Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: May, 2018

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 29 May 2018

Time to expose tax deals

Last week saw two events in Parliament House that show taxation wheeling and dealing at its worst.

The first was Pauline Hanson’s sudden about-turn on supporting the government’s business tax cuts, which means One Nation ditched a confidential written deal, and much of its credibility, but also and thankfully the likely end of the federal government’s plan for corporate tax cuts

The second was last Thursday when “Labor voted for Turnbull’s tax cuts”, as Adam Bandt Greens MP said. This week I’d like to focus on this federal budget item, but firstly let’s look at Ms Hanson’s political antics.

The senator and her two One Nation colleagues in the upper house had promised to vote for the corporate tax relief, bringing the government just two votes away from having it passed.

But last Monday, Senator Hanson said the government had not funded in the Budget the extra apprenticeships she wanted in exchange for One Nation votes.

So this time Senator Hanson issued a new set of wide-ranging, unrelated demands to re-win her approval, including an overhaul of the resources rent tax scheme and new support for coal-fired power stations!

At the time of writing it is not known if the government will accept Senator Hanson’s demands, though given they involve such retrograde steps it is to be hoped not.

The government’s budget tax cuts, which also favour the wealthy despite the propaganda of Messrs Turnbull and Morrison, thankfully are also not certain of passing both houses.

For example, last weeks the Australian Greens ruled out supporting both the Coalition and Labor’s personal tax cuts, calling for greater public investment in essential services instead.

“These income tax cut are nothing more than a bribe to try get their massive company tax cuts over the line. People on minimum wage won’t even see $4 a week, with the wealthiest Australians benefiting the most” said Greens Treasury spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

His position makes perfect sense when looked at from a social justice perspective. Both parties’ plans will worsen inequality, and see us lose vital revenue for the essential services people rely on. And neither of the old parties have a plan to address the tax avoidance system that’s allowing multinational companies to avoid paying a fair share of tax in Australia.

The budget tax cut package was heavily weighted to the big end of town. Students and mothers returning to work part-time will get nothing, yet the Coalition’s package would give thousands back to executives and bankers earning $200,000 a year.

It beats me how Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten can look Australians in the eye as they hand out tax cuts to people well above the median wage, yet say people on Newstart should remain below the poverty line?

Senator Richard Di Natale pointed out that economic inequality on the rise, so the priority should be to reinvest in public services.

Indeed, anyone with an eye for fairness can see that when an election is rolling around both old parties are giving away cheques like a breakfast TV show trying to increase their ratings.

It is nothing more than a reckless tax auction, a distraction from the millions of dollars stripped from our schools, hospitals and social safety net over the past decade.

While Turnbull is busy squabbling with Labor over how much they want to rip out of Australia’s institutions everyone should be aware that what is at risk is Medicare, our public schools and hospitals, and the environment.

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My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today 22 May 2018

Government’s live sheep export ‘solution’ a total con job

Last Thursday’s headline made it look as though the Lib/Nats federal government had acted decisively and humanely to deal with the licensed cruelty to animals that poses as the live sheep export trade.

But nothing could be further from the truth. True, space allocated to sheep on live export ships to the Middle East will be increased by up to 39% and directors of live export companies who flout the new rules will face up to 10 years in prison. Independent observers will also be placed on all live sheep and cattle ships.

These are though only superficial changes and the problem can only be solved by a transition to a total ban.

Nationals MP and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said at a press conference in Sydney that though he was disgusted by the footage of distressed and dying sheep, implementing a ban would harm Australian sheep producers.

This is nonsense of course, for chilled meat from animals slaughtered humanely here in Australia would in fact be of far greater economic benefit than the live export trade.

The reaction to these so called reforms has been scathing. The RSPCA said the recommendations were “weak” and “not based on science or evidence”.

“These recommendations completely ignore the science and are not enough to reduce the risk of either consistent harm to animals or the catastrophic conditions we’ve seen previously,” the RSPCA’s chief science officer, Dr Bidda Jones, said.

Jones said Littleproud’s announcement was a betrayal of the trust placed in him by animal welfare organisations.

The Animals Australia founder, Lyn White, said the recommendations were “an appalling breach of faith with the Australian community.”

“This is a lily-livered government response designed to protect exporters, not animals,” White said.

There are two private member’s bills before parliament to ban live exports. The Australian Greens immediately confirmed the crossbench Senate bill to end live sheep exports will proceed on June 18 after the Independent Review of Conditions failed to give recommendations that would guarantee that the mass deaths of sheep on live export ships will end.

“Minister David Littleproud effectively set this inquiry up to deliver recommendations that suit the interests of the live export industry,” Greens Animal Welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

“We have no doubt the review’s author Mr McCarthy conducted his investigations in good faith,  however by not allowing the review to countenance a complete transition away from the trade, the Minister has ensured the review is a stitch-up.

“This is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The live sheep trade is going down and the Minister is failing to support farmers and processing plant owners to make an orderly transition to domestic processing.

“We will proceed with the Senate bill to transition out of live sheep exports on June 18” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale said “I call on Labor, the Liberals and all members of the crossbench to support the Senate bill to end this cruelty.”

Basically all the government’s so-called reforms are doing is to ‘kick the can down the road’, leaving it for someone else to deal with in the future. For goodness sake, do the right thing now and ban all live animal exports. It is the humane and economically sensible thing to do.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 15 May 2018

World is complicit in relation to Gaza demonstrations

In recent weeks a largely horrified world has watched disturbing television footage of the Israeli military’s lethal response to a series of peaceful demonstrations held by Palestinian residents of Gaza every Friday, leading up to the 70th anniversary of their ‘Nakba’, the Arabic word for catastrophe, which is today, 15 May.

The catastrophe in question refers to the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Ever since, and as legitimised by UN Declaration 194, their descendants, now numbering 3.7 million, have been calling for their ‘right of return’.

The Right of Return notwithstanding, at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict today also lies the question of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since the war of 1967, which include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

The Occupation has dramatically shrunk the territory available to the Palestinians. It has also deleteriously affected almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives.

Palestinians can’t live free of the Israeli military presence. The occupied areas are constantly patrolled and controlled by the Israeli military. These armed soldiers have been accused of beating, detaining, and torturing Palestinians.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza prevents imports of medical supplies, building materials and energy supplies, and the export of foodstuffs grown in Gaza. Electricity is usually not available.

Palestinians can’t control their access to water in the occupied territories. The majority of the water from the area’s two main sources goes to Israel. There are frequent water shortages in the West Bank and poor water quality in Gaza.

Palestinians can’t access certain life-saving health care. Due to the blockade, in Gaza many hospitals lack critical equipment and resources. In the West Bank delays caused by Israeli checkpoints have resulted in death or, quite often, roadside births.

A huge amount of Palestinian land in the West Bank is constantly being taken for new, ever expanding and illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli only super highways that connect them to major cities.
Most Palestinians can’t enjoy the rights of citizenship. They are effectively a stateless people, who mostly lack rights to citizenship in any sovereign nation.

Palestinians don’t have the same due process and civil rights as Israelis. They can be imprisoned without charge for a period of up to six months under the Israeli policy of “administrative detention.” After that expires Israeli officials are allowed to renew the detention indefinitely.

Military checkpoints and roadblocks are scattered throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem seriously restricting travel by Palestinians. The Separation Wall has seized thousands of hectares of Palestinian land, separates families, and cuts many farmers off from their land.

Palestinians aren’t equally protected by labour laws. Curfews are regularly imposed. Sometimes the consequences are very serious, making it impossible to shop for life’s necessities, and sometimes they are life threatening as access to hospitals is denied.

To add insult to injury, President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take place this month, which coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. An unnecessary and very cruel move, Mr Trump with dangerous consequences as East Jerusalem is claimed by Palestine as its future capital.

How long will the world accept the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people? The silence of major and minor powers is nothing more than complicity.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 8 May 2018

The un-affordability of rental properties needs political action now

Last week’s news that statistics showed an alarming long-term shortage of affordable rental properties for low-income families in Wagga reflected the data from metropolitan centres, showing clearly that this is not just a problem confined to major cities.

“The figures, compiled by Anglicare, analysed 319 Wagga properties available for lease in terms of their affordability and the number of family members they could accommodate” reported DA journalist Claudia Farhart.

The data makes worrying reading. Anglicare’s research could not find even one property available for rent in Wagga for young people relying on Centrelink payments such as Youth Allowance or Newstart. That might be acceptable, I hear some readers chorus, for those who haven’t yet left the family nest, but many, possibly most, might well be of an age when they should be independent of their parents.

As the income and possibly the age level rises the news unfortunately isn’t any better. A single working person earning the minimum wage would find only 20 properties available for rent in Wagga.

It doesn’t improve for a single parent of two on a parenting payment, with only seven properties available, and for a single parent of two children employed on the minimum-wage and receiving the government’s Family Tax Benefit, there were only 33 suitable properties available in the city, which made up 10 per cent of the rental market.

The DA reported Anglicare Regional Manager for the Riverina Brad Addison saying that this is nothing new, “Seeing no improvement in the housing situation over the last several years is devastating news for vulnerable families in Wagga.” Mr Addison called on the government to implement housing reform instead of letting the burden fall to non-profit organisations.

He’s right of course, but surely charities are no solution. Indeed, it’s a sign that something in our socio-economic system is awry and that it needs fixing.

Unfortunately it seems that most politicians don’t see the need for urgent action, or indeed, any action at all. We didn’t hear a peep from the Deputy Prime Minister and our very own local member, Michael McCormack, did we?

Thankfully though not all pollies are asleep at the wheel. The Greens, for example, are working to build more social housing and strengthen renters’ rights, said Australian Greens spokesperson for Housing, Senator Lee Rhiannon, and Greens NSW spokesperson for Housing, Jenny Leong MP.

Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “It’s time to fundamentally shift Australia’s housing away from a for-profit system towards recognising housing as human right and providing homes for all.

“The Greens plan for a Federal Housing Trust would build 500,000 social homes will guarantee affordability by charging rent as a proportion of income.

“With only 6% of rental properties being affordable to people on income support payments nationwide, it’s clear that we need to fund and build a bigger social housing program,” said Senator Rhiannon.

Jenny Leong MP said, “We also need to strengthen rights for renters in the private market.
“The Greens are working to end ‘no grounds’ evictions to give renters more security. We’ll also put a cap on the amount and frequency of rent rises to ensure renters aren’t exploited for excessive profit.”

The Anglicare data makes it quite clear that this is a crisis needing an immediate political solution. It provides a big opportunity for the NSW parliament to end these injustices and give all renters some dignity and security in their homes, which is a much better idea than blowing the $2 billion you were prepared to spend on new and totally unnecessary sports stadiums.