Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Fat cats caught out. Surprise!

STOP PRESS. Global Scoop! Rich bastards and multi-national companies don’t pay tax. Really!! … America’s squillionaires to be outed next … how Panama Papers will help Bernie Sanders in Big Apple primary … speechwriter Bob Ellis re-assessed

Fat cats caught in Panamagate

A truckload of documents from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca has exposed a worldwide network of tax evasion and money laundering. Golly!
Furthermore, fat cats are using tax havens in Panama, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Gosh, can you believe it?
And the people organising this trillion dollar larceny are merchant banks, global accountancy firms and tax consultants specialising in “wealth creation”.
Is anyone surprised by these “revelations”? No, of course not, because we all knew that tax evasion has been occurring on a gargantuan scale for years.
The upper 1% is using tax havens and taxation loopholes to shift squillions of dollars abroad. It means they pay nothing towards the cost of roads, schools, hospitals and infrastructure – but we do!
Since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) the OECD and the IMF have calculated that oligarchs from around the world are sitting on tax-free assets worth at least $21 trillion. Other reputable sources, e.g. the Tax Justice Network, say it may be as high as $31 trillion. But what’s a trillion dollars here or there …
So next time you hear a politician say, “But we don’t have the money” or “We can’t live beyond our means” to justify spending cuts and greater unemployment, vow to chuck them out of office at the first opportunity.
For starters, abolish tax loopholes exploited by the 1% and prosecute tax avoiders as well as crooked money launderers. Then demand the cancellation of the utterly useless 12 submarines contract!
The Panama revelations mean the noose is tightening around the necks of the super rich. Let’s hope it encourages more whistleblowers.

Yankee squillionaires are next

So far, not a single American banker, fraudster, crook or politician has been named in the Panama documents. While this is remarkable since America is the very heart of tax dodging, wealth shifting and money laundering, I don’t believe non-exposure of the American kleptomaniacs will persist.
The “biggest fish” netted so far is Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, aka Billy Buunter (sic), Prime Minister of Iceland where the human population is easily outnumbered by sheep and reindeer. His wife’s offshore banking activities – which don’t appear to be illegal – are peanuts when compared to the likes of General Electric, Boeing, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks and News International.
The mainstream media in the US, Britain, Europe and Australia has focused on a “close friend” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “associates” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father, Ian Donald Cameron, who died in 2010. Photos of Putin, al-Assad, Xi Jinping and Cameron have featured in most newspaper and TV reports although there is no evidence whatsoever that they are personally implicated.
For the record, 11 million Mossack Fonseca documents were anonymously leaked to the Munich-based newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung which sent them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC for worldwide distribution. The ICIJ, which is headed by former Fairfax journalist Gerard Ryle, released the files to 107 media organisations, including the ABC and Fairfax Media.
So when will the ICIJ start to “out” the American billionaires and their tax-dodging corporations? Some patience may be necessary.
Kurt Kister, editor of Suddeutsche Zeitung, said a few days ago: “Just wait for what is coming next.” Let’s hope that they are named and shamed right in the middle of the US Republican and Democratic conventions.
Republican leaders are praying that one of the names in the US files is a certain Donald Trump.

Feel the Bern

This week’s release of the Panama Papers on tax evasion couldn’t have come at a better time for US presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic Party’s contest could not be more clearcut: Sanders’ pro-socialist campaign is centred on tax evasion by the super rich and their greed-driven corporations while Hillary Clinton’s pro-big business bandwagon is financed by special interests, including Wall Street banks, Big Pharma, Hollywood, pro-Israeli Zionists and warmongering elements of the military-industrial complex.
When the US-Panama trade pact was debated in the Senate in 2011, Sanders said: “Panama’s entire economic output is only $26.7 billion per year, or about two-thirds of one per cent of the US economy. No one can legitimately claim this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs.”
He continued: “Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade US taxes by stashing this cash in offshore tax havens. The Panama free trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse.
“Each and every year, the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and in other countries.”
If you listen to former Commonwealth Bank CEO David Murray there isn’t a problem while Sydney Morning Herald commentator Ross Gittins thinks it’s all too hard and there might be unintended consequences. Oh dear, he might be right, so let’s do nothing!!

The Aussie connection

One Australian subsidiary mentioned in the leaked Panama files was the car parking and security firm Wilsons.
Under Prime Minister John Howard Wilson Security received Federal government contracts worth $750,000; under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard the value of the company’s contracts rose to $44,317,192; and under Tony Abbott-Malcolm Turnbull contracts are worth $478,735,112. That includes security work at the gulag camps on Nauru and Manus Island.
CEO of Wilson Security Asia Pacific is John McMellan, a former Victorian policeman with expertise in solving homicides, armed robberies and fighting organised crime.
His associates in the parent company are the Kwok brothers, Thomas and Raymond, from Hong Kong. Aren’t they well known to leaders of the Liberal Party and the ALP? I think we should be told.

Bob Ellis re-assessed

When Bob Carr was NSW premier between 1995 and 2005, the late Bob Ellis would arrive at State Parliament during sitting days around 11am.
Looking like an unmade bed, Ellis would trundle across the foyer to the elevator to take him to Carr’s executive office on the 10th floor. He always carried a satchel crammed with newspaper cuttings, notebooks and scraps of paper with scribbled messages, quotes and notes taken from the television news programmes, from dinner table conversations or randomly made on the journey from his Palm Beach home.
Once in Carr’s office, staff would be shooed away, doors locked and the two unlikely conspirators would start rehearsals. They would prepare Carr’s stellar performances at Question Time in “The Bearpit”.
The easy part was composing a fatuous question without notice, also known as a “Dorothy Dixer”, which would be handed to a backbencher minutes before the Speaker called the house to order.
It was usually something like: “My question without notice is to the Premier. Will the Premier please tell the House what steps his government has taken to improve the economy of this great State?”
Then Carr and Ellis would compose a reply whose sole purpose was to ridicule the Opposition and its leader. Quotations from headlines, editorials and radio and TV transcripts were furnished from Ellis’s rudimentary filing system i.e. his satchel. It was undergraduate humour at its finest.
Once Ellis had typed his draft script Carr would proceed to learn his lines standing in front of a full-length mirror. Ellis offered dramatic advice – when to pause, when to stop for laughs, when to gesticulate at the Opposition benches, when to turn his back on them and when to address his own team with a triumphalist sweep.
Ellis was writer/director and Carr was principal character in this one-man show.
Staffers from both sides packed seats behind the Speaker’s chair and the press gallery was full. We watched as Carr asserted his commanding presence on the parliament. Neville Wran did it with his presence; Carr with his theatricality.
Robert James Ellis, born in 1942 in Murwillumbah, was a wordsmith of exceptional ability. His way with words – written and spoken – was magical. He loved writing, literature, theatre and politics.
His brilliant career was a sad case of arrested development. When social democracy failed and adapted itself to capitalism, so did Ellis. Jaundiced cynicism replaced his earlier idealism. The party came to his rescue with writing jobs and grants for film scripts which remained unfinished or undelivered.
In return, he used his talent to make right-wing Laborites like Bob Carr seem better than they were.
And so it goes ….

3 comments

  1. No one seems to have noticed that (Call Me Dave) Cameron’s late father’s off shore investment company is called Blair More. You couldn’t make it up!!

  2. Dear Alex
    While I agree with you absolutely about the Fat Cats Caught in Panamagate, I fear the usual suspects will escape in the usual way as governments respond with a lot of huffing and puffing
    followed up in the usual way by…nothing. Australia has produced some great whistle blowers over the years. Unfortunately governments and corporate Australia usually reward them in two ways – first they say they’re mentally unstable and then they sack them.

  3. Best & most accurate obit on Bob Ellis to date. Bob’s books are unique and lyrical masterpieces and among the most satisfying reads. But this made his dabbling with the ghastly Carr even more tragic.

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