April last year an edict came from the office of PM&C
“PUBLIC servants will be urged to dob in colleagues posting political criticism of the Abbott government on social media, even if the comments are anonymous, under new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines.“
Gag clauses preventing organisations who receive government funding from speaking out about legislation are still in force in Queensland and NSW.
“Where the Organisation receives 50 per cent or more of its total funding from Queensland Health and other Queensland Government agencies, the Organisation must not advocate for State or Federal legislative change. The Organisation must also not include links on their website to other organisations’ websites that advocate for State or Federal legislative change.”
There are so many examples of this government withholding information from the public.
The oft-promised cost-benefit-analyses are suddenly “commercial in confidence” as are the secret negotiations for the much touted Free Trade Agreements.
Freedom of Information requests are being denied. The blue books giving advice to the incoming Coalition Government were unavailable.
Tony Abbott said in that same address in 2012
“Essentially, we are the freedom party. We stand for the freedoms which Australians have a right to expect and which governments have a duty to uphold. We stand for freedom and will be freedom’s bulwark against the encroachments of an unworthy and dishonourable government.”
“From Menzies to Fraser to Howard and to the current government, the Liberal Party has been the party that gives more freedom,” he wrote in October last year on the occasion of the Liberal Party’s 70th anniversary.
Not, however, when it comes to draconian provisions in national security legislation, including jailing journalists for up to 10 years for disclosing information about anything deemed to be a special intelligence operation. Nor when it comes to freedom of information, where the Government is legislating for less freedom.
Appropriately, if coincidentally, it was Scott Morrison – he of the “on water” matters not to be disclosed to the Australian public – who introduced the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill in the House of Representatives, representing Attorney-General Senator George Brandis. That was two weeks before Abbott’s October comments.
The new bill abolishes the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, created as an independent position to foster a culture of open government and to review requests for government information denied by departments and agencies. The Attorney-General’s department, which certainly is not independent, takes over some of its functions. Reviews are sent back to the same government body that rejected the initial request, with the last resort an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Abolishing the Information Commissioner runs contrary to the trend in most of the Australian states and other countries, which have created similar independent offices.
A Senate inquiry laid bare the government’s other intention: to reduce access to information. Reviews by the Information Commissioner cost nothing, whereas an appeal to the AAT incurs a fee of $861, plus the costs of legal advice and representation, given that government bodies almost always bring their lawyers to tribunal hearings.
Once again the Australian people will have unnecessarily restricted access to government information and a complicated, legalistic, expensive system which defeats many people from even applying for access to information.
In May, Fairfax Media examined the activities of the North Sydney Forum, a campaign fund-raising body run by Mr Hockey’s North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference. They reported that members were granted meetings with Mr Hockey, including in private boardrooms, in return for annual fees of up to $22,000.
At the time Mr Hockey said he found the stories “offensive and repugnant” and promptly filed defamation proceedings.
And whilst pondering these obvious examples of hypocrisy and different rules for some, remember how whistleblowers are treated.
Stealing Peter Slipper’s diary and then engaging in a concerted attempt to destroy a man in the hope of bringing down a government is fine. Kathy Jackson is “courageous” in her persecution of Craig Thomson, though any mention of the alleged millions she misappropriated are a ‘witch hunt’.
When a former ASIO operative reveals that our government engaged in commercial espionage under the guise of Foreign Aid his passport is confiscated and his lawyer’s offices are raided and documents seized.
And when Freya Newman reveals that Frances Abbott has been given a $60,000 scholarship that was not available to anyone else she is prosecuted. The fact that the White House School of Design is a pollie pedal sponsor who benefitted greatly from the Abbott government’s decision to provide funding to private colleges shortly after is no doubt coincidental.
Freedom of speech, transparency and accountability are rights and responsibilities, but apparently only for some.
Rupert Murdoch’s special address to an exclusive meeting of the world’s most powerful finance ministers got a second airing this week.
In a breathless front-page “exclusive” in The Australian, Paul Kelly reported that his boss warned the world’s financial grandees their policies were serving to widen the gap between rich and poor, which was leading to social polarisation.
Kelly’s article was not an “exclusive” – others had reported the same speech on October 17 – and it was not “news” as the dinner had been held on October 9.
While the headline – Equality at risk in the West – suggested that “Citizen Murdoch” had astonishingly morphed into “Comrade Murdoch,” a careful reading of the article reveals his prescriptions for global prosperity were the standard Murdoch fare of deregulation and reducing corporate tax rates.
Presumably, the newly-formed wealth created by these policies will trickle down to the poor of the earth. This argument was refuted almost immediately by Alan Kohler in Business Spectator, who pointed out that:
“Rising inequality began in the 1980s and was the direct result of Reganomics” and his pursuit of tax breaks for the rich.
Murdoch also segued into the evils of tax avoidance, and particularly the unprincipled tactics used by Google. He went on to explain that Google paid hardly any tax in the countries where it made its profits, instead using complex corporate structures to transfer those profits to tax havens.
Certainly companies that sell over the internet have invented new ways of reducing their tax bill. In the case of Google, it books profits from sales made in Australia to overseas subsidiaries that are located in low-taxing countries. As a result, in 2011 Google paid US$74,000 tax, rising to US$7.1 million in 2013 from a revenue base of $1.8 billion.
Other tech companies, Apple and Microsoft in particular, have used similar strategies to reduce the amount of tax they pay.
This was dangerous territory for Murdoch to step into as News Corporation (operating under the umbrella of 21st Century Fox) has engaged in some creative tax engineering of its own. According to a report by the Tax Justice Network Australia, Murdoch’s companies paid the Australian Tax Office a miserly 1.1% on pre-tax profits of A$5.54 billion over the period 2004-2013, which was helped by complex financial transactions among its 146 subsidiaries, including 25 in the Virgin Islands and 19 in Mauritius.
Murdoch’s mauling of Google came as no surprise, as for years he had been feuding with the internet behemoth, a cause that has been predictably picked up by his newspapers, led by the Wall Street Journal.
In his speech, Murdoch accused Google of “piracy”. Behind his rhetoric, Murdoch fears Google is eroding his profits by aggregating free news sources and supporting his competitors, and is limiting the visibility of his company’s news sites because their content is hidden behind paywalls.
Google has not taken these attacks lying down and has created a blog, cheekily titled Dear Rupert, refuting his allegations of piracy.
What the world economic policy elite made of Murdoch’s use of their forum to pursue a commercial feud was not reported, although they must have been scratching their heads on how this was relevant to returning the world to prosperity.
Murdoch’s entry on the international stage is a timely reminder some in the business community will use every opportunity to pursue their own vested interests. In most cases they will cleverly dress them up as sound policy, but in this instance Murdoch carelessly let the veil fall as he used the occasion to savage a commercial competitor.
The question left hanging is whether Hockey supports Murdoch’s narrow view on tax avoidance and whether he is promoting it among his G20 colleagues. Does this signal that he is unlikely to support aggressive policies by the G20 to end old-fashioned tax avoidance by multinational firms, as expertly executed by transnational firms like News Corporation, and only focus on the new kids on the block, who have found new ways to game the system?
Up to now, the G20 has only agreed to automatic exchange of tax information, but has not yet shown it has the stomach to seriously tackle the widespread use of tax havens and transfer pricing, and ensuring profits are taxed in the location where the economic activity takes place.
As the host of the G20, Australia is in a position to lead the way. However, it sent out all the wrong signals by allowing Murdoch to lecture the world’s leading finance ministers on tax.