Showing posts with label multinationals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label multinationals. Show all posts

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners: "We're on the frontline defending our lands against Adani" and we ask your help


From: Adrian Burragubba - via CommunityRun <info@getup.org.au>
Date: Thu, May 24, 2018 at 5:46 PM
Subject: We're on the frontline defending our lands against Adani
To: [redacted]


This is a message from the leaders of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. They are the Traditional Owners of the land where mining giant Adani want to build the Carmichael coal mine. Your details haven't been shared with anyone.

Dear [redacted],

We are leaders of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. We're the people on the frontline defending our ancestral lands in the fight against Adani's destructive coal mine.

Our people have said no four times to a miserly land deal offered by Adani in exchange for the destruction of our homelands. We have been opposing Adani and holding them off since 2012.

Our resistance has nothing to do with dollars. No amount of money or promises from a deceitful corporation can stop us standing strong in defence of Wangan and Jagalingou lands and waters and sacred sites.

But Adani are ruthless. They have used the dirtiest tactics to undermine our right to say no, and manufacture a phony "Indigenous Land Use Agreement".

Right now we're fighting against Adani's shoddy tactics and their sham "agreement" in court. The judge could hand down a decision any day now. But it won't end there.

Can you sign our petition to stand with us against Adani?

We are willing to fight Adani all the way to the High Court to protect our environment and sacred sites. We are working for a positive future for our people on our country. We won't stand by and watch its destruction for coal.

Adani are relentlessly pressuring the Queensland government to clear our Native Title rights out of the way — and as the clock ticks and Adani gets more desperate, it will only intensify.

So we need to show Adani and our Governments that they can't fake or force our consent.

We have never given our consent to Adani to destroy our country, and we never will. Our land is our living law; we are connected to it through our ancestors and our culture. Without it we will cease to exist as a people.

Our people have been leading a courageous fight against a cashed-up mining giant with politicians in its pockets, and top end of town lawyers to argue away its collusion, bad faith and dishonesty.

We're calling time on this. It's time for Adani to walk away.

Sign our petition to tell Adani No means No.

Adani can't keep bullying us, or pretending they have our consent. Consent is written in our hearts and minds, and the truth is we have said no. Time and again.

And we shouldn't have to keep saying it. Adani haven't been able to put money on the table for this project or even say when they'll start digging. They've given nothing to our people, or to the people of Queensland and Australia, except a bunch of false promises. The smart money and honest commentators know Adani's Carmichael mine is going nowhere.

But still our rights are at extreme risk. The Queensland Government could yield to this corrupt polluting corporation and "legally" rip up our Native Title, just so they can say they have their final "approval".

We continue to hold the line and have many tens of thousands of supporters in Australia and around the world, but we need more. We need to build a more powerful movement, standing in solidarity with us, to take on Adani's wealth, political influence and dirty tricks.

Sign our petition to support our fight against Adani.

We are in the fight of our lives. Adani have shown a relentless determination to use unjust legal maneouvres to trample our rights. But this fight is bigger than Adani. It's about the rights that all Aboriginal people have to say no to dirty extractive industries that profit from our traditional homelands. It's about our right under international law to be free from discrimination, and to choose our own economic future.

We have a vision for our people that's sustainable. We want economic independence, and to make a future on our country that is respectful of the land and uplifting for our people. We want to invest in solar energy and other new clean enterprises. We don't want scraps from a corrupt corporation looking to profit from the permanent destruction of our culture, or meagre handouts and low paid dirty jobs that require us to give up our human rights.

When we say No to Adani, we mean No. We hope you'll stand with us.

Support our fight: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/our-fight/

Adrian Burragubba, cultural leader and senior spokesperson
with Murrawah Johnson, Youth spokesperson
and Linda Bobongie, W&J Council Chairperson

for the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council


Adrian Burragubba

CommunityRun is a new online organisation that lets anyone start, run and win their own campaigns. It receives no political party or government funding and is not affiliated with any political party. To unsubscribe from CommunityRun updates, please visit here or visit http://www.getup.org.au/unsubscribe?cr=true. To unsubscribe from individual CommunityRun campaigns, please visit www.communityrun.org.
Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Quotes of the Week


“Meeting the narrow test of legality is not a licence to be a bastard”  [Journalist Peter Hartcher writing  about corporations in The Canberra Times, 5 May 2018]


“budget's forecasts and projections, prepared by that well-known Italian economist, Rosie Scenario”  [Economics editor Ross Gittens writing in The Sydney Morning Herald about Federal Budget 2018-19, 8 May 2018]

Monday, 7 May 2018

Elder abuse and profit shifting go hand-in-hand in the age care sector?


Any regular reader of online news would have seen mentions of elder abuse, neglect and sub-standard health care over the years.


Elder abuse is a critical issue in aged care homes, with thousands of cases reported to the Health Department every year…. In 2016-2017, there were 2853 reports of “reportable assaults’’ and 2463 allegations of “unreasonable use of force”.

Australian Law Reform Commission, Elder Abuse (DP 83), Abuse and neglect in aged care, 12 December 2016:

1.34   Stakeholders reported many instances of abuse of people receiving aged care. These included reports of abuse by paid care workers[55] and other residents of care homes[56] as well as by family members and/or appointed decision makers of care recipients.[57] For example, Alzheimer’s Australia provided the following examples of physical and emotional abuse:

When working as a PCA [personal care assistant] in 2 high care units, I witnessed multiple, daily examples of residents who were unable to communicate being abused including: PCA telling resident to ‘die you f---ing old bitch!’ because she resisted being bed bathed. Hoist lifting was always done by one PCA on their own not 2 as per guidelines and time pressures meant PCAs often using considerable physical force to get resistive people into hoists; resident not secured in hoist dropped through and broke arm—died soon after; residents being slapped, forcibly restrained and force-fed or not fed at all; resident with no relatives never moved out of bed, frequently left alone for hours without attention; residents belongings being stolen and food brought in by relatives eaten by PCAs.[58]

1.35   The ALRC also received reports of other forms of abuse, including sexual[59] and financial abuse.[60] Restrictions on movement[61] and visitation[62] were also reported. Many submissions also identified neglect of care recipients.[63]

The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 2017:

Across NSW, 58 per cent of aged care workers surveyed said they have not been able to provide the level of care residents deserved because of budget cuts. Of those, 80 per cent said staff shortages were the main barrier to providing proper care.

The Courier-Mail, 19 April 2018: 

PROFIT-HUNGRY aged care companies are charging fat “administration fees” to skim up to 40 per cent of government payments for in-home nursing care.

More than 100,000 elderly Australians are on a waiting list to receive as much as $50,000 a year in a “homecare package” to pay for nursing, housekeeping or companionship at home. But an investigation by The Courier-Mail has revealed that some home-care companies are pocketing as much as $19,000 of the taxpayer cash through hefty “administration” or “case management” fees.

The fees are billed on top of hourly charges for home help – leaving clients with less cash to spend on in-home care such as nursing. And if clients want to switch to a cheaper provider, they are being slugged up to $1000 in “exit fees”.

The Age, 3 May 2018:

Scandals, including a recent national audit showing 600 aged-care homes failed in the past five years to provide minimum standards, prompted a government review. The Coalition, accepting a key recommendation, has ended the ridiculous practice of alerting operators to spot checks. The review also urged the streamlining and strengthening of the regulator.

If one does a simple online search many of the big ‘for profit’ aged care providers are named in relation to such abuse, neglect and sub-standard health care allegations.

Now in May 2018 the Tax Justice Network[1]  is looking at aged care provision from another angle. One which shows that the budgetary meanness which sees these big companies expect elderly residents to remain in sodden incontinence pads or live-off meagre meal rations occurs in spite of the millions in profit made on the back of billions in taxpayer funding of the age care sector.

It has released A Tax Justice Network – Australia Report, TAX AVOIDANCE BY FOR-PROFIT AGED CARE COMPANIES: PROFIT SHIFTING ON PUBLIC FUNDS.

Sadly, this report only confirms the fact that corporate greed runs rampant through all major aspects of Australian life, including aged care.

Executive Summary, Background, p.5:

Older people are a growing proportion of Australia’s population; in 2016, 15% (one in seven) Australians were aged 65 years or older. By 2056 this percentage is expected to grow to 22% (8.7 million).1 The need for aged care services is increasing. Between 2015– 2016 almost 214,000 people entered aged care in Australia. On average, older people in Australia spend three years in permanent residential care, just over two years in home care, and one and a half months in respite care.2 The Australian tax payer, via the Commonwealth Government contributes around 75% of the expenditure in aged care in Australia, which is around 96% of the total funding on aged care from Commonwealth and State Governments. Government recurrent spending on aged care services in Australia was $17.4 billion Australian dollars (AUD) in 2016- 2017, with residential aged care services accounting for 69.3% ($12.1 billion AUD).3 Some of this funding is provided as subsidies to aged care provider companies including those that operate for profit. In 2018 the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Australia’s largest national professional and industrial nursing and midwifery organisation with over 268,500 members, commissioned the Tax Justice Network - Australia to analyse possible tax avoidance by for-profit aged care companies and to provide recommendations for improving transparency on Government spending on for-profit aged care.

Key points from the report

* By number of beds, not-for-profit providers are the largest aged care provider group in Australia (52% in 2013-2014), however there has been a rapid growth in the size and spread of for-profit companies; Bupa, Opal, Regis and Estia are the largest aged care providers nationally. If Japara and Allity are included, these 6 for-profit companies operate over 20% of residential aged care beds in Australia.

* In the most recent year (mostly the 2017 financial year) the six largest for-profit companies were given over $2.17 billion AUD via government subsidies. This was 72% of their total revenue of over $3 billion. These companies also reported profits of $210 million AUD (2016-2018).

* Companies can use various accounting methods to avoid paying tax. One method is when a company links (staples) two or more businesses (securities) they own together, each security is treated separately for tax purposes to reduce the amount of tax the company has to pay. Aged care companies are known to use this method as well as other tax avoiding practices. Another practice is by “renting” their aged care homes from themselves (one security rents to another) or by providing loans between securities and shareholders.

* The six largest for-profit aged care providers have enormous incomes and profits:

* The largest company, BUPA, had almost $7.5 billion in total income in Australia (2015-16) but paid only $105 million in tax on a taxable income of only $352 million.
* BUPA’s Australian aged care business made over $663 million in 2017 and over 70% ($468 million) of this was from government funding.
* Funding from government and resident fees increased in 2017, but BUPA paid almost $3 million less to their employees and suppliers.
* The second largest, Opal, had total income of $527.2 million in 2015-16 but paid only $2.4 million in tax on a taxable income of only $7.9 million.
* 76% ($441 million) was from government funding in 2016.

* Allity had total income of $315.6 million in 2015-16 and paid no tax.
* 67% ($224 million) of Allity’s revenue was from government funding in 2016-17.

* Regis, Estia, and Japara are listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) but appear to be using methods to reduce the amount of tax they pay while earning large profits from over $1 billion of government subsidies.

* Family owned aged care companies (Arcare, TriCare, and Signature) receive between $42-$160 million each in annual government subsidies but provide very little public information on their operations and financial performance and may use accounting methods to avoid paying tax.

 * (All figures quoted above are in AUD)

* The Australian Government and the Federal Opposition (the Australian Labor Party) have proposed several ways to fix the problems with companies avoiding tax by using trust structures and other methods but there are still loopholes.

* It is difficult to get a detailed and complete picture of the full extent to which these heavily subsidised aged care companies are avoiding paying as much tax as they should, because Australian law is not currently strong enough to ensure that their financial records and accounting practices are publicly available and fully transparent.

Conclusion

The six largest for-profit aged care providers in Australia received over $2.17 billion AUD in annual tax payer funded subsidies which provided after tax profits of $210 million AUD. The actual operating profits were much larger. These providers only paid around $154 million AUD in tax in 2015-16. Companies that receive millions of tax payer dollars via Australian government subsidies must be required by law to meet higher standards of transparency in financial reports and be publicly accountable. The report calls upon the Government, Opposition, and cross-bench Senators to work together to make laws to stop aged care providers from avoiding the taxes they should pay and provide clear records of their business dealings.

The Tax Justice Network – Australia strongly supports recent government legislation that has been introduced to close loopholes in the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law and government reforms to stapled structures. However, there is still a need for additional transparency measures. The Tax Justice Network – Australia also strongly supports a policy proposed by the Australian Labor Party to introduce minimum taxation of discretionary trusts. These reform measures are examined in more detail by this report in the section: Current Reform Measures.

This analysis of tax payments and corporate structures of the largest for-profit aged care companies provides clear evidence that simple common-sense reforms are needed immediately to restore integrity to the tax system and to ensure public accountability on billions of dollars in government spending.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE REPORT

Any company that receives Commonwealth funds over $10 million in any year must file complete audited annual financial statements with Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in full compliance with all Australian Accounting Standards and not be eligible for Reduced Disclosure Requirements. Public and private companies must fully disclose all transactions between trusts or similar parties that are part of stapled structures or similar corporate structures where most or all income is earned from a related party and where operating income is substantially reduced by lease and/or finance payments to related parties with beneficial tax treatment.

Australia’s Largest For-Profit Aged Care Companies

In Australia, non-profit providers collectively operate a majority of residential aged care beds. However, the market share of large for-profit providers continues to grow rapidly. Likewise, the influence of for profit providers on shaping government policy and influencing broader trends in the aged care sector has never been greater. Ranked by the number of government allocated residential aged care places (beds) in 2017, the six largest for-profit aged care companies in Australia are; Bupa, Opal, Regis, Estia, Japara, and Allity. Combined, they operate over 20% of all residential aged care beds in the country. These companies continue to expand market share through new developments and acquisitions. These companies are also expanding to provide more retirement living and home care services, which allow access to additional government funding. In the most recent financial year (2016-2017), these six for-profit aged care companies combined received over $2.17 billion in government subsidies.4 This made up 72% of their combined total revenue of over $3 billion.5……

COMPANY SNAPSHOT

Bupa: A United Kingdom-based mutual insurance company with global operations including aged care services. Australia is Bupa’s largest and most profitable market.

Regis, Estia, and Japara: Public aged care companies listed on the ASX.
Opal: A private aged care company owned by subsidiaries of two listed companies, AMP Capital and Singapore-based G.K. Goh.

Allity: controlled by Archer Capital, an Australian private equity firm with large foreign pension fund investors.

Arcare, TriCare and Signature (formerly Innovative Care): three family-owned, for-profit aged care companies.

NOTE:
1. The Tax Justice Network - Australia is the Australian branch of the Tax Justice Network (TJN) and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice. TJN is an independent organisation launched in the British Houses of Parliament in March 2003. It is dedicated to high-level research, analysis and advocacy in the field of tax and regulation. TJN works to map, analyse and explain the role of taxation and the harmful impacts of tax evasion, tax avoidance, tax competition and tax havens. TJN’s objective is to encourage reform at the global and national levels.
Membership of the Network can be found here.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Turnbull Government has just placed a multinational corportion with an appalling human rights record at the first contact interface with the National Disability Insurance Scheme


“It has a history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging”  [Senior Appleby compliance officer quoted in The Guardian on the subject of Serco, 7 June 2017]

If the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) didn't have enough internal structural problems to deal with along comes the UK-based multinational Serco Group.

A group implicated in: human rights abuses in prisons and immigration detention centres it has managed; poor to unsafe health service delivery including at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, overcharging for services rendered under government contractsfraudulent record keeping and manipulating results when there was a failure to reach targets; mishandling of radioactive waste and labour rights abuses.

The Guardian, 23 Apri 2018:

Disability rights groups, Labor and the Greens have slammed a decision to hire the multinational outsourcing giant Serco in a key role administering the national disability insurance scheme.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) announced on Friday afternoon that Serco, a company with a chequered corporate history, would help run its contact centres under a two-year contract.

The decision would put the company at the frontline of the NDIS, interacting frequently with people with disability and service providers, many of whom are still grappling with a vast, complex and sometimes confusing scheme.

 “Sourcing our contact centre services from Serco will give ongoing flexibility, responsiveness and value for money,” the NDIA said in a statement.

But the decision has outraged disability rights campaigners, who say Serco’s poor history abroad and its lack of experience in disability should have precluded it from any role delivering the landmark scheme. 

People with Disability Australia co-chief executive, Matthew Bowden, said he was “gravely concerned” that Serco would, like other third-party providers, fail to uphold the values, objectives and principles underpinning the NDIS.

“We have no details on what expertise Serco have in providing communication services for people with disability, or why the NDIA has decided to outsource such a vital part of its services,” Bowden said.

“The NDIA needs to hire more staff and make their communication avenues with people with disability more transparent. Instead, they are offloading their responsibilities, and requirements, to deliver services to people with disability.”
Paralympian Kurt Fearnley was among those expressing concern at the decision, saying Serco would be “racking their brains on how they can bring lived experience of disabilities into their workplace”.

“The NDIS will be worthless if people with disabilities aren’t at its core!” he tweeted.


Friday, 9 March 2018

Two perspectives on global economic and social inequality


So you thought trade agreements were really about win-win free trade?

John F. Kennedy School of Government Harvard University, Dani Rodrik, excerpts from What Do Trade Agreements Really Do?, February 2018:

As trade agreements have evolved and gone beyond import tariffs and quotas into regulatory rules and harmonization, they have become more difficult to fit into received economic theory. Nevertheless, most economists continue to regard trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) favorably. The default view seems to be that these arrangements get us closer to free trade by reducing transaction costs associated with regulatory differences or explicit protectionism. An alternative perspective is that trade agreements are the result of rent-seeking, self-interested behavior on the part of politically well-connected firms – international banks, pharmaceutical companies, multinational firms. They may result in freer, mutually beneficial trade, through exchange of market access. But they are as likely to produce purely redistributive outcomes under the guise of “freer trade…..

The consensus in favor of the general statement supporting free trade is not a surprise. Economists disagree about a lot of things, but the superiority of free trade over protection is not controversial. The principle of comparative advantage and the case for the gains from trade are crown jewels of the economics profession. So the nearly unanimous support for free trade in principle is understandable. But the almost identical level of enthusiasm expressed for the North American Free trade Agreement—that is, for a text that runs into nearly 2,000 pages, negotiated by three governments under pressures from lobbies and special interests, and shaped by a mix of political, economic, and foreign policy objectives—is more curious. The economists must have been aware that trade agreements, like free trade itself, create winners and losers. But how did they weight the gains and losses to reach a judgement that US citizens would be better off “on average”? Did it not matter who gained and lost, whether they were rich or poor to begin with, or whether the gains and losses would be diffuse or concentrated? What if the likely redistribution was large compared to the efficiency gains? What did they assume about the likely compensation for the losers, or did it not matter at all? And would their evaluation be any different if they knew that recent research suggests NAFTA produced minute net efficiency gains for the US economy while severely depressing wages of those groups and communities most directly affected by Mexican competition?

Perhaps the experts viewed distributional questions as secondary in view of the overall gains from trade. After all, opening up to trade is analogous to technological progress. In both cases, the economic pie expands while some groups are left behind. We did not ban automobiles or light bulbs because coachmen and candle makers would lose their jobs. So why restrict trade? As the experts in this survey contemplated whether US citizens would be better off “on average” as a result of NAFTA, it seems plausible that they viewed questions about the practical details or the distributional questions of NAFTA as secondary in view of the overall gains from trade.

This tendency to view trade agreements as an example of efficiency-enhancing policies that may nevertheless leave some people behind would be more justifiable if recent trade agreements were simply about eliminating restrictions on trade such as import tariffs and quotas. In fact, the label “free trade agreements” does not do a very good job of describing what recent proposed agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and numerous other regional and bilateral trade agreements actually do. Contemporary trade agreements go much beyond traditional trade restrictions at the border. They cover regulatory standards, health and safety rules, investment, banking and finance, intellectual property, labor, the environment, and many other subjects besides. They reach well beyond national borders and seek deep integration among nations rather than shallow integration, to use Robert Lawrence’s (1996) helpful distinction. 

According to one tabulation, 76 percent of existing preferential trade agreements covered at least some aspect of investment (such as free capital mobility) by 2011; 61 percent covered intellectual property rights protection; and 46 percent covered environmental regulations (Limão 2016)…..

Consider first patents and copyrights (so-called “trade-related intellectual property rights” or TRIPs). TRIPs entered the lexicon of trade during the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which were completed in 1994. The US has pushed for progressively tighter rules (called TRIPs-plus) in subsequent regional and bilateral trade agreements. Typically TRIPs pit advanced countries against developing countries, with the former demanding stronger and lengthier monopoly restrictions for their firms in the latter’s markets. Freer trade is supposed to be win-win, with both parties benefiting. But in TRIPs, the advanced countries’ gains are largely the developing countries’ losses. Consumers in the developing nations pay higher prices for pharmaceuticals and other research-intensive products and the advanced countries’ firms reap higher monopoly rents. One needs to assume an implausibly high elasticity of global innovation to developing countries’ patents to compensate for what is in effect a pure transfer of rents from poor to rich countries. That is why many ardent proponents of free trade were opposed to the incorporation of TRIPs in the Uruguay Round (e.g., Bhagwati et al. 2014). Nonetheless, TRIPs rules have not been dropped, and in fact expand with each new FTA. Thanks to subsequent trade agreements, intellectual property protection has become broader and stronger, and much of the flexibility afforded to individual countries under the original WTO agreement has been eliminated (Sell 2011).

Second, consider restrictions on nations’ ability to manage cross-border capital flows. Starting with its bilateral trade agreements with Singapore and Chile in 2003, the US government has sought and obtained agreements that enforce open capital accounts as a rule. These agreements make it difficult for signatories to manage cross-border capital flows, including in short-term financial instruments. In many recent US trade agreements such restrictions apply even in times of macroeconomic and financial crisis. This has raised eyebrows even at the International Monetary Fund (IMF, Siegel 2013). Paradoxically, capital account liberalization has become a norm in trade agreements just as professional opinion among economists was becoming more skeptical about the wisdom of free capital flows. The frequency and severity of financial crises associated with financial globalization have led many experts to believe that direct restrictions on the capital account have a second-best role to complement prudential regulation and, possibly, provide temporary breathing space during moments of extreme financial stress. The IMF itself, once at the vanguard of the push for capital-account liberalization, has officially revised its stance on capital controls. It now acknowledges a useful role for them where more direct remedies for underlying macroeconomic and financial imbalances are not available. Yet investment and financial services provisions in many FTAs run blithely against this new consensus among economists. A third area where trade agreements include provisions of questionable merit is socalled “investor-state dispute settlement procedures” (ISDS). These provisions have been imported into trade agreements from bilateral investment treaties (BIT). They are an anomaly in that they enable foreign investors, and they alone, to sue host governments in special arbitration tribunals and to seek monetary damages for regulatory, tax, and other policy changes that reduce their profits. Foreign investors (and their governments) see ISDS as protection against expropriation, but in practice arbitration tribunals interpret the protections provided more broadly than under, say, domestic US law (Johnson et al., 2015). Developing countries traditionally have signed on to ISDS in the expectation that it would compensate for their weak legal regimes and help attract direct foreign investment. But ISDS also suffers from its own problems: it operates outside accepted legal regimes, gives arbitrators too much power, does not follow or set precedents, and allows no appeal. Whatever the merits of ISDS for developing nations, it is more difficult to justify its inclusion in trade agreements among advanced countries with well-functioning legal systems (e.g. the prospective Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and European countries).

Read the full paper here.

So you thought globalisation was a good idea?

Harvard Business Review, Lucas Chancel, 40 Years of Data Suggests 3 Myths About Globalization, 2 March 2018:

Globalization has led to a rise in global income inequality, not a reduction
Inequality between individuals across the world is the result of two competing forces: inequality between countries and inequality within countries. For example, strong growth in China and India contributed to significant global income growth, and therefore, decreased inequality between countries. However, inequality within these countries rose sharply. The top 1% income share rose from 7% to 22% in India, and 6% to 14% in China between 1980 and 2016.

Until recently, it has been impossible to know which of these two forces dominates globally, because of lack of data on inequality trends within countries, which many governments do not release publicly or uniformly. The World Inequality Report 2018 addresses this issue, relying on systematic, comparable, and transparent inequality statistics from high-income and emerging countries.

The conclusion is striking. Between 1980 and 2016, inequality between the world’s citizens increased, despite strong growth in emerging markets. Indeed, the share of global income accrued by the richest 1%, grew from 16% in 1980 to 20% by 2016. Meanwhile the income share of the poorest 50% hovered around 9%. The top 1% — individuals earning more than $13,500 per month — globally captured twice as much income growth as the bottom 50% of the world population over this period.

Income doesn’t trickle down

The second belief contests that high growth at the top is necessary to achieve some growth at the bottom of the distribution, in other words that rising inequality is necessary to elevate standards of living among the poorest. However, this idea is at odds with the data. When we compare Europe with the U.S., or China with India, it is clear that countries that experienced a higher rise in inequality were not better at lifting the incomes of their poorest citizens. Indeed, the U.S. is the extreme counterargument to the myth of trickle down: while incomes grew by more than 600% for the top 0.001% of Americans since 1980, the bottom half of the population was actually shut off from economic growth, with a close to zero rise in their yearly income. In Europe, growth among the top 0.001% was five times lower than in the U.S., but the poorest half of the population fared much better, experiencing a 26% growth in their average incomes. Despite having a consistently higher growth rate since 1980, the rise of inequality in China was much more moderate than in India. As a result, China was able to lift the incomes of the poorest half of the population at a rate that was four times faster than in India, enabling greater poverty reduction.

The trickle-down myth may have been debunked, but its ideas are still rooted in a number of current policies. For example, the idea that high income growth for rich individuals is a precondition to create jobs and growth at the bottom continues to be used to justify tax reductions for the richest, as seen in recent tax reform in the U.S. and France. A closer look at the data demands we rethink the rationale and legitimacy of such policies. 

Policy – not trade or technology – is most responsible for inequality

It is often said that rising inequality is inevitable — that it is a natural consequence of trade openness and digitalization that governments are powerless to counter. But the numbers presented above clearly demonstrate the diversity of inequality trajectories experienced by broadly comparable regions over the past decades. The U.S. and Europe, for instance, had similar population size and average income in 1980 — as well as analogous inequality levels. Both regions have also faced similar exposure to international markets and new technologies since, but their inequality trajectories have radically diverged. In the U.S., the bottom 50% income share decreased from 20% to 10% today, whereas in Europe it decreased from 24% to 22%.

Rather than openness to trade or digitalization, it is policy choices and institutional changes that explain divergences in inequality. After the neoliberal policy shift of the early 1980s, Europe resisted the impulse to turn its market economy into a market society more than the US — evidenced by differences on key policy areas concerning inequality. The progressivity of the tax code — how much more the rich pay as a percentage — was seriously undermined in the U.S., but much less so in continental Europe. The U.S. had the highest minimum wage of the world in the 1960s, but it has since decreased by 30%, whereas in France, the minimum wage has risen 300%. 

Access to higher education is costly and highly unequal in the U.S., whereas it is free in several European countries. Indeed, when Bavarian policymakers tried to introduce small university fees in the late 2000s, a referendum invalidated the decision. Health systems also provide universal access to good-quality healthcare in most European countries, while millions of Americans do not have access to healthcare plans.


Monday, 5 February 2018

The Australian Face of UK-based Noble Caledonia Cruise Line


The Noble Caledonia Limited cruise line would like the option of extending the number of its cruise days this coming October when it boards its UK passengers on the MV Caledonian Sky for its Australian Coastal Odyssey down the east coast of Australia.

This “small” cruise ship of 4,200 gross tonnage, dead weight of 645t, 90.6m in length, 15.3m wide, with a 4.25 maximum draft, will enter the Port of Yamba-Clarence River across a difficult bar at the river mouth in a month where coastal storms and strong wind warnings are not uncommon.

A ship with a reputation for damaging reefs will attempt this crossing in close proximity to a culturally important reef protected by Native Title.

It will ignore potential risk - not just to the ship and marine environment but to race relations in the Clarence Valley should the ship’s captain collide for a third time with a mapped underwater natural feature.

Noble Caledonia will be sending its cruise ship into the Clarence River estuary because it can – reaping the benefit of insistent and persistent lobbying of the NSW Berejiklian Government by the international cruise industry.

Which included meetings last year between Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight & Nationals MP for Oxley Melinda Pavey and Royal Caribbean (28 February & 8 June), Carnival Australia (10 March, 8 June & 8 July), Carnival Global (21 March), Norwegian Cruise Lines (8 June), Cruise Line International Association (8 June & 21 June). As well as meetings between cruise ship industry representatives and Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Minister for Skills, Minister for Small Business, Nationals MP for John Barilaro, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, and Assistant Minister for Skills, Nationals MP for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall. Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events and Minister for Sport, Nationals MLC Niall Blair and, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Nationals MP for Bega Andrew Constance.

However, the then predominately British and Swedish owner-shareholders of Noble Caledonia Limited (UK) went one step further when they first contemplated a move into Australian waters. 

They formed a partnership with the APT Group (owned by wealthy Victorian businessman Geoff McGeary) in 2012 - thereby providing themselves with a number of Australian beards and the lobbying services of a political donor to the Liberal Party of Australia who had through this partnership become a significant shareholder in the cruise line.

Meet these alleged beards………………..

Christopher Phillips "Chris" HALL  – Group Managing Director of Noble Caledonia Limited and Noble Caledonia Holdings Limited since 7 May 2015, as well as Group Manager APT Group since July 2014 – allegedly still resident in Australia.

Ross Malcolm KEMP – Group Finance Director of  Noble Caledonia Limited and Noble Caledonia Holdings Limited since 9 October 2014, as well as Group Finance Director APT Group since 2012 – allegedly still resident in Australia.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance continues to sit in 2018


"Exxon’s primary Australian company is directly owned by a shell company in the Netherlands and the Dutch company is owned by another subsidiary in the Bahamas." [Tax Justice Network submission to Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance]

ExxonMobil Australia Pty Ltd operates under the brands ExxonMobil Australia, Esso and Mobil. It declared no taxable income in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 despite having generated a total income during these years of 24.7 billion within this country.  [Based on Australian Taxation Office Report of Entity Tax Information data]


The Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance commenced on 2 October 2014 and continues to sit until 30 May 2018.

The Inquiry’s 154 submissions to date make for interesting reading and can be accessed here (1 to 127 ) and here (128 to 154).

Monday, 11 December 2017

Adani Group still cannot find financial backers for Galilee Basin mega coal mine


Indian multinational, the family-owned Adani Group, appears to have financed its Queensland mining venture with debt.

The book value of Adani Enterprises' Carmichael mine project was just under US$2.3bn by mid-2017. While latest report shows its debt has risen by almost US$400m to US$3.83bn.

This debt is further complicated by fraud allegations and investigations by the Indian Government.

The Guardian, 7 December 2017:

Adani’s operations in Australia appear to be hanging on by a thread, as activists prove effective at undermining the company’s chances of getting the finance it needs.

China seems to have ruled out funding for the mine, which means it’s not just Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine that is under threat, but also its existing Abbot Point coal terminal, which sits near Bowen, behind the Great Barrier Reef.

The campaign against the mine has been long. Environmentalists first tried to use Australia’s environmental laws to block it from going ahead, and then failing that, focused on pressuring financial institutions, first here, and then around the world.

The news that Beijing has left Adani out to dry comes as on-the-ground protests against construction of the mine pick up. Two Greens MPs, Jeremy Buckingham and Dawn Walker, have been arrested in Queensland for disrupting the company’s activities.

Is China’s move the end of the road for Adani’s mega coalmine in Australia, and will the Adani Group be left with billions of dollars in stranded assets?.........

While threats to reputational damage were not effective against Adani Group, since it is family-owned, the same was not true of Australian banks, which were targeted heavily by activists.
And one by one, each of the big four Australian banks ruled out financing the mine.

The first of the big four banks declared it would not lend to the project two years ago. NAB distanced itself from the mine in September 2015 and ANZ followed suit in December.
Then in April this year Westpac became the third of the big banks to rule out funding the project, drawing criticism from resources minister, Matthew Canavan, who said the bank had a conflict of interest because of its interest in other coal-producing regions, and called for a boycott of the bank.

Undeterred, and in the face of a large campaign by environmental groups, the Commonwealth bank followed suit in August this year.

By then Adani had seen the writing on the wall, and had shifted to seek finance from overseas institutions. It entered negotiations with the state-owned China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), which was thought to raise the potential of subsidised Chinese government loans.

The Australian government, which was seeking to give Adani its own subsidised loan, had supported the company’s efforts in China, according to a freedom of information request by the Australia Institute that reveals “several hundred pages” relating to formal representations to foreign financiers by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade…….