Comment and Analysis

Fifty years ago most people, including politicians, championed the idea of equal educational opportunities for all. The politicians may have only done so for their own political advantage, but even this indicates the strength of the notion.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) has criticised the failure of the federal government's review of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) to recommend a new royalties regime to force the major gas corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

The review by former treasury official Mike Callaghan, instigated by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison last November, recognised problems with the existing PRRT system and recommended some changes for new liquified natural gas (LNG) projects.

The Victorian Labor government delivered a May 2 budget in which a multi-billion dollar war chest was set aside for “law and order” and new prisons. This is despite Victoria having the lowest crime rate in Australia.

It also continued with its neoliberal privatisation program, including the sell-off of the Land Titles Registry.

Victoria aims to employ one in every 400 people as a police officer or a protective services officer and, with thousands more prison cells available, presumably the state government calculates these people will have jobs.

It is just as well we are so alert these days to “fake news”, otherwise some might actually believe media claims the federal government has delivered a “left-leaning” budget.

Australia’s largest milk processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will close manufacturing plants in three small rural towns: Kiewa and Rochester in northern Victoria and Edith Creek in Tasmania.

Murray Goulburn expects 360 people will lose their jobs. The closures are in areas where there are no other industries.

This will have a huge impact on these three local communities. The 700 residents of Kiewa-Tangambalanga will lose 135 jobs from Murray Goulburn's factory closure.

The Big Four banks, ANZ, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and Westpac, plus Macquarie Bank were hit by a surprise proposal for a $6.2 billion levy over four years in the federal budget on May 9.

Under the new measures, banks with liabilities of more than $100 billion will be taxed 0.06% on those “liabilities”.

Speculation about a new levy on the big banks sparked a run on banking shares, wiping $14 billion from their market value. Shares in the Big Four banks fell by between 2.1% and 3.6%.

In April the Federal Court ordered the oil and gas multinational Chevron to pay $340 million in tax. For the past few years this company has gotten away with paying no company tax at all by claiming that it did not make a profit.

The truth is it made billions, but the company inflated its expenses by having its Australian operation take a loan from a US subsidiary with an interest rate 25 times higher than the market norm.

The federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham will release a report on May 8 commissioned by the government that will allegedly indicate that universities receive adequate funding for most courses and that their revenues are growing faster than their costs.

This report will be used to justify a proposed $2.8 billion funding cut that will raise the costs of course fees and mean that students will need to repay their HECS debts sooner.

Toxic sites in Australia are not well known or well managed. One such site is the old Nufarm chemical factory site in Melbourne’s northern suburb, Fawkner.

The factory operated from 1957 to 1974, making a wide range of noxious chemicals including dioxins; DDT; toluline-based emulsifiable concentrate; phenoxyacetic acid herbicide; 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T; esters; dichlorophenol and trichlorophenol and arsenic-based sheep dip.  

Australia’s refugee policy over the past 25 years has resulted in a detention process best described as “Hell on Earth”.

Mandatory detention was first introduced in May 1992 by the Labor government with the support of the opposition and has been marked with increasing human rights abuses including deliberate medical negligence, sexual assault by guards, self-immolation and murder.

It suffocates people’s hope, as many people have been in detention for more than four years with no certainty of ever being released.

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