In its 2008/2009 budget, the Rudd government established a detailed review into the Australian Tax system. The aim of the review was "to create a tax structure that will position Australia to deal with its social, economic and environmental challenges and enhance economic, social and environmental wellbeing".
The review was comprehensive, with the final Report being delivered to the Government in December 2009. While acknowledging the necessity to stage reform over time, the Report provided a framework within which this process might be implemented and, in so doing, developed nine major themes within which this reform might take place:
- Concentrating revenue raising on four efficient tax bases
- Configuring taxes and transfers to support productivity, participation and growth
- An equitable, transparent and simplified personal income tax
- A fair, adequate, and work supportive transfer system
- Integrating consumption tax compliance with business systems
- Efficient land and resource taxation
- Completing retirement income reform and securing aged care
- Toward more affordable housing
- A more open, understandable and responsive tax system
The Government eventually responded to the review and its Report by way of a media release on 2 May 2010. In that release the Government introduced a "Super Profits Tax" on the mining industry, at the same time handing out a few gifts, some of them attractive, to other sectors of the business and private community.
In around the 26th paragraph of that media release, the Government finally acknowledges that the announced reforms are a product of the taxation review Report and to expect further announcements. However, it is difficult to see just how these decisions constitute a logical and representative response to the detailed strategy outlined in the Report. A cynic could be excused for taking the view that, once again, the Australian public are being hoodwinked and diddled by a pressing need for political expediency that pays little attention to genuine policy reform.
Of course, what would an ordinary battler, such as myself, know about these things?
Yet, I can't help but wonder, should we be given an opportunity to start an Australian tax system from a blank sheet, what such a system would look like were the blank sheet to be overlayed in a manner reflecting the design espoused in the Report. Nor can I help but wonder that, just perhaps, the authors of the Report might just have had it in their minds that a logical person may examine the totality of the recommendations and prepare a logical strategy for implementation over a given time frame.
Like many observers of the political "argy bargy" over many decades, I have heard the call for "tax reform" on many, many occasions. Again, also like many others, I have heard many announcements described as "tax reform". Sadly, such reform, with the exception of the GST, has always been superficial. Are we, again, going to forsake another opportunity for fundamental structural tax reform, all for the sake of political expediency? I hope not, yet I fear Chris Uhlmann and Peter Hartcher may just be right!
There was a young man from Taxation
Who heeded the call of his Nation
To find a reform
That varied not from the norm
Yet created a media sensation.