Let’s talk about tax, baby

Is the nation mature enough for a serious conversation about tax reform?

Independent senator David Pocock has a big ask. He would like to see a “mature conversation about tax”, amid a juvenile debate over broken promises, and breathless commentary about the PM’s “duplicity”. Pocock has sought to put tax exemptions for property investors back on the agenda, telling 10’s Narelda Jacobs that we can’t solve the housing crisis without them; he was backed on RN this morning by fellow independent Jacqui Lambie, who echoed his sentiments on negative gearing. It’s obvious the Coalition, which has spent the past week demanding Labor rule out such changes, are incapable of partaking in a serious debate about tax. But that’s no reason the rest of the country shouldn’t, especially given the maturity with which voters have handled the Stage Three adjustments, with even the Coalition forced to concede that standing in their way would be political suicide.

It won’t be easy for Labor to bring reforms like negative gearing back from the scrapheap, where they have lived ever since the defeat of their ambitious agenda at the 2019 federal election. The Coalition are salivating over the prospect, while most journalists seem more interested in playing the rule-in/rule-out game than on what is best for the nation. But this was also the case with Stage Three: the media focus in the lead up to the announcement was on whether Labor could “promise” not to touch the tax cuts, while many of the questions following the announcement were trained on whether voters could ever trust him again. As Crikey’s media correspondent Christopher Warren argues, the press misread the mood: the polls show voters approve of a government that adapts to changed circumstances. Even teal MP Allegra Spender, who represents the wealthiest electorate, has now backed the change, conceding it is broadly popular — even among high income earners — after consulting her community.

Of course, negative gearing and capital gains exemptions (and franking credits and trust arrangements) are not the same as income tax cuts. There is no simple way to recalibrate these so that almost every taxpayer ends up with a little extra in their pocket — which is why this demands a wide-ranging, depoliticised tax review, something many in the media claim to be for. But as former Labor minister Craig Emerson noted, many media outlets demand tax reform, and yet send their journalists out to demand politicians rule out every possible measure. Those wondering if the nation is “up to it” ought perhaps to take a look at their own recent contributions to the debate.

Will the government be able to, as one such commentator asks, “seize this opportunity”? The Opposition have not taken the bait on their Stage Three wedge, much to the PM’s apparent disappointment. But there are plenty more tax fights to be had, if Anthony Albanese is feeling up to it. The Opposition say they will bring a “significant tax policy” to the next election — one that no doubt involves further cutting taxes for the rich. But Labor has the chance to return to some of its more equitable policies in the near future, with the nation having proven itself up to the task.

“It confirms what our own countless conversations have told us: that governments still don’t understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities.”

Coalition of Peaks spokesperson Catherine Liddle calls on governments to give Indigenous Australians “ownership over the decisions that affect their lives,” after a scathing report found Closing the Gap will fail without fundamental change.

“We are gravely concerned that the proposed legislation will harm all business owners and operators, especially growing ones… These costs will be passed on to the community or result in the loss of jobs. Or both.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry issues one of its stock standard warnings, suggesting consumers will bear the cost of Labor’s latest IR reforms. The reforms would give casuals more rights to seek permanent employment, while also creating a “right to disconnect” during unpaid hours.

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The average age at which homeless Australians are dying, according to an investigation into the shocking life expectancy gap. Housing minister Julie Collins has labelled it “completely unacceptable”, amid a sector-wide push for a proper reporting scheme.

Dodgy VET providers to face $1m fines

The government will introduce a bill to address quality issues in the VET sector, with training organisations to face penalties of up to $930,000 if they engage in unscrupulous behaviour. Providers who fail to show genuine commitment to vocational education and training and don't offer any courses over 12 months would be automatically stripped of their registration.

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