Moore / When the mates get tax breaks

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WHILE Treasurer Scott Morrison takes delight in hitting out at the “taxed-nots”, he misses the real culprits – the under-taxed. But they are his party’s mates.

“There is a new divide: the taxed and the taxed-not,” says Morrison. There is also an old divide. The ultra and very wealthy who pay so little tax that it is laughable – particularly compared to long-term “pay as you earn” who for years have been shouldering the burden and paying more than a third of their earnings as taxes.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore.

Rather than paying their fair share of the tax burden, many of the very wealthy prefer to invest in political parties, to ingratiate themselves and their ideologies with the political elite.

Most importantly, and credit on this aspect, Morrison has publicly recognised that a revenue shortfall does require a focus on revenue raising rather than the ideological quest for small government. This is the ideology that favours the relentless and inexorable focus on cuts, or “efficiency dividends” to the public service, to public services and across the board to departmental budgets.

The Census debacle is the most recent example of the impact of constantly slashing funding. The outcome on Census night reflects much more on governments constantly cutting public services than it does on the public servants. These public servants had the responsibility to try to make things work in an environment dealing with cuts at the same time as facing pay rises, increasing costs of technology and increasing costs associated with consultancies that have promised and have not delivered. Constant cuts take their toll not just on the Australian Bureau of Statistics but across the board.

The poorer members of our community make much better scapegoats than the rich. They have much less influence, do not make donations to political parties and do not have the option of moving their earnings into tax havens overseas if they feel they are being penalised.

As Mark Kenny pointed out in “The Sydney Morning Herald”: “Indeed, recent studies have found the jobless, from whom another small cut will be extracted shortly in the case of future Newstart recipients, now languish at around 30 per cent below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the wealth of Australia’s bottom 3.9 million is matched by the combined assets of the 10 richest Australian families.”

Something stinks. The smell increases when a person in a position of power aims down at more vulnerable members of society instead of looking up at the wealthiest, the most influential and the greediest. It is time we had a Treasurer and a Prime Minister with the backbone to take on the ultra-wealthy, the extraordinary wealthy and the very wealthy.

Look at Chevron as just one example. The company has been exposed by a Senate committee for moving money offshore to avoid tax. Dr Mark Zirnsak pointed out a couple of months ago that “it does look like further tax dodging by Chevron, loading itself up with debt from the US tax haven of Delaware in order to avoid paying taxes here in Australia.” Zirnsak monitors wealthy tax minimisation as a spokesman for the Tax Justice Network.

His description is soft compared to that of Senator Sam Dastyari, who told Leigh Sales on ABC’s “7.30” that the Chevron scheme is “a rort; this has always been a rort and it continues to be a rort. In Chevron, we have the godfather of Australian tax minimisation and, dare I say it, tax avoidance”. Pretty strong stuff from the then chair of Senate Economics References Committee.

There are the “tax-nots”, Minister Morrison. However, their avoidance is but small change compared to the “under-taxed”. It is the “under-taxed” where you should be setting your sights.

Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health


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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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