SSex Marriage, Taxation & Terrorism

Turnbull Confirms He’s Unsuitable as Liberal Leader

Once again, Turnbull has shown that he should not be leader of the Liberal Party. His handling of the Coalition’s policy on same sex marriage failed to recognise that the plebiscite produced substantial opposition (38.4%) to legislation allowing marriage between people of the same sex and that a proportion of those who voted Yes would also have wanted any such legislation to include provisions  protecting freedom to express opposition to such marriages for religious reasons alone. Other opponents not necessarily based on religion simply wanted “marriage” to remain as a relationship between a man and a woman and that, whether between relationships of the same gender or even between a man and a woman but not formally married, should be expressed as “partnerships” or in similar vein.

Far from being a “victory for Australia”, as Turnbull claimed, the passage of the legislation accentuated division amongst those in his own party and many unspoken outside it. As Paul Kelly wrote yesterday, “this is one of the greatest defeats for conservatives in many decades” (see Kelly on Protecting Religious Views). Some would see this as one of the aims of Turnbull.

The Australian’s political editor Dennis Shanahan concluded thatthe cold, hard fact for Turnbull is that while the same-sex marriage legislation was passed overwhelmingly, on the issue of extra religious freedoms, which he had promised during the campaign, he was isolated from the vast majority of his Coalition colleagues. More than 80 Coalition members in both houses spoke and voted in favour of religious freedom amendments. The 61.6 per cent vote in favour of same-sex marriage in the postal survey meant it was going to become law; the remaining issue, and the focus of this week’s parliamentary debate, was religious protection” (see Shanahan on Turnbull’s Failure on Religious Protection).

Shanahan argues that, as the PM who passed same sex marriage legislation, Turnbull is “working towards improved numbers in the next Newspoll survey, the last before Christmas”. That survey, presumably on Monday 18 December, will attract more than usual interest.

True, the Turnbull government has established a review of religious freedom by a panel of four headed by former Attorney General Phillip Ruddock to report early next year. But this will be conducted in circumstances where the same sex marriage legislation has already been passed and, thus, where supporters of appropriate protective amendments will carry much less weight in the debate next year. There is also no indication that it will consider protection of critics whose views are not based on religion per se.

It is unclear when Turnbull’s “victory” will be forgotten but as PM he remains hanging on a thread.

Do Company Tax Collections Accurately Reflect Tax Liability

Against a background in which many other countries have lower company tax rates, a major lowering of Australia’s rates has been an important policy objective of the Turnbull government but, reflecting Labor’s opposition in the Senate, has been unsuccessful. On the other side, considerable attention has been given to reports that Tax Commissioner Jordan has been conducting a “crusade” against multinational companies which appear to pay taxes which are small when account is taken of their large activity in Australia. Last March, the ACTU president told the Press Club  that 679 companies “pay not one cent of tax” but omitted to mention that unions pay no tax.

In the Weekend Australian, Terry McCrann suggested that, through poor public presentations, Jordan has “polluted the debate” about assessing company tax payments while his Deputy Jeremy Hirschhorn appears to be making “strong positive statements “. In a recent statement,  Hirschhorn  said the community should have confidence that the largest companies are being required to pay the right amount of tax on their Australian profits, and “most do so voluntarily. Australia has one of the strongest corporate tax systems in the world”.

McCrann also draws attention to Hirschhorn’s “focus on the number of groups which paid either no tax or small amount of tax relative to gross income” and, in consequence, “does notice the rubbish published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and broadcast by the ABC. According to McCrann, Hirschhorn stressed three things that it was “important to remember”.

  • Corporate income tax is payable on profits, not gross income.
  • In any given year a significant percentage of even the largest companies make losses, not just for tax purposes, but also for accounting purposes.
  • (The data) reflects the tax returns as lodged, and does not reflect subsequent ATO compliance activity”.

This is an important assessment by McCrann and, for those interested, is worth reading in full.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The recent terrorist attempt at killing British PM Theresa May, and the report that over 20,000 in the UK are regarded as potential terrorists and as such are being watched, was followed here by a 20 year old being subjected to two terrorism related charges for intending to “use a firearm to shoot and kill as many people as he could in Federation Square on New Year’s Eve” The man charged had also been under watch for two year.

It was timely therefore that I was invited by AIJAC ‘s Dr Colin Rubenstein to attend a lunch last Friday at which an American expert on terrorism and counterterrorism, Dr Mark Levitt, spoke and answered questions. He is a Fellow and Director at The Washington Institute and has written extensively in a wide range of journals and newspapers.

He spent considerable time on what might happen in Syria and after the “defeat” of ISIS in Iraq. That seems to be resulting in the establishment of mini-Isis’s including in Libya, where there are now three “governments”.  Part of what he had to say is reflected in   a recent address he gave to a United Nations Committee on Counterterrorism (see Levitt on Terrorism & Counter). Note in particular

  • In the US “terrorist threats from home grown violent extremists of all ideological stripes have increased significantly”.
  • It is critical that preventing and countering violent extremism “address the full gamut of extremist ideologies radicalizing individuals and mobilizing them to violence”. In the United States, that means “focusing not only on Islamist ideology and narratives but also on white supremacist, far-right, and far-left ideologically inspired violence.”
  • “Efforts to address Islamist violent extremists will be more effective as part of a comprehensive approach that addresses other types of extremists as well”.
  • “ Working with local community groups is important”.   

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