Too big a Cut?



Well the pockets of the rich

are filled with politicians,

Newspaper editors

And tame stat-tat-tat-ticians,

who churn the same old swill

from their ideological blender,

filtering the facts

through their political agenda.

Of recent days the media have been trumpeting the outraged howls

of the Mining Companies moaning about the proposed 40% profits tax.

Unsurprisingly, they object to paying more tax.

Well of course they do! You don’t get to be rich by paying taxes. Thats why they have accountants.

What is perhaps more surprising than the rich crying poor, however,

is that they seem to be succeeding in convincing other people that this proposed tax is too big a slice of the pie, too greedy a grab by the Government. That is, if the screechings of various Murdoch columnists in particular and a couple of opinion polls mean anything at all.


Myself, I think the Profits Tax is only fair, for let us consider the situation

of Australia’s most poverty stricken class, eking out an existence on the margins

of society. Yes I’m talking about the Australian pensioner, living on a pittance doled out ever more grudgingly by a mean-hearted bureaucracy.

Now if your a pensioner and you try and better your existence somewhat through obtaining part-time or casual work, then the government, through its agency Centrelink, immediately takes away 40 cents out of every dollar earned. For many pensioners this has even been increased to 50 cents in the dollar!

This is not just a 40-50% tax on profit but a tax on income! Any expenses incurred are not taken into account. And if you earn a little too much you’ll be taxed as well.

Now if this is the way the Australian Government treats its poorest citizens,

then its only fair to expect that the richest will be made to contribute similarly.

Level playing field and all doncha know?

But no, they want to hang onto every cent they can of their obscene profits,

and hence the massively funded advertising campaign and of course,

The Big Bluff.

Yes, the Big Bluff. Making phoney announcements that they’ll have to close down operations and “canceling ” planned mining projects, they hope to persuade the public that this tax will be “bad for business”, and that “bad for business is therefore bad for YOU!” Jobs will be lost! The deficit will grow! CEO’s will be cast naked into the streets! The sky will fall! etc

By creating an atmosphere of panic the mining executives believe they can get the government to blink and back down.

Tony Abbott, keen to gain any mileage he can in this election year,

has eagerly leapt onto the Big Business Bandwagon to bang the drum.

There is every indication that the Bluff will work. Kevin Rudd usually folds under pressure, and the pressure from within his party is starting to build.

Those members sitting in marginal seats are looking anxiously at the polls

and Kevin Rudd has always been a creature of the polls, not the factions. Without a factional base his position as prime minister will be “up for review” the moment his slide in the polls looks irretrievable. Labor has had a commendable record in loyalty to fallen leaders in the past, but Rudd has few friends that are not fairweather and of a feather that flock together. Expect the Death of another salesman, friends, he is liked, but not well-liked.


This is a pity really. The mining companies really do need to pay more and I believe that if Rudd had the courage to stand firm he would eventually come out on top.

I don’t believe any mining project will be stopped for long. There is too much demand and too many competitors to let any project stand unexploited.

If anything, demand can only increase as world wide mineral resources inevitably dwindle.

Maybe Kevin had a cunning plan to get the mining companies to accept a 30% tax. You know, thinking,“I thought we’d haggle..I’d say 40% and you’d say 20%, then I’d say 35%, etc etc.”

If so it was a mistake. Any back down now will just look weak, not reasonable.

No doubt Rudd has handled the whole tax issue badly. Instead of taking some time to consider the Henry Report as a whole, going through the usual round of fake ‘consultations’ then implementing a broad range of measures to undertake a genuine and much needed tax reform of the system, Rudd and Co. opted for the quick tax grab.

But instead of looking like Robin Hood, Kevin Rudd has turned into the Fool who tried to Kill the Goose that Laid Gold Eggs.

Personally, I think get every cent back you can from the mining companies while you can. They’re not going to hang around when they’re finished here, and then what?

In this regard it is perhaps instructive to recall the fate of Nauru. Once a beautiful tropical island whose peaceful inhabitants led a simple carefree existence, it had the misfortune to be formed mainly from the accumulated crap of millions of birds over thousands of years. Super-phosphates in a word. The subsequent history of Nauru once their mining boom was over, is succinctly summed up in Wikpedia;

“With the exhaustion of phosphate reserves, its environment severely degraded by mining, and the trust established to manage the island’s wealth significantly reduced in value, the government of Nauru has resorted to unusual measures to obtain income. In the 1990s, Nauru became a tax haven and money laundering centre. It also accepted aid from the Australian government and in exchange for this aid, Nauru housed, until early 2008, an offshore detention centre that held and processed asylum seekers trying to enter Australia”

Yes, the companies consumed it and it is now a desolate hole in the ground. An economic & political basket-case. The sort of place that John Howard thought would make a good detention centre for refugees.

And while we’re on the subject of what wonderful corporate citizens mining companies are, readers may also want to recall how the good citizens of Wittenoom profited from their participation in the asbestos mining industry, and exactly how concerned James Hardy Ltd were for their welfare after the boom was over and it was time to pay the piper.

So I say; Tax the Rich until they Bleed

Then we can buy whatever we need.




Book of the Week;

The War with Hannibal”


Books XXI to XXX


The History of Rome from its Foundation


Titus Livy

(translated by Aubrey de Selincourt),Penguin Classics

Only 35 books are preserved today of Livy’s’ massive, 140 book history of Rome, so we are fortunate to have the section covering the 2nd Carthaginian war preserved pretty much in its entirety. For not only is this a crucial episode in Roman history, but it also encompasses the career of one of the great tragi-romantic figures of history. I speak of course, of Hannibal.

No kiddies, not Hannibal Lecter of banal, Hollywood gore-genre, I mean Hannibal the great, one eyed, military genius, (who like all ‘Great Men’, waded through considerable gore himself to attain the reputation of ‘Greatness’) he who led his elephants over the Alps and roamed the Roman heartland at will for 14 years, destroying each army sent against him. Two of Rome’s greatest defeats occurred at Cannae and at Lake Trasimene, both orchestrated by the Carthaginian general astride his single surviving elephant at the head of a rag tag mercenary army.

So the Romans adopted the Fabian tactics of waiting and shadowing, and never allowing a confrontation to occur unless they could be certain of winning it. Hannibal lost battles occasionally subsequently, but his army was never destroyed, and so he continued to wander the Italian peninsula, trying to persuade or force Rome’s Italian allies to defect.

Hannibal may have been the greatest military genius of his day, but eventually the Roman Republic wore him down; their constitution held firm, their institutions still functioned, most of their allies stayed loyal. Despite the crisis, each year elections still went on, magistrates were elected, taxes collected, armies paid. Hannibal, unable to storm Rome directly, continued to roam the Italian heartland, but with an increasing sense of futility.

In the end Rome found its own military genius, the young Scipio, who by taking the fight to North Africa forced the Carthaginians to recall Hannibal. The climax of this book is reached then with the historic battle of Zama, where both sides stake everything on a final pitched confrontation.

Hannibal loses this final battle and ends his days in exile. The Romans have crippled their major antagonist for all time and are now masters of the western Mediterranean. As the book closes they are about to embark on their centuries long Imperial rule.

Livy was an imperial historian writing in the age of Augustus and his history is written from that perspective. It was meant to inspire and instruct his contemporary Roman audience, so a certain amount of pro-Roman bias is expected. Still, Livy acknowledges Hannibal’s’ good qualities, even admires him, but lets face it, the Carthaginians weren’t angels. Hey! They burnt live babies in the brass bellies of their ugly brazen gods. As Squarey would say, “Screw them!”

While Livy was an honest man he wasn’t always concerned about total accuracy and exact details. He wasn’t the sort of Historian who potters about old battlefields looking for clues. And of course he can’t write about a battle without each general giving a long speech before hand explaining why they’re there and what they’ll gain from winning the battle. Naturally they’re rarely based on actual words spoken, they’re more of a plot device to keep the reader up to date with what’s happening.

Livy is more of a story teller than an historian, in the tradition perhaps of Herodotus rather than Thucydides. For that more precise, analytical style of historical writing, you would be better off turning to Polybius and his account of the same period. Indeed, Polybius, who lived in the times of which he wrote and knew its protagonists, is probably Livy’s main,though unacknowledged source. Roman historians were always slack about citing their references, which is why so much of it descends

to mere gossip,

like Suetonius relating rumours about Caligula making his horse a senator,

or Pompey shaving his legs every day. Livy at least usually uses such minuatae to good effect in constructing his in-depth character portraits. Political parallels between then and today resonate frequently in these pages. (Successful generals only rarely make good politicians)

One Hundred years ago, reading this book would have been part of every cultured individuals education. Make it part of yours today.


The Reverend Hellfire is a practising performance poet and an ordained minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists.


~ by reverendhellfire on June 13, 2010.

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