Something that would have be an improbable development in the past, is now set to come upon us. Islamic law, is to expand its influence in Australia; as recent changes to taxation law will make Islamic finance more easily practiced. The budget papers, titled ‘Asset backed financing arrangements’ outline these changes, stating; “The Government proposes to remove barriers to the use of asset backed financing arrangements which are supported by assets such as deferred payment arrangements and higher purchase arrangements. It is intended that the tax treatment of such arrangements will be clarified so that they are treated in the same way as financing arrangements based on interest bearing loans or investments. The intention is to provide access to more diverse sources of capital in Australia under this measure. The measure is proposed to apply from 1 July 2018”.
For Islamic investors and groups, such as Dr Imran Lum, Islamic finance was historically ‘expensive and complex’, and yet these recent changes are regarded as an encouraging sign. Furthermore, these amendments come whilst several major Australian assets are up for sale, including the Victoria’s $ 6 billi0n port of Melbourne, and the New South Wales remaining $10 billion electricity assets, and they are expected to offer new opportunities for Islamic investors.
From the perspective of the current LNP government, clearly, Islamic finance is merely another avenue to pursuing the enlargement and diversification of capital in Australia. It is a system of finance, in which specific interest or fees for loans of money (riba, or usury), as well as investment in businesses that promote haram, (principles contrary to the teachings of Islam), is prohibited. To the government, this represents no major issue, with the benefits of greater foreign investment, seen as more substantial to the cost of any religious components to this financial system.
However, despite the alluring and vast riches of these new potential investors, our leaders have clearly ignored which religion they are dealing with; Islam. The religion of permanent demand, offence and intolerance, which seeks to submit the disbelievers in more ways than one. Do all Islamic investors have a malicious and inveigling viewpoint towards Australian investments and resources? Of course not, but when the influence of the ideology delves into the financial sector, this seldom occurs without consequence.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, a major hub of Islamic finance, this inconvenient truth has been learnt in a rather startling and abrupt manner. In January of this year, British MP’s sought to establish a new place of drinking, while the Palace of Westminster underwent repairs. The MP’s planned to move their bar into the Department of Health building, only to discover that the governmental structure, was financed by an Islamic bond scheme, and thus governed by Sharia law. Given that drinking alcohol is forbidden under Islam, the Department of Health building was unavailable as a bar for politicians, serving as a particularly shocking and unpleasant surprise.
This planned augmentation of sharia finance is not simply about where or when our politicians will be able to drink. It is a matter of principle. Australia should forever remain a nation whose legal system is founded in Christianity, common law, and humanism, bereft of all traces of Sharia. Islamic finance, while not entirely malevolent and insidious in nature, presents a challenge to this norm. The LNP government is a vote for this transition, and this pernicious and much under reported aspect must be identified.