Still waiting for Ted’s tax opus

MORE than eight months ago the Government promised that the Quinlan review of ACT taxation would be released.

No explanation has been given for the delay so, unsurprisingly, there is increasing speculation about what is in the report by former Labor Treasurer Ted Quinlan and why the Government won’t release it.

If it is to be released as one of the papers accompanying the Territory Budget on June 5 and if some of its recommendations are used to justify new taxes announced in the Budget, then that rules out any public consultation on the review before it is implemented.

The Government had promised “transparency, participation and collaboration” in dealings with the people on important public policy questions such as taxation, but in this case it has not done what it said it would do.

The community has a right to be concerned that decisions on taxation are being made behind closed doors and that the Government is using the pretext of the Budget to avoid making the tax review public.

It is now too late to have any meaningful consultation – to study the conclusions and recommendations and test the assumptions – on the tax review before the Budget.

It was not meant to be this way. Treasurer Andrew Barr said on April 16 that “some decisions that we will take and announce in the Budget will be informed… by Quinlan”. In other words, the Government has broken its word.

Unfortunately, beyond the Budget, public debate on the structure of taxation in the ACT will become enmeshed in the lead up to the election in October, so the case for a more rational, equitable and sustainable tax system is likely to be muddied by short-term political advantage.

Catherine Carter is ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia.

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