Everything old is new again when it comes to tax policy

OPINION: A month or so ago I dusted off a couple of double-breasted suits, which must be at least 20 years old.

It reiterated the accuracy of the old saying: "What's old is new again."

The adage is never truer than when we reflect on the shenanigans of our politicians.

Those of you with enough age to remember the turn of the century will recall John Howard going to the electorate with a promise that if we supported him to introduce a 10% GST to be given to the states, he would end sales tax and all sorts of counter-productive, inefficient taxes, levies and fees used by the states to raise money to fund their responsibilities, primarily education and health.

Stamp duty was the big one to face the chop.

That was of course the carrot for our giving the tick to a GST.

The need was sheeted home to profligate Labor spending in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which the new Howard-Costello government of 1996 had failed to rein in.

This year was also when the brand new Howard-Costello government installed the gun buy-back scheme in the shadow of the Port Arthur massacre.

So as not to kick up the deficit they were finding themselves incapable of reining in, they came up with the totally dishonest plan to add a surcharge to the Medicare levy - a levy installed to help the Commonwealth fund its own healthcare commitments and those of the states, for god's sake!

Sound familiar? Daily we hear politicians and commentators say the economy is quickly turning into a basket case.

Too much government debt at all levels. Labor's profligacy of course, when they ran both the federal and state governments.

But we've still got stamp duty and land tax in every state.

The states say it's because their share of the GST pie isn't enough to manage their commitments in health and education, a situation obviously not helped by the Abbott government's cuts.

No mention of the wastefulness and inefficiency of all levels of government, indeed of the three-tiered system itself - or of the incomprehensible expense to the nation of our trough-supping politicians and inefficient public services.

Sell government assets was to become the new mantra.

Premier Baird got the okay in NSW but it cost the Liberals government in Victoria, South Australia and of course, Queensland.

Ordinary punters like you and me realised that it was a once-off, short-term fix and that the endemic problems will continue unabated as the population ages, and that technology will reduce the size of the revenue pool.

So what is old is new again. Forget the expenditure side, concentrate on how to boost the revenue side.

Increase the GST and promise relief from income tax and state taxes will be the platform come the next election.

Oh sure, NSW is going to give up its stamp duty revenue when the median house price in Sydney is $1 million, Victoria the same as Melbourne's median house price approaches $800,000.

And the Abbott-Hockey government is going to end (tax) bracket creep to help us out in meeting our escalating bills bolstered by a tanking dollar and a GST increase.

Alternatively, according to our Premier we could have the Medicare levy doubled.

No less dishonest than Howard's gun buy-back and something that would see a 5% increase to the marginal tax rate of the average worker reducing their expendable income. Great thinking!

I know it's a vain hope, but why can't we find politicians with the balls to recognise that the problem isn't about collections, but about the way revenue is spent, and change the way government governs in this country?



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