Current Affairs Wrap: Bill Heffernan, asylum seekers and ice epidemic

Bill Heffernan claims westernised ISIS can tackle corporate tax terror, detention centre operator gags employees and Tone’s not cool with ice – this week’s #currentaffairswrap from Michael Burrill.


This week, an open letter from past and present employees called for the closure of the Nauru detention centre and alleged that the government knew about violence and sexual assault there over a year before they acted. In response, Tone claimed that his government was the only one strong enough to stop people smuggling, as any other would “succumb to the cries of the human rights lawyers,” which essentially equates to triumphantly announcing, “We are the only government cruel and arrogant enough to completely ignore the human rights of asylum seekers.” In further proof they are doing absolutely nothing wrong, operator of the Nauru and Manus Island centres, Transfield, has banned employees from expressing opinions against mandatory detention on social media and from joining “incompatible organisations” (including political or religious groups) that hold similar views. The government, taking a break from using asylum seeker case files for weight lifting (instead of processing), have also engaged again in the moves of an institution completely at ease with the morality of their actions, as they look to amend the Migration Act in order to effectively provide immunity for use of force in detention centres. As IS begin to take control of Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria, in scenes described as “beyond inhumane” by the UN, a strong government such as our own may see opportunity where others see despair. Pass the amendment of the Migration Act, fiddle with Foreign Fighters legislation and Australia could save a fair bit of money sending ex-IS members to pay their debt to society by utilising the skills they learned in Yarmouk in our refugee camps (or prisons to describe them more accurately).

Bill Heffernan, AKA “Pipe Bomb Bill” referenced IS amid this week’s Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, pointing to “a concerted effort by a group of nations, a bit like the present ISIS problem” as the solution to profit shifting and the like. The aforementioned Senate inquiry discovered that the Treasury has no idea how much the government is losing in tax revenue (somewhere in the billions) and that the ATO has a rather cosy connection with the big accountancy firms (who advise corporations on tax), with employees regularly moving in either direction. A series of executives from multinationals such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, News Corp and BHP Billiton sidestepped questions about their own murky tax arrangements, in particular, Maile Carnegie, managing director of Google in Australia and New Zealand, who shrugged that tax avoidance was “simply the way the global tax system is working.” With tax experts questioning the effectiveness of unilateral tax reforms and the OECD’s plan for tax avoidance to be released in October, some may suggest Bill Heffernan was onto something. But the question remains: considering the speed with which a coalition to combat IS was formed (despite the political complexities), doesn’t the comparative speed with which world governments have dealt with problems present for decades like tax avoidance and greenhouse gas emissions (whatever their complexities) more than anything display either a lack of will or lack of interest in addressing them?

As ever, more interested in the blockbuster spine tinglers like terrorists and boat people than the slow cancer of tax avoidance, Tone announced the creation of a national taskforce for the “ice epidemic.” Despite a report from the Burnet Institute in October of last year finding there was no ice epidemic, Tone told the press, “I want to say that as a citizen and as a parent, I am appalled at what is happening on our streets and in our homes,” and made a claim with even less scientific basis, that crystal meth is “far more addictive than any other illicit drug.” While ice is undeniably potent and capable of causing addiction and damaging behaviour, the kind of rhetoric flying around is redolent of scaremongering and political machinations rather than genuine concern or well thought-out harm prevention. When the majority of people who try ice for the first time and realise they not only don’t want to microwave a baby but don’t have a one to microwave, or labour rather harmlessly under the illusion they are a suave intellectual rather than the sweaty slobbering mess their mirror presents, then it only follows that they may consider any warnings they hear about crystal meth to be as overblown and full of shit as the ones they’ve heard from politicians and the media.


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