Before Rupert

Jock Webb writes: Re. “The truth about Keith Murdoch’s ‘Gallipoli letter’” (yesterday). I do wish that someone would spend some time on the odious anti Semitic campaign by Keith Murdoch to interfere in the appointment of Sir John Monash to lead the Anzac Corps. Along with Sir Arthur Currie, Monash was one of the most skilled commanders on the Western Front by 1918. Murdoch with (later regretted by) CEW Bean and a few others sought to have Cyril Brudenell-White appointed. White himself was outraged and told Monash he would have no part in such rubbish. In any case that was not his metier. It is a wonderful example of how the Murdoch family have involved themselves where they had no place to further their own unworthy ends. Even Murdoch’s improperly compromised overlord Billy Hughes found this a step too far and Monash was appointed. In my opinion the only decent Murdoch is Dame Elisabeth, who is 1. Dead and 2. Not a Murdoch by blood.

What do we want? Tax reform! When do we want it? Well, hang on now … 

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “‘Tax reform’ a road to nowhere” (yesterday). Occasionally Bernard and Guy manage to write something odder than usual. On this occasion it was Bernard. Tax reform is important, along with many other reforms. Governments have struggled to make serious tax reform for time immemorial (ask Keating, Costello, Swan etc.). The Democrat contribution and Labor Party opportunistic obstruction have brought us to the current GST/tax situation.

I have in Crikey columns over the years supported a minerals tax regime, superannuation tax reform, I even favour environmental taxes generally. To dismiss replacement of nuisance state and territory taxes (such as payroll tax and stamp duty) with a higher GST as worthwhile is extremely short-sighted. Most of the objections to reform are bogus about regressively (most of the taxes in place are regressive). The Bettertax material made it clear that Australia is a high taxer on income relative to many countries, and certainly so on corporate taxation. We are a low taxer on goods and services.

Anyone with an understanding of public finance or taxation collections would recognise that higher tax to GDP collections in Australia for the last few decades are heavily impacted by the buoyancy of economic conditions. The diversions about tax evasion/tax avoidance really miss the point. Even if all of that is eliminated (and that is unlikely) the base of the current GST will decline over time, whilst the GDP portion necessary for states and territories to fund health and education will to grow over time.

Increasing the Medicare Levy is not an answer, it is a Commonwealth tax which currently covers only about 8% of total national health and disability outlays, whilst the real terms growth in outlays is heavily in the public hospital system which is a state/territory responsibility. The imbalance of outlays and revenues of the state/territories can be in part addressed by tax reform. The Labor Party is playing the politics of short term fear-mongering – looks and sounds visionary doesn’t it? If they succeeded last time we would still have a 1930 Wholesale Sales Tax regime in place (really visionary!).

If Bernard feels that tax reform is unimportant, imagine what Australia will be like in about a decade if no significant reform has occurred (including on the tax front). I imagine his columns will be fulminating about the lack of reform, lack of vision etc.? Perhaps someone like me might refer him back to his contribution of yesterday.

Les Heimann writes: Moving from the monk to the rooster hasn’t changed anything folks. Still vision bereft, this government seizes upon anything that possibly may be regarded by some as reform; and tax reform is always popular to those who benefit from it.

However who would benefit from a rise in GST? There is not a single vote in this one and the government must know that. Therefore to be popular a “real” tax reduction is necessary. How would that be paid for. By taking away the tax breaks their rusted on voters benefit from? I don’t think so. If “entitlements” are reduced votes are also lost. Tax reform right now is a quick trip to political oblivion. How do they not know this?

However, think of the ranks of unemployed beginning to march out of automobile plants; these tens of thousands will be slurping soup perhaps just after the next election. Job creation is the requirement of any responsible government, not tax reform and on that front all we have are free trade agreements that threaten jobs.

The time has come for the Jacks and Jills to see this mob for what they are, regardless of who leads them; bereft of any real solutions. Equally the challenge is for an alternative government to outline its agenda and that has to be jobs, jobs, jobs and how to create them. Who’s for gin and tonic on the balcony?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey