Crikey Says

Jan 24, 2014

Crikey says: Tony’s tax lesson from world leaders

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"No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity."
Of the rambling, campaign-style speech delivered by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last night, that line was an interesting one. It was certainly an interesting crowd to tell it to. Australia's GDP per capita sits at around seventh in the world by most measures. Above it is Norway, which taxes at 50% and up, and equal or just below us -- and lacking ours and Norway's resources windfalls -- are Denmark, Sweden and Finland, also 50%-plus taxers. And those statistics are made more revealing when you look at estimated GDP per capita figures from 1900, where Australia sits at No. 2 (behind New Zealand), riding high on the sheep's back. Sweden is 13th, Norway is 17th and Finland 20th. So we have gone down five or six places, while they have gone up, across a century in which they have applied consistently higher taxation. When our resource boom splutters and dies and all we have are Gina Rinehart's poems bolted to rocks to show for it, Scandinavian countries will have the schools, universities, compact cities, affordable renewable energy, etc, that they paid for with taxes. So thanks for the history lesson, Tone. Will this be on the curriculum? *We're off to bone up on our national history and scoff down some lamingtons ahead of Australia Day. We'll be off Monday, but transmission will resume as normal on Tuesday.

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33 thoughts on “Crikey says: Tony’s tax lesson from world leaders

  1. klewso

    But Abbott is an economical baboon.

  2. The Pav

    Klewso, Pls don’t insult baboons

    Every time I see our PM on the world stage I cringe at his ineptitude.

    Looking at how everybody reacts it would seem they feel the same way and he just creeps them out.

    I mean his mountaineering small talk was so far beyond embarrassing it defies description.

    If Ltd News shone the same spotlight on him as they did the previous govt then Australian’s would rise up in revulsion

  3. Iskandar

    Don’t worry guys. On international news the Rabbott’s speech doesn’t even get a mention. He’s barely a blip on a sideshow that nobody watched. The main story seems to be that Iran is open for business.

  4. Mark Duffett

    Unfortunately Scandinavia’s ‘affordable renewable energy’ consists overwhelmingly of hydro, which in turn depends on significant rainfall and suitable topography, both of which are scarce in Australia. Moreover, being sensible people they also have substantial (public) investments in nuclear energy, but this is banned in Australia.

  5. Freja

    I read a quarter of the way through his speech and blew an irony gasket.

    Did he really, really say “No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity.” and then “You don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit.”?

    Did he REALLY have the audacity to reference science as part of the solution to a global economic crisis?

    My colleague suggested the speech was written by five people who wrote a paragraph each before passing the page on. I think the best that could be said for this speech is that it will provide caption gold for memes to come.

  6. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Pav, it’s interesting how almost every time that Our Tone meets a world leader, he greets them with something very close to the ‘Latham handshake’. Which invariably leaves them turning away, with a mixture of bewilderment and revulsion, and wondering just who is the leering whack job invading their personal space. I find it curious, that as far as I know, there has been not a single word of mention of this in the MSM; especially given their frothing at mouth reaction to the actual ‘Latham handshake’ back in 2004.
    And I do think the preferential treatment that Abbott has received from large sections of the media, does partially explain the turgid collection of banalities that Abbott delivered at Davos. I mean, during his time as opposition leader, I think Abbott became used to going from stunt to stunt and uttering slogan after cliched slogan. And sadly, it made no real difference if his slogans were mutually contradictory, didn’t answer the question, or just didn’t make any real sense; because Abbott had every faith, that his boosters in the media, would showcase his slogans in the best possible light.
    So now, what we had dished up at Davos, wasn’t really a speech as such, but more a collection of loosely related and often contradictory slogans, that were uttered in the expectation, that Australian news editors would turn it into a brief, but convincing portrayal, of a bold leader dispensing words of wisdom on the world stage.

  7. zut alors

    I’m undecided whether I prefer him to be in the country or out of the country – both are equally cringeworthy.

  8. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Freja, the one that got me was, “Even though the Crisis was the gravest economic challenge the world has faced since the 1930s, it was not a crisis of markets but one of governance.”
    No, I’m pretty sure that it was a crisis of the financial markets; largely brought on by right wing ideologues and their arrogant dogma that market forces are such a perfect self regulating mechanism, that they don’t need any of that nasty government oversight.
    I also found it interesting, that after briefly referring to it at the start as the Global Financial Crisis, for the rest of the time, this had been shortened to the Crisis. It is as though he thought, that if he omitted the word ‘financial’, he could get away with claiming that the GFC was all about the failure of governance, not markets.

  9. Draco Houston

    I hate his line of reasoning. Countries spend a lot on R&D and brought us things like the computer I’m typing this comment on, based on a machine designed by a spook, to an global network developed originally for defense.

  10. Bill Hilliger

    He should have added to the speech – but god help us if the Chinese ever stopped buying the stuff we dig up out of the ground, Australia would be stuffed and have nothing to show for the wealth we have frittered away. rAbbott should ask Norway to give him lessons as to how handle our wealth for the good of all Australians.

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