'Fairness Is Absolutely Critical'... Turnbull Outlines Tax Reform

05/11/2015 10:48 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Fairfax/Nic Walker

CANBERRA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared fairness “absolutely critical” to future economic reform in Australia.

Amid speculation the government is planning to broaden and raise the rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 10 percent, Turnbull has this morning outlined his reform pillars, including for taxation, at a speech in Melbourne.

He insists the tax burden should be borne by people who are best able to pay it.

“A reform package must, at the very least, raise the revenue we need, share the burden fairly across the community and do so in a way that incentivises employment, investment and innovation,” he told the audience.

The Prime Minister said taxation reform must be fair, or it won’t be supported.

“Fairness is absolutely critical,” he said.

“Any package of reforms which is not and is not seen as fair will not and cannot achieve the public support without which it simply will not succeed. “

Ahead of the finalisation of the White Paper process on tax reform, government ministers and backbenchers are now actively engaging in proposals to expand the GST. Nationals MP David Gillespie engaged the Parliamentary Budget Office to check out what would happen if Australia adopted New Zealand’s broader and higher (15 percent) GST system.

While it would double tax revenue, Australia’s peak welfare group, ACOSS, is warning against a lift to 15 percent, saying it will hit low income earners hardest.

Meantime, Liberal MP Angus Taylor has called for action to reduce government waste ahead of any taxation reform.

The Prime Minister wants a “grown-up”, open debate on taxation, with all options and arguments carefully weighed up.

“That is why we are not trying to reduce complex issues to slogans,” he said.

“(That’s) why we are not playing the rule in, rule out game. That's why we welcome every contribution to this debate.”

The Prime Minister said political change is needed and so is policy “agility.”

“If a particular policy approach doesn't deliver as required or anticipated, we have to be ready to reappraise it, reset, as and when needed, to objectives can still be met,” he said.

“If a policy doesn't work, chuck it out.”

“If you see somebody who's achieving your objective in a better way, remember are the sincerest form of flattery is plagiarism. Copy them. Take it over. Adjust. Tweak. Agility is the key. The objective is what we're all about.”

Labor’s Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has lambasted Turnbull’s speech, particularly its lack of detail.

“It's time for Malcolm Turnbull to start making some decisions, to stop talking and to start laying out his plans," he told reporters in Melbourne.

The Opposition does not support any changes to the GST.

“The Labor Party has been outlining tax and tax plans for months. We have our multinational tax plan, our high income superannuation tax plans on the table,” Bowen said.

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