Roll out the barrel! The pork barrel, that is. That’s the message from
the Prime Minister when those testing tax questions get put to him.

Look what he had to say to Kerry-Anne Walsh in the Sun-Herald yesterday:

Mr Howard asserted that average Australians equated tax reform with lower taxes.

He said providing tax relief was the most important thing to average people, “not some esoteric re-balancing of this or that.”

“The idea that people will be satisfied in isolation with a ‘you beaut
tax reform’ that doesn’t deliver tax relief is quite fanciful, and for
very good reasons,” he said.


Alan Kohler had a nice tax tale to tell on the weekend. Its title, “Four stupidities of the tax system,” spoke volumes – but here are some highlights:

Everyone has to put in a tax return and usually pay someone else to prepare it because it’s too hard…

Australia’s tax deduction for passive investment losses is an expensive nonsense…

The most ridiculous fact I have heard this year… $47 billion in
underlying cash budget surpluses accumulated since 1996, $39 billion,
or 83%, came from taxes collected from super funds.

New Zealand gets a couple of mentions. Perhaps we should just adopt the
NZ tax system? Bugger it. Maybe we should just become part of New
Zealand.

But it was John Garnaut who really let the cat out of the bag with his yarn on Saturday, “Middle-class benefits blow welfare spending sky-high.”

This is why we don’t see real tax reform. John Howard is a specialist
in taking money from all of us – and giving it back to a select handful
of punters whose votes he needs (minus administration costs, of course).

He won’t be able to get away with this forever. After all, people
prefer to keep money in their own pocket, rather than handing it to the
voters of marginal seats – and giving a cut to Canberra’s cardie-clad
pencil pushers to cover the expenses of taking it out of their pocket.

Malcolm Turnbull’s onto it. And other smart, ambitious pols should follow his lead. “The
longer Costello resists engaging in debate on tax, the more articulate
and broader becomes the coalition calling for it,” David Uren observed in The Weekend Australian. And the more gutless, weaker and useless he looks. And hasn’t Cossie got enough problems at the moment?

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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