ECONOMIC NEANDERTHAL and vapid opportunist Bill Shorten has taken predictable aim at musings over tax reform — centred on the GST — emanating from the Turnbull government and some states, including those run by the ALP; unable to advance credible alternative policy ideas and wedded to mythical fixes that are neither workable nor capable of fixing the country’s finances, the best thing ordinary Australians can do is to ignore him.
Federal Parliament resumes this week, with momentum and community debate growing around Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a thorough consideration of a sweeping reform of taxation arrangements; the discussion of tax reform is something this column has resolutely and relentlessly championed since its commencement in early 2011, and whilst any outcome is likely some months away and even then subject to the verdict of the electorate at the ballot box, the fact Turnbull is prepared to countenance the subject at all contrasts sharply with his predecessor, for whom meaningful talk of tax reform or industrial relations reform dissipated at the first sign of opposition from the ALP.
Speaking of that, the week also sees opposition “leader” Bill Shorten return to Canberra facing uncertainty over his tenure in that post; as we revealed two weeks ago, there are moves afoot to enact change at the top of the ALP, and cleared of criminal wrongdoing at the Royal Commission into the unions as he may have been, decent, ordinary folk will have trouble accepting that whilst it won’t lead to him being prosecuted, what went on at the AWU on Shorten’s watch was anything less than unethical, amoral, deeply unprincipled, and plain wrong.
For as long as he remains visible in politics, the poor standing of Shorten (and Labor) is unlikely to recover.
But for now at least, he remains “leader” of the Labor Party; and with that in mind, Shorten’s flat Earth, Neanderthal-like approach to just about anything at odds with the “modern” Labor tradition of killing incentive, punishing “the rich” and pandering to vested interests and gnomes on the Senate crossbench and at the
Communist Party Greens has been presented with a very big target in the form of Turnbull’s preparedness to evaluate big reforms.
It comes as signs people have had enough of petty, small-minded politics are everywhere, writ large in all of the major opinion polls: deprived of key electoral asset Tony Abbott (and more particularly, the flat-footed and inept cabal that surrounded him), Shorten has been exposed as a little man with no ideas of substance — beyond pandering to class prejudices, and to lunatics like the Greens — but for as long as he remains in his present post, he will do everything in his power to ensure the reforms so desperately needed to free up the Australian economy are torpedoed.
If readers wonder why I unilaterally declare Shorten unfit to be Prime Minister, this is a very big hint.
As The Australian editorialised on Friday, Shorten’s self-proclaimed “year of ideas” is all but over; having spent the two years since his ascension as “leader” doing everything he can to ensure Labor, in effect, maintains the vandalism it wrought on the federal budget in the belief an election win lies therein — declarations of increases in national debt on the Liberals’ watch, whilst voting against every proposed savings measure in the Senate, are proof of this — the only “ideas” Shorten has advanced are a reintroduction of not one carbon tax, but two; a ridiculous 50% renewable energy target that would, if implemented, price essentials like fuel and electricity beyond the reach of most households; the abolition of the private health insurance rebate, a measure whose end destination would be the overrun and collapse of public healthcare; and vaguely articulated, mean-spirited initiatives such as a crackdown on superannuation for “the rich” and “ensuring multinationals pay their fair share in tax,” which is a notion that has neither been substantiated in any way whatsoever, nor solved by any government in any comparable country across the world.
In other words, Shorten — a self-confessed liar — is asking people to trust him.
Pigs might fly, too.
But when it comes to others attempting to discuss serious reform (even if Shorten and Labor refuse to) anything involving the GST, like so many of the articles of faith of the political Left, isn’t even a permissible subject to talk about; this, like labour market reform, or nuclear power, or a whole litany of ideas, is something the ALP flatly refuses to permit mention of — and when such an edict is defied, its own contribution is based on half-truths, fatuous and empty populism, and outright lies.
Raising the GST, we are told, is not tax reform. It is lazy. It isn’t innovative. Oh, and it goes without saying, of course, that it isn’t “fair.”
What a lot of garbage.
And perhaps this would be true, were a hike in the GST — in isolation — what was on the table, but it isn’t.
I think it’s exciting that a root-and-branch shake-up of taxation arrangements is in prospect; it appears, to those who bother to acknowledge it, that everything is under consideration — literally, everything — and whilst reducing or abolishing state taxes like payroll tax and stamp duty might seem unlikely outcomes, the fact Turnbull and his acolytes are prepared to discuss them at all should explode the myth that a straight GST increase is simply a revenue grab by stealth.
Any broadening or lifting of the GST will be accompanied by steep cuts in PAYE income tax — a shrinking revenue source that is relied on far too heavily in this country, and which has seen average taxpayers pushed into the second-highest tax bracket: hardly a system embedded with incentives for hard work that encourage success.
Any broadening or lifting of the GST will also be accompanied by compensatory increases in pensions and other adjustments to ensure the less well-off are not disadvantaged: just like the introduction of the original tax in 2000 was, and something nobody on the Left is prepared to concede, let alone admit publicly, lest it destroy the dumb scare campaign being hastily reassembled from more than 20 years ago.
Did the sky fall in when the GST was introduced? Of course it didn’t. And it won’t now, if changes — including a heavier reliance on the consumption tax — are made.
I was reading on the weekend that even measures like cutting or abolishing fuel excise and car registrations were on the table as part of any taxation overhaul; hardly the handiwork of a senseless, one-way tax grab.
But mindless, blanket carping of the Shorten Labor variety ignores the fact that taxes on consumption, provided poorer people are fairly compensated, collect disproportionately more money from richer people than they do from those at the bottom of the ladder.
The more you spend, the more you pay: hardly a regressive concept.
And even if “nightmare” scenarios of a GST on Education were to materialise, who would pay the most? Labor’s hated “rich” people, who send their kids to elite private schools: $125,000 to put a kid through five years of secondary schooling at the kind of establishment so detested by Labor, if subjected to a 15% GST, would reap the government close to $20,000 in tax receipts where none currently exist. A student in a state high school, by contrast, would pay nothing.
But having ordinary wage earners paying 37 cents in every dollar in income tax — which is the end result of so-called “reforms” undertaken by the Gillard government, which were nothing more than a fiddle of the tax scales — scarcely encourages people to work hard and save; on the latter score, faced with real living costs that now see some Australian cities rank among the most expensive places in the world to live, saving money is a concept that is simply beyond some taxpayers and families to even dream about.
That 37% rate, by the way, includes the 2% Medicare levy: as I have argued before, it is a pointless semantic exercise to itemise this impost separately when all it is is income tax. People on the lowest incomes don’t pay it anyway. Part of Turnbull’s reform dialogue should be to get rid of the nonsense of a Medicare levy, and simply incorporate it into the tax scales directly. But I digress.
There are those that argue that putting more money in people’s pockets, only to claw it back in the form of GST receipts, is a smoke and mirrors exercise, and it misses the point: allowing people to keep more of what they earn gives them greater choices and control over how they spend it. The more they spend, the more tax they pay. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. Even someone of limited economic literacy like Bill Shorten could grasp it: were he not so hellbent on torpedoing it, that is.
The point is that by unilaterally ruling out a conversation that includes the GST — just like he has tried to do with labour market reform and penalty rates — all Shorten is doing is to prove those dissenters who regard him as a one-trick pony obsessed with power and power alone to be correct.
Governing Australia is not a simple process of buying a few union hacks and Greens off, and clicking your fingers — something the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government learned to its political cost, and to the country’s enduring detriment.
Hard questions need hard answers, and they are not going to materialise when dogma-driven cretins like Bill Shorten attempt to firewall whole swathes of the total economic picture from consideration.
While we are at it, they are not going to materialise when puerile, immature and factually misleading rubbish like this is indicative of the contribution of left-wing and socialist hacks out in the independent commentariat either: no mention of compensation for the less well-off, quoting figures that by their nature cannot represent the government’s reform proposals (bluntly, they haven’t been finalised, let alone announced) and laced with abuse of anything to the Right of Stalin, the drivel contained in that article is all too representative of the intellectually misleading, fundamentally dishonest diatribe Labor is trying to foist on ordinary voters.
There are some in the ALP — Labor state Premier Jay Weatherill foremost among them — who recognise and accept that without sweeping structural reform of the country’s taxation arrangements, Australia faces a permanent budget deficit whose end destination is the economic ruin typified by the likes of Greece.
These people, like Turnbull and a solid majority of those on the Right, recognise that for any reform to be meaningful, it must assess every aspect of the tax edifice — even if individual items are, in the end, discarded from consideration.
But if Shorten were a leader’s bootlace — which he isn’t — he would be joining the debate, seeking to influence it, and providing better critiques than simply calling things “unfair,” or “lazy,” or summarily dismissing things like GST changes without a valid or credible explanation which to date, he has singularly failed to provide.
Once again, by his utterances on tax reform, Shorten has shown himself to be nothing more than an economic Neanderthal, a vandal, and a wrecker of meaningful change in this country.
If this is the best he can do, then quite frankly, he should simply be ignored: especially in a climate where his own party is readying to do exactly that.