The government’s position on tax reform has turned into a debacle, one entirely of its own making.
First, we wasted several months debating the GST. Although it’s true that Labor conducted a very successful scare campaign against raising the GST (which had Coalition backbenchers in fear for their seats), the reality is a GST rise was never going to offer substantial economic benefits to justify the political pain — something Treasury eventually confirmed to the government, leaving it with a policy vacuum.
Labor has boldly filled that vacuum with its negative gearing and capital gains tax proposal. Today’s Essential Report, published by Crikey, shows more support than opposition for Labor’s proposal — but a big proportion of voters remain to be persuaded either way.
Now, Turnbull and Scott Morrison are determined to persuade voters their way, by running their own scare campaign. In doing so, Turnbull looks an awful lot like the man he replaced as Prime Minister, rather than the statesmanlike-figure he led us to believe he would be, who treats the electorate with respect and engages in proper debate.
Meanwhile, the government is all over the place on other areas of reform. Bracket creep — much like the famous “budget emergency” — has gone from an imminent threat to Australian prosperity to a minor problem in the space of a few days. The Prime Minister either is or isn’t considering changes to capital gains tax — it depends on whether you ask him in question time or elsewhere. And the government may or may not be considering a proposal to gut compulsory superannuation.
This is not what you promised us when you defeated Tony Abbott, Prime Minister. In fact it looks a lot like the government you replaced.