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Friday, March 18, 2016

Conservative Misconceptions on Tax , The Aftermath of 'Senate Reform', and More

above:  Greens leader Richard Di Natale argues reforms to the Senate will make Parliamentary elections more democratic ; But is he mistaken?  Could the Liberals soon control the Senate in their own right?  
This week I'm publishing six more letters looking at important issues in Australian and international politics...  These were originally sent to The Age, the Herald-Sun and The Australian ; Mostly they were unpublished.
Also this week we 're considering 
  • 'mental health and life-expectancy',
  • 'Conservative misconceptions on Tax', 
  • 'Superannuation reforms 'not a new Tax''
  • 'Integration and Assimilation not the same thing!' and
  • 'Was Bernie Sanders wrong on Clinton?'....

Dr Tristan Ewins

A Bigger Threat to those with a Mental Illness than Suicide – Close the Gap Now…

“Neil Cole (Reducing the Suicide Rate 9/3) raises the connection between Schizophrenia and suicide ; and by inference that we should tackle this just as seriously as we do the road toll for instance.  Yet one issue that none of the major parties are dealing with is that of reduced life expectancy for people with mental illness, and especially those with schizophrenia.  Here looking at suicide is only just ‘scratching the surface’.  For those so afflicted  (approximately 300,000 Australians with schizophrenia)  there is a reduced life expectancy of 25 years.   What is required is a ‘close the gap’ program similar to that pursued for indigenous peoples.  Not only to reduce suicide rates, but to promote fitness, health, good eating and the like, and also to further ameliorate poverty, provide flexible work, reduce social isolation etc.  ‘The Age’ has briefly considered this issue last year, but what is needed is an ongoing media campaign  demanding this be put this on all the major parties’ policy radar ahead of the coming election.  Some corners of the media could also do to stop treating Disability Pensioners like criminals.”

Conservatives misguided on Tax

The Herald-Sun (9/3) alludes to the corporate sector urging Turnbull to ‘be bold on tax’ and make sweeping cuts to the Company Tax rate.  Superannuation Concessions are mentioned, and indeed according to Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute those concessions (mainly for the wealthy) will soon cost taxpayers as much as $50 billion a year!  But are Company Tax cuts better for the rest of us, and do they really improve the economy?   Company Tax cuts mean that business is increasingly excused from contributing to paying for the services and infrastructure it benefits from. (eg: education,  communications, transport)  So either those services and infrastructure are neglected (hurting the economy) or the rest of us are called upon to ‘pick up the tab’.  This is what some people are calling ‘corporate welfare’.  It amounts to a ‘race to the bottom’ and effective ‘corporate blackmail’.  But ironically an economy with low corporate tax rates may end up being a LESS attractive destination for investment exactly because of the neglect of infrastructure, services and human capital.

Reforming Superannuation Concessions is not ‘A new Tax’

Mark Kenny (14/3) argues that voters are “sticking with the Coalition’ because of “Labor’s plans to lift taxes on superannuation and investment properties.”  This statement is profoundly misleading.  Labor is not bringing in new taxes, here, or even raising any existing taxes. Instead Labor is proposing that a series of concessions and subsidies be wound back.   Subsidies and concessions overwhelmingly favouring  the well-off.   Indeed these could be credibly interpreted as areas of government expenditure.   So a simple ‘reframing’ of the question could radically alter the terms of the debate.  Superannuation Concessions and Negative Gearing provisions could be seen as rorts for the well-off which cost average and low income tax payers.  Indeed Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute has estimated that superannuation concessions alone will soon cost taxpayers over $50 billion a year.  The sheer scope of the cost to the public purse is phenomenal.  It’s enough on its own to pay for an entire National Broadband Network (NBN) every year!  Incidentally Labor’s proposed  measures on superannuation concessions are at best modest.   If anything Labor needs a stronger policy. But they will be ‘spooked’ by the way ‘The Age’ and other publications are approaching this issue.

Integration and Assimilation not the Same Thing!

Frank Basile (HS Letters, 19/3) argues that ‘integration is the only way’ and that we should adopt a policy of “assimilation”.  But Integration and Assimilation are not the same thing.   Assimilation demands that people abandon their own culture to adopt the host culture.  That is, that they give up their cultural distinctiveness.  But Integration has a different aim.  Integration aims to establish enough ‘shared ground’ to facilitate interaction, communication,  intermingling and inclusion.  That might also include a commitment to liberty, democracy and social fairness.  In this way Integration aspires to achieve social harmony.   But under Integration this ‘shared ground’ does NOT mean immigrants must abandon their cultural identity and distinctiveness.  Integration is the way of bringing distinct cultures into relation with each other on the basis of ‘common ground’. In such a way cultures overlap and interpenetrate rather than 'one cancelling the other out’.  Integration is well and fine but let’s be clear what it really means.

What Senate Reform Possibly Means

(19/3/16)  The Greens have combined with the Liberals to implement Senate Reforms  which will probably wipe out the so-called  ‘micro parties’.  Here we speak not only of the ‘Sex Party’ and so-called ‘Liberal Democrats’ but also of the Carers’ Alliance and the Women’s Electoral Lobby.    In short voters will no longer be able to vote  for a Party ticket with the preferences being distributed according to those parties’ wishes.  The Greens will argue that takes the power away from the parties, and puts that power in the hands of  voters. On the one hand it may do away with the questionable scenario of micro-party candidates being elected on automatically distributed preferences with only a tiny primary vote of their own.   On the other hand it might do away with the prospects of micro-parties  frustrating the Coalition’s social and economic agendas.   Joe Hockey’s brutal Budget would have passed without opposition in the Senate.  Anthony Albanese has rightly asserted that a system of ‘quotas’ – ie: imposing a minimum primary vote necessary for election - could also have rectified the system without the same ramifications.  Another option would be for the preference directions of all candidates be made public ahead of any election.   We can only hope these reforms do not deliver the Coalition absolute power through control of both Houses of Parliament.

Was Bernie Sanders Wrong on Clinton?

(A letter sent to ‘The Age’ a while back)    Some people are criticising Bernie Sanders for not allowing Hillary Clinton to interrupt and speak over him. Who was in the right? Is 'what's good for the goose good for the gander', or do different rules apply to women and men? Generally speaking on the broad left we should not talk over or interrupt one another. We should have enough mutual respect or consideration to let arguments take their course, and allow people to arrive at their judgements. And in the past men's voices were always dominant - and that had to be corrected. But if a woman can interrupt or speak over a man, but a man cannot interrupt or speak over a woman (or even try and reassert himself as Sanders did when he was interrupted) - is it fair? And could this incident really hurt Sanders' campaign? And would that be fair also?


  1. In my opinion, integration of naturalised citizens will happen as the generations born to immigrants grow up in Australian culture. Australian culture will also be influenced by those immigrants' cultures and the differing cultures will influence each other, including immigrants influencing immigrants. The real political questions arise over the questionable practices of cultures which restrict the liberties of individuals within those cultures. Believers are especially relevant here as many of them have left political States which have persecuted and dominated them. At the same time, these believers may ardently embrace the notion that their culture is morally superior to the culture which exists in Australia, including their neighbour immigrants' cultures. Just think of the cultural differences between Sunni and Shia, Hindus and Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims, Christians and Atheist or all fundamentalists of any belief to other faiths. As a result, they may segregate themselves from the social integration which would happen otherwise over time. Celebrating such practices and insulating them from critique via legal restrictions on free speech are recipes for the creation of ghettos within Australia.

    I agree with your view on Labor's taxation initiatives. Cutting back on the capital gains incentives for negative gearing and more or less directing the tax incentives for the landlord class to invest in new housing as opposed to old housing are smart moves by Comrade Bowen. All in the vein of the using our sacred market forces (thanks again Comrades Hawke and Keating) to do the job which government should be doing i.e. increasing the supply of social housing to lower the price to its actual value. I can only hope that once Labor is in government or even before it is elected, the PLP can see that lowering the company tax yet again, will NOT produce anything but more profits for the upper 10% and the companies they own to put into their already bulging coffers. To be frank, I don't have much confidence in Comrades Bowen and Shorten to see it my way on this question.

    All of which leads to the issue of government revenue and Costello inspired notion of budget surpluses. If taxes on the upper 10% and the companies they own are cut further, how will the closure of the gap in any area be funded adequately. Mental health and Aboriginal poverty will have to wait for the long awaited budget surplus to be achieved, a task made harder and harder each day that taxes on the wealth of the upper 10% and the companies that they are not raised to adequately fund public health, education, transport and welfare.

  2. Politically speaking, Sanders is the best candidate for the working class with a chance to win in the Presidency in the USA. Bourgeois feminists supporting Clinton are raising a red herring when they attempt to paint Sanders as a sexist.

    The term, "micro party" is already a put down of citizens organising to express their politics during an election. To be sure, the Labor Party chose a left opportunist direction to oppose this reform in the Senate by bringing up the gay marriage issue. The realities are that political parties are all opportunist, including the ones condemned to "micro" measurements at the hustings. The Greens are opportunistically attempting to shut down "micro" parties to their left and right so that they remain the only alternative for those wishing to cast a protest vote against the Establishment's "macro" parties. For those whose primary notion of politics is that it is about morals, the realisation that it is about power may come as a shock. In any event, this conservative reform passed the Senate already. I'm sure Comrade Gray is happy about that, but few others in the Labor Party will be so delighted, as this reform will ensure the victory of the LNP and give them some more years to turn the wealth workers produce back to the upper 10% and the companies they own. If and when Labor comes back into government, this reform could quite well keep the LNP out of influence in policy making. In the meantime, the Greens are looking more and more like the farce which followed the tragedy of the Democrats. Remember them? The ones who helped the Liberals get the GST passed?

  3. Mike you may be right about the consequences for the Greens. But I'm not hoping for an Australian Democrats-style implosion. Hopefully instead they will receive a shock at the polls and will change their ways. The problem is this: If the Greens went then would Labor attract all their votes and activists - or would a massive base of votes and activism simply be lost? The best scenario I can envisage is for the Greens to move towards the Centre and for Labor to move to the Left , with Labor capturing the 'Lion's share' of the 'broad left electoral terrain'.... But between them it would be best were they together to comprise a viable 'electoral bloc'. What's more likely, though, is that if the Greens move to the centre they and Labor will fight over the same electoral terrain. Then the Greens will lose some of their Left vote as a price to be paid for that shift... And voices will be lost for change on the relative Left. I think the Greens have made a mistake on 'Senate reform'. But I'm not eager for their 'destruction' as such. Over many years they have played a progressive role on many issues. We just need for both sides (Greens, Labor) 'to stay out of the gutter' when it comes to competing for the Left vote in inner suburbia. Maybe then a working relationship will become more likely. But yes - I'm hoping an electoral shock for the Greens will spur them to reconsider their strategies rather than to destroy them as such.

    1. Meanwhile, I wonder where the Democrats went? Into the Greens, the Liberals or Labor or perhaps the Nats.

      The Green vote will never disappear, even if the Greens disappear as a party. What the Greens do is lop off Labor's left while catering to a wiser, more environmentally sensitive section of the bourgeoisie.In any event, I would welcome a Labor/Green Coalition government. Comrade Gillard worked hard to forge a minority government based on that reality. Any LNP Green coalitions will be short lived and destructive to their moral activist base which is why Labor took the time to lambaste them in the recent Senate filibuster over changes to electoral rules.

  4. I'm not so sure that independents don't stand a chance at being elected, or re-elected in the case of sitting members, once people get their head around the changes to the Senate voting system...

    With Below The Line voting now only having to number at least 12 squares, but your ballot is still formal provided it shows six consecutive preferences, makes below the line voting a whole lot easier...(No doubt the numbers would double for a DD election)

    As I see it you could vote for all the Independents you wanted to & as long as your last preferences stopped at the major party members you wanted to win, your vote wouldn't be wasted or end up with a minor party or the party you hated the most...

    I would think once the Independents & voters work this out we could end up with more Independents winning seats on the Cross Benches & if everyone who didn't give the LNP their first preferences left them out completely they could end up with fewer seats in the Senate & imagine the joy that could bring...:)