Williams' Word

WHISTLEBLOWERS – SINNERS OR SAINTS?

Up to 1000 of the wealthiest Australians and their tax advisers are being investigated by officials of our taxation department because of their links to the Panama Papers, those documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier this year. It listed more than 200,000 secret offshore clients of a Panama-based law firm.

INVESTIGATION: The ATO has identified more than 800 Australian taxpayers in the Panama Papers. Photo: Fairfax

INVESTIGATION: The ATO has identified more than 800 Australian taxpayers in the Panama Papers. Photo: Fairfax

The ATO revealed a few months ago that it had identified more than 800 individual Australian taxpayers in those Panama Papers. It was a big breakthrough in the ATO’s campaign to search out the tax cheats who believe they are a special class and should not have to pay taxes like the common people.

The Panama Papers could lead to these people being named and shamed and also bring some big money into our economy. Yet, many people still object to the fact that some brave people have been able to delve into the questionable activities, not only by the rich and powerful, but by governments themselves.

In fact, it could be argued that the big offenders in most cases are the governments themselves that are so rigid in their strict rules and persistently refuse to allow the people to know what they are doing. Why?

Governments can be quite childish in their insistence on secrecy. As a working journalist, your ancient scribe was often frustrated by government departments and officials who were sworn to secrecy, usually on the most ordinary issues where there was no need for secrecy at all.

Maybe it’s time we accepted that the big offenders were not the people who revealed the ‘secret’ documents, but the petty-minded officials and politicians who don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing or planning, even though you and I employ them. They are our servants, not the other way around. 

Looking at the benefits likely to come from those Papers, isn’t it time we accepted the need for clever people capable of investigating irregular or illegal activities and revealing those activities to the public?

Has the Australian Government sent a note of thanks to those brave people who released the Panama Papers that could bring in lots of money from those tax cheats? Looking at the benefits they will bring to Australia it would be petty for the government not to say ‘thanks’.

AND THEN VIRTUAL WAR?

It had to happen. In fact, it is surprising that only now, many years after they were created, that the Australian military are talking about building our own military drones. It has even been predicted that, sometime in the future, most war fighting will be done by unmanned machines.

No longer will the footslogger get up at dawn to train, running long distances with full military gear just to be fit. The future military man will probably be able to sit in an air-conditioned office great distances away from the war, with a cup of coffee to keep him going until his shift ends and he then undertakes the most dangerous part of his day, the drive home to the wife and kids.

We (the great majority of the world’s people who wonder why nations, with all their science and high standards of living, still want to kill each other) might even hope that the next step will be ‘virtual war’ – a step up from the drone warfare – in which countries employ their top computer games experts to have ‘virtual wars’.

We could even have the Virtual War Olympics in which the three current hegemony countries – the USA, China and Russia – produce their top nerds and computer games whizzes to compete against each other in a virtual war to find out which of the three countries would control most of their virtual world. Apart from boosting the egos of the hegemony countries (those that want to dominate large parts of the world), we also have the problem of those who set out to kill innocent bystanders because their religious/cultural leaders tell them their god wants them to do so.

This could also be a virtual war in which the winner is the one who can get his god to create miracles, such as fixing up the problems with the Great Barrier Reef or even ridding the world of killer cancers. It all sounds like a sensible dream, a world in which the nerds compete against each other, in which no real bombs are dropped, no-one gets killed and billions of dollars, which were once spent on old-fashioned, noisy, killing-people type warfare, are spent on making life much more pleasant for the rest of the world.

Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.

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