There is a very funny – and clever – segment from the ABCTV “Hungry Beast” program which seeks to inform us about our Prime Minister’s “top priority”:
Perhaps more accurate would be Ross Gittins’ take in The Age this morning:
Rudd’s response to Henry’s recommendations has been determined by his top priority: political survival.
My good friend, Pastor Pearce, told me to expect something like this when I was complaining to him on the phone of the proposed new wine tax that would put an end to Schütz’s “days of wine and roses”.
That Gittins piece is on the money, mind you. Apart from the fact that he and I would probably differ about the desirability of the Emmissions Trading Scheme – now put back on the shelf in the Parliamentary warehouse – he has the rest of it about right:
Rudd has sorted Henry’s many recommendations into three boxes labelled: Yes- now; Maybe-later; and No-never.
In the Yes-now box are all the nice ideas Rudd hopes will win him votes at this year’s election, including a great big new tax on mining companies and cuts in company tax, particularly for small business, and bigger superannuation concessions for low-income earners.
…In the Maybe-later box are various reforms Rudd has failed to specify but which, presumably, wouldn’t worry most voters and would seriously antagonise only interest groups for whom the public doesn’t have much sympathy.
…In the No-never box are all the nasties Rudd knows would cause him grief and cost him votes no matter how much in the nation’s interests they might be. [eg. the new wine tax]
…Now Abbott will be trying to convince us Rudd has half-a-dozen big new taxes to spring on us. All the proposals Rudd says are in the No-never box are secretly in his Once-I’m-re-elected box. But that’s the bitter lesson of last week’s political cowardice and failure of leadership. We needn’t fear Rudd has any tax nasties up his sleeve because we now know he doesn’t have the courage.
Well, I always did say that there was a fine line between courage, stupidity and sainthood. Seems “our Kevin” may not be the saint some people thought they were electing three years ago. One thing is for sure: he isn’t stupid.
But there are others out there with a view of the world that is at least as much tainted by roses as Schütz’s is tainted by wine. Take this from Mark Wetherell in the same pages this morning:
The federal government has rejected the Henry report’s demand to urgently lift the tax on cheap wine to counter widespread abuse, particularly among Aborigines, of lightly taxed cask wine.
Was that what it was all about? Really? If that was the case, it was a bit like taking a missile to kill a sparrow. Surely there are other options to achieve this worthy goal? Or are they implying that the only ones to enjoy a glass of cheap red wine are alcoholics? But then, is this not the same logic that led to widespread support (by non-smokers) for the recent hike in the tobacco levy? (It’s bad for you and we are going to make you stop by getting you to pay more – the marked side effect for our coffers are in no way a motivating factor). As for “cowardly taxes”, there is a letter in this morning’s age from one Pete Smith of Richmond who says:
THERE are leadership taxes and there are cowardly taxes. Leadership taxes comprise upfront taxes, transparent to the community and imposed across the board. Cowardly taxes are not transparent and are invariably aimed at weaker Australians.
The introduction of across-the-board poker machine licences, despite the warnings of social welfare groups, and the subsequent billions in revenues for governments is a prime example of cowardly taxation. Petrol excise and associated taxes are another. One might argue (and many do) that speeding cameras are yet another form of cowardly revenue-raising.
The most cowardly taxes of all are those on items like beer and cigarettes. The federal government has again created an ill-considered initiative, introduced at short notice with no consideration for retailers and sadly affecting those Australians who are likely the least able to afford it.
Ah well. It may well be that some future government – led by either a saint or a hero (or …) will one day decide that it is a good idea to tax all alcohol by % volume, but thankfully that day has not yet come. In the mean time, I raise my glass to political expediency and continue to smell the roses (and my pipe smoke).