Higher tax rates to fix budget ’emergency’

John Richardson writes: Re. “Budget emergency? Not if you look at Hockey’s new numbers” (yesterday). What I found interesting in Stephen’s piece is not that he identified the federal budget’s structural problem, brought about by the collapse in government tax revenues over the past eight years, but that he offered no explanation as to the drivers of that collapse, including the fact that 40% of big businesses in this country pay no income tax at all and corporate income tax as a share of GDP has dropped by a staggering 20% since 2007. And whilst the drum-beat in support of increasing the GST to fix the revenue problem grows louder by the day, we hear nothing of more equitable ideas to redress the taxation revenue shortfall, including adopting a wealth tax, abolishing excessive tax advantages on superannuation, abolishing negative gearing, adjusting capital gains tax concessions and introducing a genuine resources rent tax regime, just to name a few. It would seem like Joe Hockey’s culture of entitlement is under no real threat?

Pollies claiming social events as work expenses

Ian Haines, medical oncologist and adjunct clinical associate professor of medicine at Monash University, writes: Re: “Michael Smith: Brandis honest, legit over wedding night expenses” (yesterday). I am an oncologist in private practice and see many of my patients and colleagues socially, when on vacation or at funerals. These meetings are sometimes planned and sometimes occur accidentally. I often have detailed and specific discussions about issues of care and treatment with organised follow-up. I have never even contemplated billing the taxpayer in any way for any these consultations/discussions. I would have thought that our leading legal official, who has been so vocal on these issues and from whom such a high standard of behaviour is expected, would at the very least be able to apply the “reasonable person” test when he was considering drawing from the public purse for the costs of attending a wedding. The attempted defences of his actions are a sad reflection on the current standards of behaviour of some of our elected and privileged officials and their supporters when they think no one is looking.

New challenges for the Coalition

Dave Lennon writes: Re. “Pyne’s pitch for uni fees abolishment entrenched in Liberal doctrine” (Wednesday). Am I the only one  who noticed that between [Pyne announcing the cuts and Abbott retracting Pyne’s statement], the Nationals, according to an ABC story, came out and publicly said they wouldn’t support [the cuts]? Or, put another way, the Abbott minority Liberal government was rolled by its Coalition partners and had to back down. Let me be a bit bold here:  at the end of the 60-day “review” of the National Broadband Network, if any part of what Turnbull plans to change is detrimental to the interests of the Nationals’ constituency in regional Australia, the Abbott minority Liberal government will be rolled again. The game has changed. The Nats have increased their numbers in the house and at least one of the new MPs campaigned strongly on making sure the NBN arrived in regional areas quick smart and bright and shiny.

This is a battle the Nats understand they can’t afford to lose. If the Nats don’t fight, look for a lot of “high-profile” independents running in the next election — Cathy McGowan has created a template that could easily be replicated elsewhere.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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