Page 129 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 28 November 2012

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tax reform. Not my words but those of economist Ben Phillips. An economist from the University of Canberra says there will be many losers and few winners in the government’s property tax reform.

This is the minister who thinks it is fair and equitable that people should pay their fair share but cannot define what “fair” is. He stumbled when he said, “People should pay a fair share,” and I perhaps incorrectly interjected with, “So, what’s fair?” And you could see the blank expression on his face. He did not have an answer for what is fair.

If you look at the summary of the reforms that have been implemented from one of the individuals who helped put the package together, he now confesses there will be many losers and few winners in this government’s property reform. Mr Phillips said increasing rates will be more efficient but less equitable. And this is what the reform is all about—it is about making it easy for a government that cannot manage its finances by making it more efficient but less equitable. The government have said what they want is certainty in their revenue so that they can smooth it out. Given the criticism they have rightly faced over the last 11 years of getting their estimates so wrong, they have picked a system that will make the government look good, but they do not care who pays for it.

What did Mr Phillips say? There are people who have often very low incomes but fairly high rate payments. We know in his article, the op-ed that he wrote, that he said rates will increase heavily. Well, how heavily will they increase? Over what time frame will they increase? Of course, yesterday the minister was all over the shop. In question time yesterday he said that over the next few years we will continue to reduce stamp duty across the board. He did not say, “We’re going to get rid of it.” I noticed this morning that, when called on it, he said, “Well, yes, we’re reducing it and then we’re getting rid of it.”

If you know you are getting rid of something and the time frame over which you propose to get rid of it, you would have thought you might have done the work and might be able to table at least a document—a single document perhaps, maybe a small document, 20 lines, 20 years, the percentage on each of those lines as to what it will go down by. But, of course, the government have not produced such a document, and I suspect the government will not because they have not done the work.

That is the problem with this—we have a Treasurer who is flying blind. He is more interested in the headline about being Australia’s world-reforming Treasurer rather than working out the impacts on the cost of living of ordinary Canberrans. He cannot tell us how his plan will be implemented. He cannot say what the increments are over the many years except to say that in 20 years it will be done. But we do not know whether it will all occur this year, five years, seven, nine, 13, 15, 20 years from now. If you have got a plan for this “brave reform” and you have actually worked out how you are going to do it, surely you would be brave enough to table that document and tell people what your true intention is.

Mr Barr: The five-year plan was released on the budget day.

MR SMYTH: Twenty years, where is the 20-year plan?

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