Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-4-1349 7828

July 2008 # 2

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Back to Editorials 2008

The Real Danger Within

We live in troubled times. Perhaps the words of George Orwell in 1984 were prophetic in some small way. Who knows, maybe he did have an alien implant that gave him foresight? But perhaps that is my paranoia speaking. Whatever the situation, it seems that as time passes I can’t help but think that things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser. 

Before I go on, I think its important to acknowledge that for many communities within our society life is rough, tough and often brutal. There are many groups who face discrimination, exclusion and vilification. Skin colour, religious affiliation, cultural background and language are the outward markers each of us carry and which mark us out as coming from somewhere and belonging to one ‘tribe’ or another. But when it comes to money and power, many of these things disappear and are replaced by political expediency or rank opportunism. 

Just before the men and women in the Big House in Canberra departed for their winter break (and many for a taxpayer funded overseas junket), they passed an amendment to the Tax Act that seems to me to be very strange.

The tax scheme in Australia is meant to be a redistribution regime in which those who can pay taxes, whether on money earned directly or via taxes on goods and services purchased, pay into a common fund from which goods and services are provided for the benefit of all. Obviously, under such a scheme, some will benefit more and theoretically, these are the poorest or most disadvantaged. However, under our tax scheme there are many lurks in which those who have to pay tax can legally minimise their ‘tax burden’. 

There are other lurks hidden in the Tax Act that allow those who have the most to find ways to squirrel away dollars so they can’t be redistributed. There are other lurks that allow industries or individuals to actually be subsidised by the taxpayer and thus reduce their need to ‘take care of themselves’. I find it interesting, that while on the one hand these industries or individuals are very active in lobbying governments to increase or introduce new ways for them to have their accounts swelled via the public purse, they shout the loudest when it come to opposing real welfare measures for the most disadvantaged. 

We live in a time when both sides of the house are screaming at us that we need to have “choice” when it comes to education and that parents should not be constrained when it comes to choosing the school they send their children to. We hear identical rhetoric from the benches on the right and left of the Speaker of the House that say, in effect, the tax payer should fund private and public schools equally and that, indeed, “underperforming” public schools and teachers should be defunded. But when it comes to funding private schools we find some very interesting ‘forgetting’ of these demands.  

Just before the so called ‘winter recess’ from Parliament our politicians made a change to the Tax Act that now allows tax deductibility for donations to the Council for Jewish Community Security, back dated to 9 August 2007. This change was pursued through the Parliament by Michael Danby, Labor member for Melbourne Ports. 

Michael Danby said in parliament that the Tax Act needs to be changed to include tax deductibility for donations made to schools, Jewish schools to be precise, because and I quote from Hansard, “The problem of having to pay security costs constitutes an unfair impost, on top of school fees, to pay for security costs per student simply because the students, owing to an accident of birth, are deemed at risk. In my view, and the government’s view, this is grossly unfair.” He said this, not when in opposition but on May 14 2008 as part of his address to persuade the house to adopt the changes to the Tax Act. 

He went on to say, “… the schools face a national security risk that is equivalent to the risks faced by some embassies.” I wonder what he means by that? As far as I can tell the greatest threat to students attending Jewish schools in Australia comes from within their own communities. In fact, at the same time as Michael Danby was spruiking for his masters in the house, a grave terror had been revealed as coming from within the Jewish community and perpetrated by one of their own on their own. 

Malka Leifer was the Principal of the strict Orthodox Adass Israel Girls School in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick. Exclusive, close knit and usually tight-lipped, the school community was ‘rocked’ when the allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse levelled at the Principle found their way into the media. The Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault in Baltimore in the USA, has described Malka Leifer as being “a danger to young women anywhere she resides.” They also provide the name of the Israeli town she currently lives in and encourages victims to come forward. Leifer left Australia under a cloud and the evidence seems to support claims her exit was funded by the Jewish community in order to prevent a police inquiry into the claims. Such an investigation would have revealed the inner working of the secretive and exclusive community and I would have thought ‘aiding and abetting’ was also a criminal act. 

Be that as it may, the question I have is, ‘if the Jewish schools need tax payer subsidised private security forces, how do tax payers know if the fund are being used for just that purpose?’ Well, of course, we don’t. The biggest threat to Jewish students is not wide eyed, bearded psychopaths who will blow them up, but more than likely sick minded individuals who are protected by their own communities behind walls of silence and fear. When a Jewish community funds the departure of a potential criminal from our legal jurisdictions, one has to ask why we would want to subsidise them at all. 

My quick internet search turned up the current location of someone who has been accused of a terrible crime against children and yet our police, politicians and mainstream news services have allowed the case of Malka Leifer to fall down the memory hole and be replaced by hand wringing and utterances of disgust over a few art works. I would posit that more people were affected by the alleged acts of Malka Leifer than would probably have ever viewed the art works in question. 

While the leaders of the Jewish Community and those who stand to benefit most from the latest changes to Tax Act are celebrating and no doubt finding ways of expropriating the subsidies for themselves, the rest of us are left to wonder if tax payer subsidised security services should also be offered to those who are the most at risk from public acts of violence. Many of these people are also from the Semitic races but it seems are not worth the effort. Or perhaps that’s just my paranoia speaking.

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