Tax-Free Threshold To Be Abolished: ALP

TWO SENIOR MINISTERS in Julia Gillard’s government dropped a bombshell today, with revelations the tax-free threshold on personal income is to be dumped; there is some dispute as to whether the measure is to be trimmed or abolished altogether, but the messages were in clear unison.

Here’s the good news: in case I have given any reader palpitations with this news, I apologise; the “revelations” to which I refer are nothing more than the latest insidious smear emanating from Labor circles in a desperate attempt to whip up fear over a change of government at this year’s election.

Shadow Finance minister Penny Wong issued a tweet on her official Twitter account this afternoon, stating that an Abbott government would “remove” the threshold, insinuating a rise in income tax for anyone earning less than $80,000 per year (and by extension, implying the poorest Australians would be, deliberately, hit the hardest).

In case anyone doesn’t believe it, here’s a screen shot I took of the offending tweet — I couldn’t believe it either. If the offending tweet disappears in coming hours, it’ll be pretty obvious why.

Wong Screendump

It was clearly the day’s strategy for the Labor Party, because shortly beforehand, pious self-important bubble and Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed on ABC radio that a Liberal government would scrap changes made to the threshold, which was tripled to $18,000 as part of the changes involved in the imposition of the carbon tax.

“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey must come out immediately and rule out their devious tax increase for hard-working families,” Mr Swan said.

Hockey, very promptly, obliged.

I raise the issue of this latest instalment in the daily political grind because it offers up solid evidence, backed in writing and from the ministers in question, of the depths of dishonesty to which this government is apparently determined to stoop in the pursuit of the retention of government.

(The anti-misogynists in the ALP can have no objection to the matter being raised, either).

I’m not going to launch into a novel-length diatribe; I simply have to shake my head.

The Labor Party also has spent much the past week trying to score hits off two partially developed Coalition policies: the plan to build up to 100 dams around Australia, to floodproof ¬†and droughtproof different parts of the country, and to create a new national foodbowl; and the idea to provide taxation and other incentives to increase population levels in the country’s (sparsely populated) north and west.

I would point out that the two policies — as the ALP well knows — are not complete, not costed, and have been released to the public in their present form only by virtue of leaks.

I’d also point out that the accompanying Labor Party howls about lack of costings deserve to fall on deaf ears; not only are the Coalition’s costings not finalised, they are not required to be finished for several months.

And as I opined of the latter of the two leaked policies many months ago, when it was a draft discussion paper written by shadow Finance minister Andrew Robb, the Coalition is to be lauded for at least coming up with positive policy ideas.

It would be refreshing to see the ALP come up with a policy initiative that doesn’t involve more and/or new taxes — not least given the embarrassing debacle over its mining tax, set to reap nearly 90% less than the government’s own projections forecast.

And it would be refreshing to see the ALP come up with spending initiatives that are funded by savings made elsewhere in the budget rather than requiring heavy offshore borrowing, such as the combined $18 billion bill for its National Disability Insurance Program and the so-called Gonski reforms in education.

As an aside, I would note that an unfunded commitment of $18 billion in spending — weighed against Labor’s own bleatings about Coalition costings — is little more than a classic case of a pot calling a kettle black.

To return to where I started, though — and nothing surprises or shocks me in politics after almost three decades’ detailed immersion in it — it does beggar belief that the present government is so desperate, or power-crazed, that it must resort to dishonesty of the most brazen kind, as has been evidenced today.

Readers know where I stand, but I’d like to think voters generally would find this sort of thing too odious to contemplate.

Politics and politicians have a terrible (and at times deserved) reputation and are held in the lowest of esteem at the best of times, but — to borrow a phrase from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd — a government that must wilfully and systematically lie its way to an election (and back into office, if successful) is a bridge too far.

Such a government deserves to be thrown from office.

Oh, and here’s the bad news: in his radio interview with the ABC this morning, the bubble Treasurer was asked no fewer than four times whether he would raise income tax in the coming May budget; four times he dodged, and evaded, and obfuscated.

It was only during Question Time this afternoon — safely ensconced back in the House of Representatives, and under parliamentary privilege — that Swan finally, and belatedly, ruled a hike in income taxes out.

What he didn’t rule out, however, were rises in other taxes; and those, too, he failed to rule out increasing in his ABC interview this morning.

The Gillard government’s last budget may very well be its nastiest. Stay tuned.