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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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