Since this article was written, Barnaby Joyce has announced his retirement, on the grounds that he “can’t take it anymore.” As indicated below, the situation had developed to the point where his own team pulled the knife in him. It is likely that he was given the option to leave or be pushed. He took the first.
The massive Paradise Papers leak is as big as the Panama Papers release last year,. Although it is grabbing some attention, it is not producing headlines on the same scale.
Each of these stories first came to light in a German publication (Suddeutsche Zeitung). But with the Panama Papers it was mainly WikiLeaks that brought the contents to the world’s attention. In the case of the Paradise Papers the WikiLeaks connection is missing.
The involvement of WikiLeaks in the first case, made sure that all the contents were made public. In the second case, what comes out has been more selective, although the Paradise Papers involved more than 13.4 million documents, which we are told, details more than 120 politicians around the world involved in of shore banking activities.
The two best known backers are the Ford Foundation associated with the car manufacturer of the same name and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. What binds this group together is a shared political mission that is encapsulated by George Soros, who wrote that the main threat to society is the rise of “laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society”.
The Soros way to carry this out, is to create a political centre that proclaims opposition to extreme capitalism, as the means of defending the existing political, economic and social order, against forces hostile to it. The method is to build a politics of compromise in connection to the class divisions that exist in society. The cry is that no one has absolute truth and harmony can only be guaranteed if conflict is ended through compromise. This means that big business must give some ground on the key issues of the day.
It is on this basis that he launched his concept of “open society,” a term borrowed from Austrian philosopher Karl Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) and is the reason why he became the number one backer of Hilary Clinton and an opponent of Donald Trump.
This is a view of the world that is shared by the consortium that has given rise to the ICIJ, which is selective in the use of information. That which serves the political mission gets priority.
Nevertheless, what has been brought to light in this exposure of extreme capitalism is in the public interest. The downside is that within the ICIJ exposure there is an unhealthy obsession with the Russian connection and a seeming determination to squeeze this into the claim that they stole last year’s US Presidential election.
No doubt the Russians showed an interest in the outcome and nudged things along where they could. This is nothing new. It also works the other way around. The American interfere in Russian elections and elections in many other countries. This is the unfortunate reality of global politics and international tensions.
Foreign interference is wrong and needs to be opposed. The danger is that over playing this card, can lead to the neglect of the most fundamental issues. In this case, Clinton was a rotten candidate, who turned out to be even more disliked than her opponent. She was the darling of Wall Street, corrupt in her own right and came across as an extremely arrogant individual, who stood for the continuation of the policies that were rousing so much anger in American society. These are these important factors that cost her the election. It was domestic factors and not Russians that determined the result.
Despite the weakness in the ICIJ handling of the issue, the much larger scale of the money laundering and tax evasion cannot be ignored. The ICIJ has had to deal with it by necessity, in the battle against extreme capitalism and this has provided another warning that the world needs urgent action from governments.
To date, the political establishment in country after country has done very little to make a difference and is a worry that will feed the growing resentment, against as regime of unequal treatment, where justice is seen to be given on the capacity to buy it.
The following article by Ben Doherty (Glencore Paradise Papers 6 November 2017) provides an exposure of some of the activities this major multinational has been involved in, and this includes questionable practices in moving around money and using tax free havens, ignoring safety concerns at its mines and the environmental destruction of indigenous lands. This is all revealed in the Paradise papers, a massive cache of 13 million leaked documents obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. In Australia, the cmapny’s subsidiary is presently in a lockout dispute with its workforce at its Oaky North mine, aimed at cutting wages by nearly half.
The Australian tax Office has now put a figure on the amount of tax avoidance being carried out by major corporations and multinationals.
Major corporations are defined as those with a gross income of over $250 million a year. They failed to pay out a whopping $2.5 billion in the 2014-15 financial year. The Tax office also says this has been the pattern over some years.
The consequence is that Australians miss out on government services that could otherwise be financed by this money.
It is even worse. The amount estimated is well under what it really is, because only some types of non-compliance have been considered.
Oxfam Australia’s Economic Policy Advisor Joy Kyriacou said $2.5 billion was a conservative estimate. “The ATO can only report on what large companies are bound to tell it, not on taxes which multinationals are dodging through legal tax avoidance”.
Treasurer Scott Morrison’s 9 own this year’s May statement, admitted that the scale of tax evasion is significantly greater, at more than $7 billion.
Estimates by the The Tax Office are also reduced because of the practice of cutting deals, rather than prosecute corporations that have avoided paying tax. Only amounts to new deals are counted.
This is not good enough. The expectation is that the actual debt would be followed up diligently and the whole truth getting out there is important, to show what has to be done in order to put an end to corporate tax evasion, which on the scale that it is occurring in Australia, must be having a major impact on Australian society and the economy.
If money that is syphoned out overseas (acceptable under the present letter of the law) is taken into account, it would add at least another $6 billion a year, to the amount of lost money. In comparison, the government’s budget deficit is $33 billion.Recovering the taxes not paid would clean the slate in a few years. And this is far from the whole picture of financial benefits corporations get from government.
Yet is the budget deficit that provides the excuse for bullying through Centrelink, where the value of benefits were cut last year by $5 billion. A broad range of services important to the whole Australia community also continue to be cut. There is absolutely no doubt this is one of the reasons for growing inequality. It is unfair.
The government’s failure to take effective action on this, while going on with the cuts, is the height of hypocrisy, because what is really being done, is that fat cats are being bankrolled at the expense of everyone else.
At the same time, the government denies itself the funds it needs to play its potential role as a player in the economy, as a supplier of resources and a stimulative consumption. The consequence is less economic activity and this flows through to impact on the whole of society. It doesn’t stop here. Tax avoidance on the scale that is occurring in Australia, must significantly distort investment patterns and this in itself, leads to more problems.