Taxing times for economic sense

If I ran my farm the way that our country is being run I would not get any sympathy from my banker

THE declaration by Tony Abbott this week that increasing goods and services tax (GST) was more acceptable than increasing the Medicare levy is just the sort of issue that cuts across all we face today.

I am not sure whether to be gobsmacked by the arrogance or the ignorance of this statement.

It presumes that the only solution available to the government is to increase revenue with no apparent regard to the need to improve efficiency or efficacy of the money they have.

Aside from asking for more money, it seems to me the government is proposing a business as usual plan. Even the most radical changes proposed by either side of politics does not result in any significant change in the way the machinery of government really works.

In 1972, spending across all three levels of government accounted for approximately 27 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Australia. In 2008, this had grown to just under 36pc. In 2014, our combined government spending has reached 39pc of GDP.

All of this money is raised annually through borrowings or taxes.

The borrowings must be repaid eventually and so our political masters have gleefully tried to pass the cost of our government on to future taxpayers on a grand scale.

The truly scary aspect of the proportionate growth of government spending is that over this 40-year period, we have seen comparatively small investment in nation-building infrastructure that will provide significant benefit to future generations.

The truth is we are overrun by a bullying and bloated bureaucracy that seeks to interfere in every level of our lives, creating legislation for legislation’s sake.

For example, I am intrigued by a federal department of health that employs well over 4000 people with an annual wage bill approaching half a billion dollars, none of whom, to my knowledge, provides a single front-line medical service.

The public service is allowed to operate with impunity. It can stand behind a range of processes to obscure its accountability to the people it is supposed to serve: the public.

The situation our country faces is that government is too big, too intrusive, too constraining and evidently too corrupt.

Government is supposed to foster and promote commerce and provide basic social support where needed. It should be committed to a symbiotic relationship with taxpayers, providing a valuable return in services for the taxes it takes. Instead, we see a parasitic public service and government that diminishes the opportunity for industry.

Instead of looking inward to meaningfully cut costs in non- front-line service positions, we see a bureaucratic industry burgeoning with key performance indicators (KPIs) around internal process, rather than measurable improvements in the performance of its services for those that pay taxes and ultimately its wages.

A few years ago, Kerry Packer was called into a parliamentary inquiry and was asked whether he had evaded tax. He replied: “I am not evading tax in any way, shape or form. Of course, I am minimising my tax. Anybody in this country who does not minimise his tax wants his head read. I can tell you as a government that you are not spending it so well that we should be donating extra.”

Mr Packer’s statement is as true today as it was then. The second half of this great quote is essential. The assertion is that the government is not spending the money it currently gets well enough on our behalf to justify being allowed to take any more.

We have allowed the 'party first' culture of our political duopoly to dumb down the crop of politicians who occupy the various houses of government in this country. The pursuit of power by forcing solidarity has meant too many of our elected representatives are no longer prepared to stand up honestly and call bad policy and bad government when they see it.

Sadly, these politicians become institutionalised and quickly promote the status quo.

It is important to understand at this point that the failures in state planning rules and federal environment assessment guidelines is not driven by ministerial agendas as much as it is by ministerial incompetence. The bureaucracy is running the country in the real life version of Yes Minister or The Hollow Men and our ministers are incapable of reigning them in.

This is how we end up with governments so keen to court big coal and approve a mine on the Liverpool Plains or the Darling Downs. This is how we find ourselves as a nation so willing to sell our children’s legacy to the highest foreign sovereign bidder.

I have talked a lot about the need to change the way government makes decisions. If I ran my farm the way that our country is being run I would not get any sympathy from my banker. We are the government’s banker and it is time we stepped in.

I have been accused of political naivety by some of the “party first” foot soldiers, but I reject that assertion with some contempt.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome. I would argue that any politician who continues to promote the current political circumstance is insane and quite seriously a threat to our children.

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FarmOnline
Pete Mailler

Pete Mailler

is a farmer on the Qld/NSW border and a co-founder of the Country Party of Australia
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

John Carpenter
25/07/2015 11:05:23 AM

The problem with the western democracies is that politicians get elected by promising to spend other people's money creating an insatiable demand for more taxes from the political class.Baird's attempt to increase the GST by 50% is the most recent and brazen in a long line of attempted tax grabs.Cutting spending and reducing the size of government is not something they have any interest in.Our tax act is one of the longest pieces of legislation in the world.The ATO issue 10,000 private rulings a year usurping the rule of law and creating the rule of the regulator.
Hilds Hereford
25/07/2015 4:05:44 PM

Peter, who do you think you are? You cannot talk and write common sense today, its just not allowable, in fact I don't think it's politically correct to do so! if this kind of thing were to catch on amongst politicians the country would be in perpetual boom. It's just not on!!
angry australian
27/07/2015 8:11:51 AM

Pete, you're almost onto it. There is no easier job than spending other peoples money.Annually we are wasting well over a $billion of farmers and taxpayers money propping up a system of dubious worth.We pay an ANNUAL compulsory levy, which appears to increase greater than the inflation rate, for R&D and marketing of primary produce. No auditing is done of the process to see whether farmers are getting value for money, it seems to be just a tax to prop up research institutions andbureaucratic jobs. I suspect that if we shut down the MLA's,GRDC's etc the impact on farmers wouldn't be noticed
angry australian
27/07/2015 8:47:31 AM

Let me add Pete that the biggest mystery in Canberra,is what do the 4000 odd at DoA do? Our forestry policy is a mess, our fisheries policy is worse, no one knows where sugar is going (besides the Chinese). We have outsourced the MDB to a qango that seems more interested in saving the world than farmers, we have more hangers on than a dog has fleas with R&D, marketing organisations etc. Everywhere across Australia rural employment and profitability is down and too many country towns seem to be living on life support of the dole and pension.Rural Australia seems to be just holding on by luck
Burrs under my saddlePete Mailler is a farmer on the Queensland/NSW border. His perspective and opinions are borne from seeing more than one side of many problems in his various farm leadership roles and in wanting to ensure a future for his children in agriculture.

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