Monday, May 2, 2016

Sam Wainwright on the budget we need: "National Security" versus national security

Remember last year when federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, picking up where Joe Hockey left off, declared that we had a spending problem not a revenue problem? That seems like a long time ago now.

They did try to increase revenues by floating an increase in the GST but soon after came the revelation that 600 of Australia's biggest companies paid no tax and hundreds more pay less that the 30% they could be paying. This is all the more galling when you consider that the rate has been cut from the 48% it had been in the early 1980s. And then came the Panama Papers!

Since then not a day has gone by without discussion about measures that might inch us a little closer to getting the corporate rich to pay a bit more tax — by removing negative gearing, introducing a "Buffet Rule" to raise $2.5 billion via a 35 cent in the dollar for incomes over $300,000 a year, scrapping the generous superannuation tax deductions benefiting high income earners and more.

All these measures would be welcome, but Morrison was right, we do have a spending problem. Not because we're spending too much, but because we're spending it on the wrong things.

Witness the eye-watering $50 billion to be spent on 12 submarines, out-stripping the $17.8 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter jets. This is the biggest defence purchase in Australia's history, but like nearly all military spending there is next to no debate.

Sure there is the suggestion that the jets are duds and criticism that we could have got the subs cheaper if we bought them complete rather that assembling them here. But there is no debate about whether we need them at all. Wave the wand of "national security" and it is off-limits to criticism. Even Greens leader Richard Di Natale gave his support for this huge commitment.

Already we're spending about $500 million a year on the intervention in Iraq, adding to the $4 billion we've already contributed to an invasion that cost the USA $2 trillion.

What have we got for that great investment? Well it turns out that contributing to the needless death of nearly a million people and shattering an entire society has created the breeding ground for the murderous Islamic State.

Somehow a repeat dose of Western democracy delivered via killer drones and bombing missions is meant to fix the problem.

What about the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan? Back in 2001 the Taliban offered to hand Osama bin Laden over but the offer was refused. But better to invade anyway because the Taliban are a bunch of dictatorial feudal gangsters, who we've replaced with a different bunch of dictatorial feudal gangsters at a cost of about $7 billion.

Since World War II Australia's overseas military actions have been primarily offensive and not defensive and the submarines have the same purpose.

Some feel compelled to support the submarine deal because of the manufacturing jobs it will create. Just think how many more jobs we could create with $50 billion to tackle global warming which really is the most serious national security threat of them all.

If we're to spend billions on buying cutting edge French technology very fast trains would be a better idea. With a fraction of that $50 billion we could develop centres for engineering excellence in renewable energy technologies in economically depressed areas and coal mining communities.

We have a revenue problem and a spending problem. Our budget does not just need a bit of tinkering here and there, we need to throw it out and start again. From the bottom up we need a people's budget that puts communities, the environment and social support ahead of the corporate tax dodgers and corporate welfare. For the billions, not the billionaires!

[Sam Wainwright is a Socialist Alliance councillor on Fremantle Council. This article first appeared as an Our Common Cause in Green Left Weekly #1093.]