Wayne Swan — Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, and pious little bubble of self-important rectitude — is stepping up his crusade against mining conglomerates, and against mining billionaires specifically. He should reflect: socialism is dead.
Swan’s set against the mining companies (and the likes of Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart in particular) boils down to a very simple premise: they’re filthy rich, so tax the living daylight out of them — in the name of “sharing the prosperity” of Australia’s minerals boom and resultant wealth.
In other words, Swan sees himself on an historic mission to be Robin Hood.
Little wonder Palmer described him yesterday as “an economic pygmy.”
Qualitative research already shows that Australians generally do not favour singling out the mining sector for excessive taxation treatment; indeed, it is the one sector of the Australian economy holding the rest of it out of recession at present.
I don’t propose to get into the tin-tack specifics of the brawl going on between “SwannyDPM” (as he vainly likes to be known on Twitter) and the miners, but I do want to make a few very salient points.
The first of these is on taxation; even billionaires, and their companies turning over tens of billions of dollars per annum, are subject to personal and corporate taxation regimes that ensure they pay a reasonable dividend to the federal treasury each year.
They are also subject to state-based mining royalty payments; this is the system Swan wants to use a “mining tax” as a sleight-of hand, smoke and mirror device to significantly increase the level of taxation revenue the mining sector remits.
It is true that these entities and these individuals seek to minimise their tax obligations each year, as they are legitimately entitled to do; just as anyone earning a salary who writes off expenses for motor vehicles, mobile phone usage or other work-related expenses can.
And if they do anything unlawful, the law will chase them — and chase them until they are either dead or prosecuted. Messrs Christopher Skase and Alan Bond respectively should provide ample reassurance to the general public that nobody is above the law.
Swan seems to imply that because of the sheer wealth of these companies and their proprietors, they should effectively serve as limitless cash cows to prop up the federal budget he has singlehandedly vandalised and trashed in four sorry years as Treasurer of Australia.
Yet I would note that a far more deserving target of Swan’s “Robin Hood” approach — the banking sector — escapes with no more than a few weasel words at a doorstop press grab designed to get him 10 seconds on the evening news bulletins.
It’s true that I have reluctantly called for the banks to be pulled into line as corporate citizens by way of a windfall tax on profits exceeding $2 billion per annum, per bank. But there are three very large differences between the banks and the mining companies.
One, each mining company was started and built as an entity by an entrepreneur (Forrest and Palmer; in Rinehart’s case, her father, the late Lang Hancock) — the banks are purely shareholder institutions driven solely by profit.
Two, the mining companies may make a lot of money, and so do their proprietors, but as they grow they both create jobs directly in increasing numbers, as well as fuelling indirect economic growth and activity in other industries.
By contrast — apart from their own workforces — the banks contribute very little back into the wider economy, and what they do (mortgage finance, general credit, advisory and brokerage services etc) simply returns residual profits and cashflow to their bottom lines.
And three, the activities of Australia’s banks (widening margins on finance lending, transaction fees, interchange fees, account keeping fees, administration fees, exit fees, in fact just about any fee imaginable) takes money out of the pockets of almost every Australian citizen to fuel obscene profits that return next to nothing constructive to the wider economy.
So let’s hear no more about the purported legitimacy of Swan’s crusade against the miners.
Ever the hypocrite, Swan whined in his speech to the National Press Club today that a small group of wealthy individuals was skewing the political debate in their own interests, and yet continued on to claim that unions also attempted to influence political outcomes, but they did so in the interests of everyday Australians.
Get me the sick bucket…you can’t have it both ways.
And to quote Swan from an article in today’s edition of The Australian newspaper:
“Can I just say I am really proud of our link with the trade union movement, and I don’t resile from that for one moment…they are working Australians who are bringing up families, going to work every day. And because they have joined a trade union they lobby collectively for their rights. Good on them. They are just doing what normal lobby groups do, or interest groups do, in our society.”
So it’s OK for the unions to do it in the name of the less than 3 in 20 Australian working people who now belong to a union at all, but it’s bad when another “normal lobby group” — the mining sector — do the same thing.
What a hypocrite, but then that’s Wayne Swan all over.
And to frame this attack on the mining sector as part of a stated appeal to the blue-collar “support base” the ALP seeks to “reconnect” with is political naivety in the extreme.
For one thing, those blue-collar votes already lost to Labor (as it pursues the elites, the inner-city trendies, the minorities, and anyone who might vote Green) are going to be virtually impossible to win back; the so-called party of the workers — Labor — has already sold them down the river, and having found other quarters in which to invest their support are unlikely to return in any hurry.
And for another, that portion of Swan’s blue-collar “support base” that works for the miners — often enjoying better pay and conditions than anything a collective union agreement could deliver — will look first at their bosses, then at Swan, and back to their bosses.
These people know who will genuinely look after their interests, and those of their families — and it is not Wayne Swan.
I would make the observation that having mismanaged the Australian economy and its budget so horrifically in the space of less than five years that the country has gone from a zero debt position to owing some $190 billion to the rest of the world is evidence enough of Wayne Swan and his dubious claims to economic rigour.
And I would implore anyone with more than a cursory acceptance of what they read in a newspaper to question any claim the current government makes about having “saved” the economy from recession in 2008-09: the recession may not have eventuated (courtesy of mining receipts, primarily), but that heroic claim is being constantly and continually abused to mask the rocketing levels of public sector debt — where there was none previously.
Now, Swan wants to talk about miners paying “their fair share.”
I would argue that they already do so, and in so many more ways than directly through the taxation system. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of jobs depend directly on this sector, and indirectly, so do hundreds of thousands of others — and all of those employees also directly pay tax to the government.
And this brings me to my point.
These mining companies and their owners might be swimming in money, but they pay their dues and — more importantly — have created something.
It is unacceptable for anyone in this country to advocate that those who work hard, take risks, back their judgement and get it right — and make money in the process — should then be asked to pay an unreasonable and extortionate amount of that money to an inefficient and largely unaccountable federal government.
It is doubly unacceptable when that same unaccountable Labor government is pissing borrowed money up against unknown posts and leaving behind the greatest level of public sector debt in Australia’s history.
If Wayne Swan really wants to spruik his economic credentials he should go down to DEET Street, and find out who of the dole recipients, sickness and disability recipients, single mothers et al are able to work and are genuinely looking, and those who simply want to bludge.
Those genuinely unemployed and desperately seeking work; those truly sick and disabled; those single mothers whose youngest children are below school age; and other welfare cases where there is a real and genuine immediate need should retain their payments — and, indeed, have them increased.
The rest should be thrown off benefits. Welfare should not be for those who can’t be arsed, or those with an entitlement mentality, or for those who feel a bit off-colour and find the taxpayer to be a suitable solution to their remunerative requirements.
There is adequate work for those who wish to do so, and it might not be the sexiest or best-paid job in the short-term, but in most cases it will pay more than the welfare money the rest of us subsidise.
And in one go, Swan can knock $10 billion out of the federal budget’s outgoings, fix his deficit problem, effect a cultural shift towards work and self-reliance, and leave the wealth-creating, job-creating, prosperity-driving, TAX-PAYING mining sector alone.
One final point: Swan has had a gripe today also about the miners taking out full-page ads in major newspapers across the country to make their point.
I would simply observe that with the government media unit behind him, its obscene expenditure on advertising each year, and the incessant media attention he receives simply on account of being the Treasurer, Swan still retains the upper hand in the PR battle by a mile, if a handful of newspaper advertisements is what he’s complaining about.
The problem with Wayne Swan is that if he says something is thus, then thus it is.
The only catch is that very few people agree with him anyway…but if you’re Wayne Swan, you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.
Even if you’re a socialistic hypocrite who also happens to be wrong — which Wayne Swan is.
Oh, and an economic pygmy to boot.