Inside the system

Labor tobacco tax will hit the poor

LABOR HAS responded to Liberal plans for a GST increase by proposing to double the price of a packet of cigarettes as an alternative way to increase revenue. This is a regressive consumption tax that will hit the poorest the hardest.

Labor has said it would increase the tobacco excise by 12.5 per cent four times in order to push the price to $40 a pack by 2020. The Parliamentary Budget Office predicts the move will raise $3.8 billion over the four year forward estimates, with Labor saying it will collect almost $50 billion over the medium term.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has admitted the tax will hit those least able to afford it, saying “Poor people do smoke more”. Indeed, among the richest 20 per cent of the population only 10 per cent smoke, while the figure is around 25 per cent among the poorest fifth of the population. A Treasury study under the Rudd government found a minimum wage worker would face an annual income erosion of 3.2 per cent if cigarette prices increased by 25 per cent. The new plan would be double this.

Labor has attempted to dress up the proposal as a health initiative that will prevent poor people dying from smoking-related illnesses. But their massive revenue projections show they are banking on many poor smokers being unable to quit and paying dearly for it.

Police humiliate 11-year-old Aboriginal girl

AN 11-YEAR-OLD Aboriginal girl was handcuffed, arrested and then escorted from school property at Tennant Creek Primary School in November. Police say the school girl was subjected to the humiliating walk of shame because she was suspected of “property offences”. During the staged arrest she was marched in cuffs to a paddy wagon, past classrooms full of fellow students.

The girl was then held in a police cell and transferred to Darwin, more than 1000 kilometres from her home.

She was taken into the “care” of the “child protection” department and then disappeared for four days, after escaping from what the police called a “secure location”. Her family say they were not notified of the arrest or transfer.

The girl’s great grandmother described the whole episode as “appalling”, saying, “I asked the detective in charge, ‘Was she a dangerous criminal that you had to handcuff her?’ He said it was protocol, end of story. I don’t think that should happen to anyone. This was a big detective. She is a small, slight girl.” In a statement NT police said, “The location and time of her arrest was deliberately chosen to minimise potential embarrassment for the child”.

Fossil fuel subsidies same as global health spending

According to a new report by the International Monetary Fund, fossil fuel companies are benefiting from subsidies of $5.3 trillion US per year. This immense figure amounts to more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments combined and represents 6.5 per cent of global GDP.

The report doesn’t just look at direct subsidies, but takes into account the indirect costs to governments that flow from burning coal, gas and oil. Over half the $5.3 trillion figure comes from the cost of treating the victims of air pollution and the loss of government income due to premature death and illness.

‘Black Lung’ returns to Queensland mines

The potentially deadly disease “Black Lung” was thought to have been wiped out over 60 years ago. But four Queensland coal miners have now been diagnosed. An inadequate monitoring system and new longwall mining techniques, mean thousands are potentially at risk.

Black Lung can be detected with regular lung tests and X-rays. However, the Queensland Mines Department has admitted that there are currently no qualified X-ray “B-readers” who can identify the disease in Queensland. Mines Minister Anthony Lynham revealed there are thousands of stored miners’ X-rays that haven’t been reviewed. Queensland CFMEU President Stephen Smyth says, “all mines have exceeded the legal limit of dust.” The mining boom has meant mega profits for bosses, but mine workers have been rewarded with a fatal disease thanks to the greed and neglect of government and employers.

Royal Commission cops hound unionists

Cops working for the Union Royal Commission have hounded unionists at home, and even at the airport, as the Liberals witch-hunt against unions continues.

CFMEU finance officer Cherie Shaw was confronted by Australian Federal Police (AFP) as she and her family sat down for dinner in September. After arriving unannounced the AFP interrogated Shaw for 75 minutes, telling her there was “no need to talk to a lawyer”. A complaint to the Commission lodged on 29 October relayed that Shaw had to tell her children to ring lawyers if police arrived again.

CFMEU Queensland industrial officer Michelle Clare was approached by cops as she went through customs at Brisbane airport on her return from holiday. She was taken to an office to be interrogated but the conversation ended quickly when she demanded a lawyer. Two other CFMEU employees were targeted in their homes, according to the union, describing the harassment as designed to “frighten, intimidate and panic”.

Reclaim racist caught with bomb making materials

A Reclaim Australia member was charged with possession of a “bomb making manual” and weapons in the lead up to their November rally against a mosque in Melbourne. Police say a raid on the man’s home uncovered five tasers, a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook with instructions for making explosives, and a small bottle of mercury.

Police said the man, Phillip Galea, could face additional charges after refusing to give police access to a hard drive containing encrypted files. The raid happened as a result of a tip-off that informed police that members of the group planned to bring weapons to Reclaim’s Melton rally for “self-defence”.

Things they say

A recession [in Australia] is not necessarily a bad thing. Like a bushfire, they can clear out a lot of fuel and they can regenerate the private sector.
Former Greek Syriza government finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, revealing that he’s no anti-capitalist 

At this particular time, I think it’s important that we focus on what happened and perhaps leave aside those sort of more controversial concerns and let’s focus, certainly, on the condemnation.
Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Concetta Fierravanti-Wells lays into the Mufti over his statement on the Paris attacks

Lucy Turnbull on ‘man-of-the-people’ Malcolm’s taste for truffles at $900 for 300 grams

I personally would like Australia to be a tax haven, the kind of place where companies want to set up their offices.
Sam Kennard, managing director of Kennard’s Self Storage and the Liberal Democratic Party candidate for Joe Hockey’s old seat of North Sydney. Kennard also wants a 20 per cent company tax.

I think the test of whether any set of measures is fair is going to be whether people look at it and say ‘yep, that seems fair enough’
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with a particularly compelling explanation of what’s fair.

We have seen the abuse firsthand, and we are horrified.
Former US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant and drone operator on the targeting killing program


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