Inside the system

Gas giants pay no tax despite record boom

Despite the boom in natural gas exports, multinationals exploiting gas resources in Australia are paying zero tax. The boom in natural gas exports is likely to see Australia become the world’s biggest exporter within five years. Already gas exports were valued at $16.5 billion last financial year. But the government’s Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) is collecting nothing from the gas companies. In fact, the combined LNG sector currently enjoys $238 billion in tax credits, according to a recent ATO report to Treasurer Scott Morrison.

The rigged PRRT is set at 40 per cent of “taxable profit” rather than a flat rate on export value. This allows mega corporations like Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil to write off capital and exploration expenditure at inflated rates to avoid paying. LNG plants in Queensland pay state royalties, but offshore gas plants in WA and the NT pay nothing, apart from the north-west shelf project.

Absurdly, export destination countries levy more tax from LNG extracted in Australia than the Australian government does. Japan is the biggest buyer of Australian LNG at 30 million tons a year. According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Japan’s import tax will reap $2.9 billion over the next four years from LNG imports from Australia. The Australian government will take zero.

Last year Fairfax calculated that in 2021, when Australian LNG exports outstrip those of the current market leader Qatar, the Qatari government will take a whopping $26.6 billion in royalties compared to Australia’s pitiful $800 million.
Australia Post tells workers to work around corpse

Australia Post employees at a Sunshine Coast warehouse have been subjected to the horror of being forced to work around the corpse of one of their workmates. The death of the 49-year-old Australia Post worker was called into Emergency Services at 2.55 am on 9 March, and the area around his body was cordoned off by police at 3 am. It took another three hours for an undertaker’s car to arrive at the warehouse. During this time employees were told to work around his dead body. One female worker told News Corp witches hats were, “placed around the body and people were told to carry on working. They didn’t see it as important enough to stop work,” she said.

“It is really horrific. It is the most degrading, horrible thing for this man and his family. Then to distress the other people in the warehouse. They all know each other, they all knew this man.”

Another worker who arrived at the warehouse was a colleague of 15 years to the deceased man. “It was quite disgusting,” he said. “The whole work should have ceased operation.”

An Australia Post spokesperson tried desperately to evade responsibility for the disgraceful incident, saying, “None of our employees were forced to work this morning as this very sad situation unfolded.” Yet the spokeswoman admitted in the same statement that the, “The site remained operational”.

Michaelia Cash forgets $1.4 million property

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash failed to declare a $1.4 million investment property for almost three months.

Under existing rules any Senator who fails to make such declaration within 35 days, “shall be guilty of serious contempt of the Senate and shall be dealt with by the Senate accordingly”. Cash took 109 days to fully declare the acquisition. The property is the fourth in her portfolio. She purchased it in the upmarket Perth suburb of Floreat in November last year.

US demands Cambodia pay ‘war debt’

The US has demanded that Cambodia repay $662 million in war debt. The outrageous demand refers to a debt incurred under the US-backed government of Lon Nol who was in office before the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975. During this period the US pulverised Cambodia’s countryside with over 500,000 tonnes of explosives. The indiscriminate carpet bombing was aimed at wiping-out North Vietnamese supply lines during the United States’ imperialist war in Vietnam. Just 200 nights in 1973 saw 257,456 tonnes of explosives hammer Cambodia in secret B-52 bombing raids.

The result of the bombing campaign was over 500,000 Cambodians dead—many of them children. Most of the debt paid for food in the war ravaged country. A diplomat posted in Phnom Penh in the period told Fairfax that the food sold to Cambodia was actually just unwanted from excess US food stocks. Because the so called debt hasn’t been paid over such a long period it has effectively doubled in size.

Fruit pickers told to leave union or lose work

Labor hire company MADEC has threatened seasonal fruit workers to pressure them to resign from their union. The workers, who pick tomatoes at Perfection Fresh in South Australia, were told they would stop getting work if they didn’t leave the NUW.

The threats came after the 145 migrant workers from Vanuatu noticed “deductions” on their pay slips and started asking questions. One worker told Fairfax, “I was working five days a week, Monday to Friday, 38 hours, and my pay slip was around $800 a week. But with deductions, I am left with $500”.

MADEC told the workers that they wouldn’t be recruited for the Seasonal Workers Program in future unless they left the union. The firm then handed out 145 resignation forms to workers to fill in and give to the union. This blatant violation of the workers’ right to free association was explained away as a “misunderstanding” by MADEC’s Chief Executive. Perfection Fresh is a supplier to the major supermarkets. The NUW’s Tim Kennedy pointed to the way the supermarket price wars are driving “systemic exploitation” in the agricultural sector. “They say they are doing audits, but the system is broken.”

Welfare discrimination against Aboriginal people

Aboriginal people are forced to work up to three times longer than other unemployed people to access unemployment benefits. That’s the impact of the Community Development Program in remote communities. And the penalty for turning up late or missing work is losing ten per cent of the already meagre payment of $290 a week. Senate Estimates in March heard there have been 200,000 breach notices handed out since 2015.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour
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Things they say

Our aim of the campaign wasn’t to knock Brendon off or anyone else; it was to kill the tax and I think we have done that.
Reg Howard-Smith, chief executive of the Western Australia Chamber of Minerals and Energy on their $2 million campaign against the WA mining tax that cost Brendon Grylls, leader of the National Party, his seat

Hopefully we don’t have to run a campaign like this again. They’re expensive by any yardstick, but I think it is money well spent.
Howard-Smith again, declaring victory

You can’t rip up contracts with major international investors in the state and think everything is going to be OK—it won’t be.
Newly elected WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan explaining who really runs Western Australia and why he opposed the mining tax.

I have a great relationship with business. If you name most of the business people on [St Georges] Terrace, I know them reasonably well.
Mark McGowan again—we have been warned!

What Sally McManus has said is the kind of anarchic Marxist clap trap we used to hear from anarchists at Adelaide University in the 1980s
Cabinet member Chris Pyne’s not happy about unions defying the law

It’s opening the door for more hours of employment… that’s a gift; that is a gift for our young people to get a foot in the door of employment
Liberal MP Gilmore Ann Sudmalis on why reducing workers’ pay through cutting penalty rates is a “gift”

It is true to say we do respect the commission but we do not support this decision
Labor leader Bill Shorten, happy to have it both ways on the anti-union Fair Work Commission

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