Bernie Fraser: reducing company tax rate is “fiscally irresponsible”

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Former RBA boss Bernie Fraser has joined with 50 prominent Australians in an open plea to Malcolm Turnbull for the Government to prioritise fairness in the next Federal Budget.

Treasurer Scott Morrison may be toying with the idea of a corporate tax cut, but Bernie Fraser believes it won’t deliver the benefit to the economy for which the Government hopes.

With the Federal Budget less than a month away on 3 May, the agenda still seems quite unclear. Considering that personal income tax breaks are off the table – along with an increase to the GST – the Government is now preaching the potential benefits of reducing the 30 per cent company tax rate (CTR), saying it could encourage businesses to invest more and help to grow the economy.

This is contrary to findings from Victoria University which, in a report released yesterday, stated that Australian households would be up to $2000 per year worse off if company tax cuts were introduced.

Bernie Fraser agrees with this claim, saying to ABC Radio’s Fran Kelly yesterday that, “History shows it doesn’t work that way” and adding that such a move doesn’t guarantee new jobs and that cuts would end up reducing the Government’s ability to spend on health care, education and income support and that “would be the unkindest cut of all”.

“This kind of trade-off typifies what’s been a failure of fiscal policy by all governments over the last couple of decades,” said Mr Fraser.

He also went on to say that, should companies receive tax breaks, there would be the possibility of an increase in personal tax to cover the loss of revenue the Government will see if it’s not receiving taxes from companies.

The letter, signed by such luminaries and economists as Bernie Fraser, ACTU president Ged Kearney, former federal ALP president Carmen Lawrence and Nobel prize winner Peter Doherty, was published yesterday as a full page advertisement in Fairfax newspapers, calls on Mr Turnbull “not to cut taxes at this time – and certainly not for companies”.

“A debate about tax reform should begin with the question of how much tax is required to fund the services we need to build a fair and decent society in Australia.”

“Real tax reform also requires fairness. A serious tax reform package designed to be ‘fair’ should address as a priority the current generous tax concessions to the top end of town, inequitable distribution of superannuation tax concessions and the capital gains tax discount, not how to give big businesses large company tax cuts at the expense of services that everyday Australians rely on.”

Read more at www.sbs.com.au
Listen to Bernie Fraser on ABC Radio

Opinion: Kicking us while we’re down

Having just been told that Australians need to live within their means, which is already difficult for so many, the Government’s idea of cutting company tax would seem to make that prospect even more difficult.

It’s almost as if the Coalition Government is intent on kicking households while they’re down.

Reducing the tax companies should pay may, in the long run, encourage investment and increase wages. But in the short term, we’ll be the ones forced to foot the bill. And according to Victoria University modelling, a cut to company tax will boost domestic production, but it will have a negative impact on personal incomes to the tune of $800 to $2000 each year. That’s per person, mind you.

The revenue lost to the Government will need to be offset from somewhere else. So it’s fair to say that will most likely be from cuts to other necessary services, such as health care, welfare and education. It’s worth pointing out here, too, that the Government recently announced it will increase spending on the military to the equivalent of two per cent of the economy. From where is that money coming?

You guessed it: us.

Okay, so lowering CTR may have its benefits, but they may take years or even decades. But will it encourage investment? Not according to Mr Fraser.

Although the Government claims that most of these so-called benefits will end up in the pockets of workers, it’s more likely it will go offshore to foreign interests. And any money made by management, ownership and shareholders will no doubt go back into buying shares in even more profitable companies, as it has in the past, and not necessarily into investing in more jobs or increasing wages. So who wins? The top end of town, yet again.

Cutting the company tax rate also sends another message: that the Government is intent on looking after the already wealthy. After all, why should blue collar citizens pay their tax when the big end of town gets off so lightly?

If anything, the Government should be leaning on companies to actually pay their fair share of tax. In a study undertaken by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), 85 per cent of Australians think the Government should close corporate tax loopholes. Not surprising, when Australian Tax Office (ATO) figures show that 38 per cent of corporate entities paid no tax. Isn’t it about time Mr Turnbull made good on his promise to take on corporate tax avoidance? How does reducing the amount of tax they need to pay do that, I ask you?

“Australians are sick of being told they must live within their means and accept cuts to services while our government allows big business to skirt their responsibilities,” said ACTU president Ged Kearney.

It’s difficult to argue with that, no matter on which side of the fence you sit.

In the same ACTU survey, around nine in 10 Australians would actually like to see a national commission against corruption established that also has the power to investigate corporate tax avoidance.

The Government’s job is to provide services to the country it manages, not to make a profit. This whole preoccupation with getting back to surplus is erroneous. And when you take into consideration that households already have much bigger debt in proportion to the GDP than the Government, the hit workers will take to their yearly income will only further widen this gap.

Cutting the company tax rate is not the answer to our economic and employment woes. As Dr Janine Dixon of the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University so wisely points out: “Rather than using company tax cuts to bolster foreign investment, let’s not forget that Australia offers many other qualities to investors: an educated, English-speaking workforce, proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, and stable democracy. If we can retain on this list good infrastructure and public service delivery and a strong social safety net thanks to well-considered government policy, we might continue to enjoy the benefits of foreign capital inflows without sacrificing a valuable source of government revenue.”

Hopefully that provides inspiration for the Government to create tax reform that, in the words of our Prime Minister, is “about prudence, fairness and responsibility to our future generations” – claims which are, so far, ringing hollow.

What do you think about the Government potentially reducing company tax rates? Do you think it’s ‘the answer’ to create more jobs? What other ways can it encourage investment and improve job prospects for all Australians? Would you like to add your name to the list of Australians who oppose lower company tax?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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250 Comments

Total Comments: 250
  1. 0
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    Unbelievable. The last time someone said ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ there was a revolution and that’s just what we need here in Australia. Fat Cats OUT.

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      That’s about it babyboomer.
      I find it incredible that company tax cuts could even be put on to the tables when we have a “BUDGET EMERGENCY”. You can’t have it both ways and the lie this big business owned government is pushing with big business media spruikers in tow is that ‘lower taxes on business will promote more jobs’. A complete fabrication!
      Lower company taxes will do one thing only: RESULT IN BIGGER PAY PACKETS FOR CEOs AND THEIR BOARDS. Australians understand that business in not a benevolent boss. It seeks to maximise profits and rip as much money out as its owners get their greedy little hands on.

      This government lost faith with the public after Abbott INTENTIONALLY lied his way into office. Now the same media machine is at it again. Anybody heard the attacks on the Transport Safety Organisation in the past few days? And then we have the attack on holding a RC into bank culture. As if a useless ASIC will ever go after the banks. The funding rout will make sure that they cannot and that protects the election funding banks from anything other than business as usual.

      I find the whole big end of town behaviour sickening and immoral. ABout time voters did what is necessary to see this lot on their way and then demand that the new government start to rigorously REGULATE our corrupt big business sector.

    • 0
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      EVERY dollar made in Australia should pay it’s tax in Australia.

      I suggest no tax returns, no deductions, just a small flat rate on the gross income, Charge tax on every single dollar and you could lower the income tax and company tax rates to ~5% and government would still have more revenue flowing into the coffers than they get today.

      Set that rate at 10% and you could do away with every other tax, levy, fee and excise on the books.
      Imagine, no petrol excise, no GST, no agonising over what is/is-not an allowable deduction on your tax return!

      How much more cash would you have in your pocket if the big end of town paid it’s fair share?

    • 0
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      The GST is already 10%. Not sure how you could get more Robin. And then you have problems in business where there are LEGITIMATE business expenses as you could potentially be taxing businesses which are making a genuine loss.
      The issue is tax avoidance by either dodgy deductions or tax shelters. As I have said many times before TAX SHELTERS NEED TO BE MADE ILLEGAL. Their main use is simply tax avoidance but our governments refuse to act and one has to believe that there is a corrupt relationship between governments and big business. I have suggested many times that coalition governments let the thieving continue for no other reason than big business contributing to election coffers. The businesses who effectively bribe political parties and the officials and MPs who are engaged in this all need to serve jail terms. They are criminals, and the retort that “there is nothing illegal” in what they are doing hides the fact that we are talking about systemic and intentional corruption at the highest levels.

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      mick, these tax shelters you talk about, how would you go about making them illegal?

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      Legislation. Not rocket science. When the intention is to avoid tax then there is not much of an issue at all…..unless you have mates in government. And you claim that unions are the problem. Only the scapegoat to deflect attention from the real game.

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      Legislation huh? Why do you suppose that in six years of whining and whinging about the issue that your beloved Labor Party did not legislate? They had the numbers and bragged about putting through more legislative changes than any other government in history?

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      Because, Frank, the Labor Party has also adopted Neoliberalism – not quite to the same extent as the LNP, but sufficiently, until recently at least, to impede any valid attempt to legislate for fair taxation.

      Unfortunately, we are left with no valid choices of political leadership. Neoliberalism has taken over. It’s seldom referred to by name, and the masses have no understanding of what it means, but maybe some will recognize it from this excellent definition:

      “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

      Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

      We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

      Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.”

      Hmmm. Sound familiar?

      The source article, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+AUS+v1+-+AUS+morning+mail+callout&utm_term=167406&subid=11260329&CMP=ema_632
      is well worth reading.

      I don’t entirely disagree with Neoliberalism. It has some merit. The problem is that it has been taken to devastatingly damaging extremes, and nobody now seems to have the courage to pull back and moderate it. Ultimately, common sense dictates that a mix of capitalism and socialism is essential for a healthy economy and society, but greed and selfishness guarantees that excessive neoliberalism with continue to prevail.

      I’ll vote Labor next time around, only because I believe we have to get rid of the current LNP before they do too much further social and economic harm, but I don’t much like the Labor Party and I really wish I had a viable alternative.

  2. 0
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    No, do not cut company tax but DO cut Politicians wages
    Let them live within their means and not at the expense of the tax paying workers

    • 0
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      Cut their many perks.

    • 0
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      Don’t just cut pollies wages cut all the lurks and perks of all the ex pollies and have them live like all other Ozzies e.g. find another job or live on their very healthy pensions and superannuation and retirement is the same age as all others.
      WOW! wouldn’t we save some money then.

  3. 0
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    To me it seems that all this government is there for is to make sure big business can make even more money for bonuses and ceo salaries.Maybe they should ensure that the entitlements of the people who work for business and make the money for them have their dues protected so they can rely on long service,holidays and superannuation being paid instead of being classed as an unsecured creditor while the boss can immediately start another business with the money he took from the company

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      I could not agree more. Employees should be paid out first because they cannot sustain the losses without it seriously affecting their lives.
      I think this would be a damned good new law to get in place.
      What do u think about trying for it??

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      Also when a big company goes bankrupt make sure that all that has been put aside or hidden including anything in the Wife’s name is considered. so the workers can get some of what they have worked for and helped raise.

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      Take out a mortgage against the companies assets so that if it goes broke you get first bite of the cherry.

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      Nonsense Bonny! Do you even know what a mortgage is?

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      Correct bob. The current government is owned by big business. That’s why there are constant attacks on working Australians and constant attempts to lower corporate taxes, give business freebies, destroy the wages of average earners and destroy any opposition to the big end of town.
      It’s a game! And workers are the suckers!

    • 0
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      I think that Bonny means a “Caveat” not a mortgage, But to take it out and have it approved you need a strong legal reason.

    • 0
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      No it’s a type of mortgage over the assets of the company that is first line to be paid. I’ve never used it but I know it exists.

  4. 0
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    ive been saying that for so long now we have got to stop behaving like a bunch of dumbsuckers and turn on the polies. they wont change unless we make them lets start by making they live within our means

    • 0
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      Agree of course. Aussies are too nice to their bullying leaders.

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      AAH! tisme please do not hold your breath, they would have no idea how to achieve that kind of life.

    • 0
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      Need to start by ignoring the media which is controlled by big business. Voters should all pay careful attention to what has been going through as ‘news’ the past few months. All demonise Labor at every corner whilst promoting attacks on anything which protects society from the greedy rich. WE ALL NEED TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING as to how this game is being played.
      The solution: vote this bunch of puppets out en masse. That will send the right message. If they are returned then hell will break loose. Guaranteed if they also gain a majority in the senate.

  5. 0
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    Most companies aren’t paying their fair share anyway. Many very wealthy companies with huge profits pay nothing. Surely nobody is STUPID enough to think reducing the rate will make them more honest??? This government is not just morally bankrupt, it’s totally incompetent. It MUST be removed. The sooner the better!

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      I’m over being an atm for the super rich

    • 0
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      I read last night that 8% of the world’s wealth was sitting in Tax Havens around the world. Tells a story. Mosseko in Panama does not even make the top ten so one can imagine the degree of fraud happening…..whilst the bastards go after dirt poor citizens.

    • 0
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      AHs that been confirmed by the ATO Rainey, or is it just a thought bubble of yours?

    • 0
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      Sceptic, don’t you read or watch television? Of course the ATO has confirmed the extent of company tax evasion. And common sense tells us that with all the opportunities for business to escape taxes, there would not be ANY who were genuinely paying at the prescribed rate. Tell me honestly that you believe ANY business owner would not take stationery for his personal use without documenting it, make personal calls on a business phone, take a postage stamp from the business store… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    • 0
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      Hey Rainey, you are probably right about business owners using stationary, phone calls etc for their private use, BUT there would be 100 times as many employees pilfering the same and a whole lot more. Most employees that I worked with considered the bosses property fair game. You really should try to be a little bit more balanced instead of coming across as a bitter and twisted moron.

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      Those items are small change knowall. The real game is on schemes of arrangement created by accountants and lawyers, and Tax Shelters none of which should be allowed to exist unless average citizens can also use them. The they’d be closed overnight.

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      Retired Know-NOTHING: I worked for 4 decades, and ran businesses that employed people, and I never once met an employee who had access to a tiny fraction of the tax reduction strategies commonly used by business. I believe very few employees pilfer, and claims that ”most employees I worked with consider the bosses property fair game” suggest to me that you created an environment in which workers felt unfairly treated and resentful. Of those I employed, most were loyal and appreciative of opportunity, and would never steal from their employer. But then, they didn’t need to. They were treated well.

      The issue under debate, though, is tax. And workers – barring perhaps the very high paid with investments on the side – don’t have access to the wealth of evasion and reduction strategies that businesses routinely employ. And certainly they can’t borrow from their own off-shore company at astronomical interest rates in order to dodge tax in Australia!

      You must be a very twisted person to throw such vile and untruthful insults at someone you know nothing about. And also quite ignorant, since tax evasion by companies has been very big news for some time now and there’s been plenty of evidence of it – including formal confirmation from the ATO.

      For the record, though I’ve said it before, I am anything but ”bitter”. I have a great life and I’m very happy. But I’d like to see the government doing something for the benefit of the nation instead of solely for their filthy rich supporters. We need a healthy society, and that only comes when taxes are fair and everyone pays what their dues, and services and welfare systems are maintained adequately, and the system delivers fair rewards for endeavour and responsible living. This LNP, sadly, is pursuing the opposite of what good LNP governments pursued. I supported the LNP for a long time, because I believed they delivered more competent government. But THIS LNP has totally lost the plot.

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      BTW. Retired KnowNOTHING. Is Bernie Fraser bitter and twisted too? What about the other 50 ”prominent” Australians who agree the Government is WRONG on this issue? All ”unbalanced” and ”bitter and twisted”? All ”morons”?

    • 0
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      Mick, the cost to Australian business is 1.5 Billion per year according to ASIC. The difference is one is theft the other is legal (perhaps not morally right but still legal.
      Rainey if you are so clever and forthright why do you continue to post dribble?
      if you have such a good business brain, how come you aren’t self funded? Oh thats right it’s the Government’s fault,

    • 0
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      It sounds very much like you Retiredknowall are a part of the problem. If you have your finger in the pie then better not to make any comment. If not then at best your comment is backing the crooks. Sure business makes some interesting ‘deduction’, for want of another name. Wholesale tax evasion and some of the creative accounting are not in this league. THEY ARE THEFT. Better not to back them unless you are a crook as well.

    • 0
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      Retired KNOWNOTHING: What do you know about my financial circumstances. Oh, that’s right. NOTHING AT ALL. You just keep making an ASS of yourself with baseless ASSUMPTIONS.

  6. 0
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    Once again the devil is in the detail. Which companies are supposedly going to benefit from a tax reduction? Will it be small businesses that employ fewer than say 20 people? Will it be a one size fits all approach to taxation where every ABN business gets taxed at the same amount? Or will there be a uniform tax reduction proposed for all businesses, irregardless of size? For example, would Lefty’s dry cleaning business be paying tax at the same rate as Google or Toyota?

    If you want an informed public, tell us how this is supposedly going to work instead of just telling us what has written on the back of a drink coaster during a night on the turps.

    • 0
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      wally…I thought you were smarter than this.
      The tax rate is the tax rate! The current rate is 30% and this applies to the first dollar they earn. The only way to avoid this rate is creative accounting and fraud. This is where the ATO needs to get LEGISLATION to disallow deductions and transfers to lower taxing regimes.
      How is this not clear!

    • 0
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      Another brilliant comment from the resident know all, mick.

      To sneeringly state to wally that the company tax rate is 30% just shows to the respondents on this site that you are nothing but a windbag.

      For a start, small businesses are taxed a 28.5 % and company tax varies between 15% and 45% depending upon the type of business that the taxpayer is involved in, as well as other factors, one of which is amount of revenue.

    • 0
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      Thanks for the serve and the information.
      I was referring to the big business rate. Is that not what this discussion is about? Are you saying that the big business rate is not a flat 30%?

    • 0
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      Sceptic: I have checked out your post. Your information applies only to small business.

      1. “Since 1 July 2015, small businesses with aggregated turnover of less than $2 million have a tax rate of 28.5%.”

      2. BIG BUSINESS HAS A FLAT RATE OF 30%….as I said previously.

    • 0
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      mick stop getting hot under the collar about fictitious nonsense. And stay away from the internet.
      wally, you’re right, these stories are designed to whip up some hysteria in the feeble minded.

    • 0
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      Nothing fictitious about some Australians rorting the system and the rest of us paying for it. And before you respond that does include many on welfare. Unlike you Frank I am fair.

  7. 0
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    Company tax rates, wage reductions et al, never lead too more employment.The boss employs the same number of people to do the job they have been already doing,then pockets the rest.Note , the article quoted ” could encourage businesses to invest more and help to grow the economy. Hardy har har, as if.

    • 0
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      Of course. So why does anyone believe the Business Council when they get their snouts in front of the cameras and lie to the public about more jobs? Less tax will result in bigger houses, boats, investment properties and second holiday homes. Nothing else.

  8. 0
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    Cut company tax and there will be more investment and an increase in jobs. Really? No, the companies would just make more profits and Australia would have a bigger deficit. It’s the same as saying get rid of weekend penalty rates and the retail and hospitality sectors will hire more staff

    • 0
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      The biggest load of BS I have read all day. If you really believe this then you have had a snow job done well on you.
      The only thing lower taxes will achieve is more money to CEOs and Directors.
      If you want real jobs then you have to come up with a BUSINESS PLAN, something this government does not have. All that governments of both persuasion have done over the past 3 decades is to force businesses to close, send our jobs overseas and turn Australia into an importing nation (BAD) racking up debt to pay for these goods…..and of late services (overseas Call Centres, etc.). SOmebody please tell me what happens when there are no jobs left in the country? Coming!

  9. 0
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    I am “stunned, shocked & appalled” to think that this government are even promoting another thought bubble. I am not into parties; just policies and the only way to change things; a formal vote and the current government gets placed last The right wing conservative group have exceed their use-by-date and have to be replaced.

    • 0
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      This lot are left-overs from the Howard regime. Not just left-overs but vile, nasty, conceited, dishonest, deceitful, lying people owned by the big end of town.
      There is no ‘government’ happening for the nation. Only ‘government’ for big business. At every corner.

  10. 0
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    I agree with the comments below in
    1. cut the number of politicians
    2. reduce their wages and perks
    3. drastically cut their superannuation plans
    4. force those who remain to take long term views on decisions they make

    Put in some guidelines for politicians of any party – sustainability, environment, biodiversity and population control need to be smart policies, not just hot air.

    Cutting company taxes leaves the investment choices to the companies. Perhaps the taxes should be used better but unfortunately Kerry Parker was right. None of them spend OUR money very well.

    • 0
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      Points 1-3 would amount to such a small amount in the larger scheme of things. Undoubtedly it may make the electorate feel better but would actually achieve very little.

      Point 4 will never happen whilst we have a three-four year term of Government. All sides focus on getting into Government first and then when they do they focus on staying there. Actually running the country seems a low priority for regardless of which side of the fence they sit.

      Your list of guidelines are exactly that YOUR list. I would lay bets on the fact that there would be many who would not agree with your list and have their own. And therein lies the problem No-one agrees with anything ever. Playing obstructionist/protectionist politics is the name of the game. And has been for the past few years.

    • 0
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      Good point KSS,
      Maybe we could start by not calling the opposition, the ‘Opposition’? Seems minor, but referring to the non-ruling party as the opposition would have a deeper psychological effect on how they deal with policy and the act of ruling the country.
      Thoughts?

    • 0
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      Points 1-3 would probably raise enough to give each pensioner another cent a year.

      3 years is long term in parliamentary terms.

    • 0
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      leonYLC, I like that idea. During my lifetime, we pretty much have had an opposition which is always opposed to any solutions. Perhaps if we called them the competition or the alternative government it may induce a kind of Pygmalion effect?

    • 0
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      Really Frank? From what I recall Labor often takes a bilateral position whilst the Coalition votes against almost EVERYTHING. So who is giving the country some consideration and who is doing nothing more than grinding the nation into the ground? Pretty clear.

    • 0
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      Totally agree with all you have said KSS. Any savings to be made would be miniscule as there are
      150 in the House of Reps and 76 Senators…a total of 226.

    • 0
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      Interesting point Frank although the current Opposition has put forward policies which by and large have been well received by economists in general. Obviously not by the Business Council of the Real Estate Institute.
      The previous Opposition were the ultimate in negativity and only during election time did they make promises on what they would do then promptly broke those promises.
      One would like to think that that will never happen again and that Parliament as a whole would be a constructive force for the good of the country.
      Must go as I have just heard that a squadron of pigs is about to start their flyover.

    • 0
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      They would be the pigs you are so fond of. The ones normally with their heads in the trough. I’m surprised the fat porkies can fly.

    • 0
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      I’m glad you remember Tom. Some people seem to have forgotten. And yes the Business Council are out there for a 10% tax cut. I cannot believe that this greedy self interest group has the hide to even put up such a proposal.

    • 0
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      mick, this is the same Business Council which advocated higher pay for outstanding teachers. This is the same Business Council of Australia which backed Rudd’s ETS.

    • 0
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      Perhaps Frank but a 10% cut in the corporate tax rate would result in the inequality which has been steadily building for 30 years delivering a much lower standard of living for the non corporate and rich parts of society.
      There is something very wrong when right wing governments can turn citizens into paupers.
      The content of your post is the normal crap which passes for informed debate these days. “Outstanding teachers” have always existed but decades of state governments screwing the profession has resulted in the best of the new generation NOT becoming teachers and the old hands seeing out their days. Now we have some schools which cannot get specialist teachers.
      The ETS? Don’t know. The Business Council would only have backed the ETS if it thought it could get something out of it.

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